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Medical Anthropology

Degree: BS, BA

Campus: Columbus

College: Arts and Sciences

Medical anthropology is the study of health, illness and disease from an evolutionary, biocultural, cross-cultural and historical perspective. Medical anthropology focuses on how biology, culture and the environment intersect to shape variability in human health and well-being through an evolutionary lens, while maintaining a biocultural perspective emphasizing the need for ethnographic engagement with diverse populations. Medical anthropologists use both biological and social science theories and methods to tackle pressing 21st century health challenges and examine the complex ways in which social, political and economic forces shape health, influence how people experience illness, and guide how health care services are provided and delivered. This includes the study of topics such as health disparities, healing practices, chronic and infectious diseases, and evolutionary medicine.

The medical anthropology major can lead to a bachelor of science or bachelor of arts degree.

The BS option is designed for students committed to pursuing careers in health care (in fields such as public health, occupational therapy, psychiatry, nursing and allied health fields). This option also provides a solid foundation for students pursuing graduate-level training in anthropology or other disciplines such as health policy, medical sociology and social work.

The BA option is designed to broadly prepare students to pursue careers in health-related professions including those in the natural, social and behavioral sciences, medicine, nursing, public health, health policy, and social work.

On admission to the university, students declare an interest in medical anthropology within the College of Arts and Sciences.

The BS option requires a minimum of 46 credit hours; the BA option requires a minimum of 43 credit hours. In either option, students will complete prerequisite course work in physical and cultural anthropology and statistics and core course work in medical anthropology, epidemiology, anthropological theory, research design and more.

See the full list of possible courses for the BS option.

See the full list of possible courses for the BA option.

The Department of Anthropology offers Honors sections of the prerequisite courses that survey the basic concepts and knowledge central to the study of medical anthropology (Introduction to Physical Anthropology and Peoples and Cultures). Honors students may pursue graduation with distinction in medical anthropology by completing a senior Honors thesis. Non-Honors students may also graduate with research distinction by the completion of a senior thesis.

Undergraduates can (and should!) involve themselves in diverse laboratory and field-based research opportunities. In particular, students can take advantage of:

  • medical anthropology field experiences
  • a human biological anthropology laboratory with training in nutritional anthropology and food security, child growth and development, and the physiology of stress and frailty
  • training on equipment used to assess nutritional status and physiological function
  • training in ethnographic data collection and analysis methods used to study health and illness experiences
  • a state-of-the-art bioarchaeology laboratory and extensive human skeletal collections for the study of health in past populations

The Undergraduate Anthropology Club offers a chance to get to know other students and to hear from faculty about research and field study opportunities.

A variety of employment opportunities exist for a graduate with a medical anthropology degree, including working as administrators analysts, and researchers in health care settings, domestic and international nonprofit organizations (e.g., Doctors Without Borders, Partners in Health, RAND Corporation, World Health Organization), think tanks (e.g., Economic Policy Institute, Kaiser Family Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Urban Institute), medical device companies, insurance companies, social welfare programs (e.g., Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, Office of Refugee Resettlement, WIC), and government agencies (e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, Veteran’s Affairs). It also provides a strong foundation for post-graduate study in medicine, nursing, allied health fields, public health, social work and health policy, as well as entry into the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps.