Department of Anthropology

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Medical Anthropology

Training / Faculty Expertise / Curriculum / Resources and Facilities / Admission / Financial Aid


The Medical Anthropology program provides you with training in contemporary theory and method in medical anthropology, including

  • sociocultural, biological, psychological, and historical features which shape illness experience
  • patterns of disease and health behavior
  • access to health care services
  • professional medical constructions of disease and medical care

The program is designed for individuals seeking a M.A. or Ph.D. in Anthropology or a joint degree in Anthropology and Medicine (MD/MA or MD/PhD). It, therefore, trains medical anthropologists, physicians, nurses, and other health professionals to (1) recognize and deal with the complex relations between the biological, social, cultural, psychological, economic, and techno-environmental determinants and concomitants of sickness and health on both theoretical and practical levels and (2) analyze and evaluate how health resources are organized and delivered.

The program emphasizes the need to understand issues of health and sickness cross-culturally in the United States, other industrialized states, and less developed countries. As a student, you are free to focus your research interest in either domestic or overseas settings.

You will be prepared for positions in teaching and research institutions and for “non-traditional” positions which are now appearing in clinical and other health-related settings.

Consult the Case Western Reserve University General Bulletin for more information.
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As a student in the Medical Anthropology program, you are trained in research design and quantitative methods for conducting studies, including ethnographic, qualitative, and statistical approaches.

In this program, your level of analysis can range from a focus on the human individual and lifespan (childhood, adolescence, aging) to local social settings to population contrasts to globalization.

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Specific faculty topics of interest include international health and development; epidemiology; urban health; racial disparities in health and nutrition; HIV and AIDS; culture history and the nation-state; feminist and culture theories; ethnic conflict; violence (political violence; violence against women, children, and the elderly); human adaptability bioethics; gender and sexuality; ethnopsychology of self and emotion; death and dying; religion and healing; cultural phenomenology, embodiment; ethnopsychiatry; gerontology and dementia studies; population studies; reproductive health; political economy; cultural studies of biomedicine, psychiatry, and technology.

Geographical areas of expertise include China, Tibet, Mongolia, Native America, Western Europe, Africa, Mozambique, North America, and Latin America.

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As a student in medical anthropology, you will concentrate on the methods and perspectives of either social-cultural or physical anthropology in your studies and research.

The curriculum covers a broad range of medical anthropological interests — ethnomedicine, human adaptation and disease, nutrition, international health, urban health, psychiatric anthropology, social demography, psychological anthropology, problems and processes of aging, to name a few.

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Once enrolled in the program, you will have access to the following resources.

  • Facilities and courses in the School of Medicine, the School of Dentistry, the Weatherhead School of Management, the School of Applied Social Sciences, the Francis Payne Bolton School of Nursing and other departments in the College of Arts and Sciences
  • The School of Medicine’s complex of departments, institutes, hospitals, clinics, and laboratories
  • The Center of International Health, located in the School of Medicine
  • Geriatric programs in the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and the Applied Social Sciences
  • CWRU’s Center on Aging and Health
  • The Kelvin Smith Library’s depository for documents and literature collated by the U.S. National Center on Aging
  • The Health Sciences Library of the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, and Nursing
  • The Allen Memorial Library
  • The Department of Anthropology’s computer lab linked to the universities wide computing network

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Northeastern Ohio is one of the most ethnically diverse regions in the United States. There are local communities of people originating from eastern, central, and southern Europe, the Middle East, the Caribbean, and South Asia. The region also has a large Amish population and has attracted many transplants from the Southern Appalachians.

Economically, the area is a remarkable mixture of heavy industry, agriculture, financial institutions, and corporate headquarters. It is also the location of internationally important health centers, including University Hospitals and the Cleveland Clinic.

The metropolitan area includes long established and vital working class communities, world famous cultural institutions (e.g. the Cleveland Orchestra and Severance Hall, the Cleveland Museum of Art) and some of the country’s most affluent suburbs, while a large part of Cleveland’s inner city suffers the economic, social, and health problems that now afflict this country’s older cities.

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Applicants to the M.A. and Ph.D. programs in Medical Anthropology should apply for admission directly to:

Department of Anthropology

Barbara Reebel

238 Mather Memorial Building

Cleveland, OH 44106-7125

An application for admission into the Medical Anthropology program will not be considered until it is complete. A complete application includes three letters of recommendation, transcripts of all previous undergraduate and graduate courses, and the results of the Graduate Record Examination (general test only). All foreign applicants must submit TOEFL scores (the minimum score necessary for acceptance, as set by the university, is 550).

There are three exceptions to these requirements: (1) Students who received an M.A. degree in Anthropology from Case within the last three years should write letters of petition to the Chair of the Department of Anthropology. (2) Students wishing to enroll in the joint M.D.-Ph.D. program should apply directly to both the School of Medicine and the Office of Graduate Admissions. (3) Students wishing to enroll in the joint MSN/MA program should apply directly to the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, stating their interest in the joint degree.

Although an undergraduate major in Anthropology is desirable for admission as a first year graduate student in the department, it is not required of applicants. Students entering the Ph.D. program are required to have satisfactorily completed the M.A. degree in Anthropology or a satisfactory equivalent (see Requirements for the Ph.D.).

The graduate program in Medical Anthropology normally demands a student’s full concentration on his or her degree work. Ordinarily, a student should be prepared to take at least nine credit hours per semester. Students who desire to enroll for part-time graduate work (which means a minimum of three credit hours per semester) may, however, petition to the Department of Anthropology.

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Various forms of aid are available to students in the Medical Anthropology Program. Students can indicate their interest in financial aid in the space provided on the application form for admission to the graduate program. Applicants who wish to be considered for the Department of Anthropology assistantships (see below) must submit their completed applications by February 15th.

Funding support from the University includes:

Generally, these are intended to cover all or part of the recipient’s tuition. In some cases, a stipend is included. Students should apply for an assistantship before entering the Department by indicating their wish to be considered for financial support on the application for graduate study. Assistantships may be held up to three years.


Students are also encouraged to seek funding from sources other than Case. Most universities and colleges maintain files on granting agencies and foundations. Applicants may find it to their advantage to consult the financial aid offices of the institutions in which they are currently enrolled to learn about fellowships and loan support for their intended graduate studies. You can also consult our Department’s own Grant Library.

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Page last modified: January 3, 2018