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MA and PhD degrees in Anthropology with a concentration in Health

Program Overview

Based on the crosscutting expertise of our faculty, McMaster University’s Department of Anthropology is uniquely situated to offer MA and PhD degrees in Anthropology with a concentration in Health. In addition to research skills, problem solving, and critical analysis, this concentration offers an intellectual breadth beyond traditionally defined medical anthropology.

The Anthropology of Health concentration features three thematic areas of focus, drawing on the intersecting specializations of our faculty in Archaeology, Cultural, and Biological Anthropology:

Cultural perspectives, including a focus on discursive and experiential facets of embodied life, trauma and social exclusion, gastronomic heritage and foodways, the cultivation of well-being, community-engaged research, and Indigenous, biomedical, and scientific knowledges;

Historical perspectives on topics concerning the evolution and emergence of infectious diseases, past epidemics, pathogenomics, medicinal plants in antiquity, and the bioarchaeology of human disease;

Biocultural perspectives, including studies of nutrition and obesity, health inequalities, syndemics, ethnicity and health.

The Anthropology of Health concentration trains students in a range of theories and methodologies that can be brought to bear in the analysis of health and disease-related phenomena. Faculty members have a diverse range of interests and theoretical perspectives, but we share a common concern for an engaged and critical anthropology that informs our understanding of how social determinants of health intersect and influence the well-being of individuals and communities, and how our investigations may benefit those with whom we conduct research.

Students interested in applying for the Anthropology of Health are encouraged to contact relevant faculty members directly, prior to application.

Interdisciplinary Connections:

The Anthropology Department at McMaster is a node of expertise in a University with extensive interdisciplinary resources. Students in the Anthropology of Health concentration take advantage of many other health research areas at McMaster and beyond, and we encourage inquiry-based learning and research that is multi-disciplinary, participatory, and collaborative in nature. Students are encouraged to take at least one course outside of the department. 

Areas of Focus:

Faculty and students have carried out fieldwork in many parts of the world in urban and rural environments, and in clinical, laboratory and community settings. Our interests are wide ranging – from the study of ancient DNA and molecular processes, skeletal evidence for health and disease in the past, through explorations of illness experiences, social relationships, and health care settings, and the analysis of historical and contemporary epidemics, health care policies, and the structural inequalities that impact well-being.

Professional Placements of Graduates:

The Anthropology of Health program provides a learning environment in which students are encouraged to pursue their individual interests. Students are supported in developing professional skills both for academic positions, and for practicing anthropology in non-academic settings. Please see the professional placements of graduates from our program.


Special Research Initiatives and Opportunities for Graduate Students:

Faculty are currently involved in several initiatives that can provide graduate and post-graduate students with interesting research and training opportunities.

Aboriginal Health Research Network for Aboriginal Knowledge and Ways of Knowing (AHRN-AKWK)

This project, involving a national network of regional hubs/teams, is led by Dr. Dawn Martin-Hill and is funded by a CIHR-IAPH NEAHR grant (Network Environments in Aboriginal Health Research). This initiative meaningfully engages Indigenous knowledge holders, practitioners, researchers, trainees to collaborate and advance health research. Students interested in Aboriginal health research will have access to an international network of scholars that could mentor their specific area of study.

McMaster Ancient DNA Centre

The Centre was established in 1999 with Canada Foundation for Innovation funding by Professor Shelley Saunders, who held the Canada Research Chair in Human Disease and Population Relationships. The establishment of this Institute, the only one of its kind in Canada, provides students with the unique opportunity to receive graduate training (MA, PhD, Postdoctoral) in ancient and forensic DNA analysis, and in molecular anthropology. Dr. Hendrik Poinar, trained in molecular anthropology, was hired in 2003. Dr. Poinar is expanding the graduate training in molecular anthropology and developing an exciting number of research projects on ancient DNA.

Laboratory for Integrated Bioarchaeological Research in Health, Diet, Disease, and Migration (Bioarch-HDDM).

This facility is funded by Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and is co-directed by Dr. Megan Brickley (Canada Research Chair, Tier I) and Dr. Tracy Prowse. Graduate students conducting bioarchaeological research in past health, diet, and disease will have access to three integrated laboratory facilities, depending on research interests; a microscopy suite, a stable isotope prep lab, and a bioarchaeology suite with digital x-ray facilities.

Core Faculty:

photo of Ellen Badone

Ellen Badone

Professor and Chair of Graduate Affairs, Religious Studies

photo of Megan Brickley

Megan Brickley

Professor | Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Bioarchaeology of Human Disease

photo of Tina Moffat

Tina Moffat

Ph.D. Anthropology, McMaster University1998

Associate Professor and Chair

photo of Shanti Morell-Hart

Shanti Morell-Hart

Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley2011

Associate Professor

photo of Tracy Prowse

Tracy Prowse

Ph.D., Anthropology, McMaster University2001

(she/her); Associate Professor; Associate Dean Academic, Faculty of Social Sciences

Anthropology of Health Affiliates at McMaster University:

Ellen Amster, Jason A. Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of History

Andrea Frolic, Director, Office of Clinical and Organizational Ethics Hamilton Health Sciences

Karen Trollope-Kumar, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine

Health-Related Graduate Courses Anthropology:

  • ANT 705 Advanced Skeletal Biology
  • ANT 717 Readings in the Anthropology of Health
  • ANT 740 Biocultural Synthesis
  • ANT 741 Metabolic Bone Disease: Biocultural and Archaeological Approaches
  • ANT 744 Ancient Biomolecules and Bioarchaeological Chemistry
  • ANT 745 Topics in Bioarchaeology
  • ANT 786 Ritual and Symbolic Healing (cross-listed with Religious Studies)
  • ANT 710 Gastronomic Heritage

Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) Healthcare Ethics Internship

Other Departments, Programs, and Schoools at McMaster with Health-Related Graduate Courses *

  • Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • Global Health
  • Health, Aging and Society
  • Religious Studies
  • School of Geography and Earth Sciences
  • School of Nursing
  • Social Work
  • Sociology

 * Please note that permission to take these courses must be obtained from the instructor in the relevant department.