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Veterinarian looking at animal bones remains close up

Anthropology of Health Research Program

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.

MA and PhD degrees in Anthropology with a concentration in Health

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 food and nutrition, 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 healthcare 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.

Health-Related Graduate Courses Anthropology

  • ANT 705 Advanced Skeletal Biology
  • ANT 707 Past Perspectives on Health
  • ANT 710 Gastronomic Heritage
  • ANT 717 Readings in the Anthropology of Health
  • ANT 740 Biocultural Synthesis
  • ANT 744 Ancient Biomolecules and Bioarchaeological Chemistry
  • ANT 745 Topics in Bioarchaeology

Other Departments, Programs, and Schools 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.

Core Faculty

Ellen Badone

Ellen Badone PhD

professor-emeritus, Anthropology

professor-emeritus, Religious Studies
member, Institute on Globalization & the Human Condition

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Cal Biruk PhD

Associate Professor, Anthropology

(905) 525-9140 ext. 24664

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Megan Brickley Headshot

Megan Brickley PhD

graduate-chair, Anthropology

Professor, Anthropology

(905) 525-9140 ext. 24256

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Dawn Martin-Hill Headshot

Dawn Martin-Hill PhD

Associate Professor, Anthropology

Associate Professor, Indigenous Studies

(905) 525-9140 ext. 27605

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Tina Moffat

Tina Moffat PhD

Associate Professor, Anthropology

(905) 525-9140 ext. 23906

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Shanti Morell-Hart

Shanti Morell-Hart PhD

Associate Professor, Anthropology

(905) 525-9140 ext. 23909

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Hendrik Poinar

Hendrik Poinar PhD

Professor, Anthropology

(905) 525-9140 ext. 26331

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Tracy Prowse PhD

Associate Professor, Anthropology

Associate Professor, Anthropology

(905) 525-9140 ext. 26077

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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

Theses awarded in the Anthropology of Health

Oresnik, Sarah 

2020 The Intersection of Food Insecurity, Gestational Diabetes, and Mental Health Conditions: Examining Pregnancy From a Biocultural Perspective

Oliphant, Allyson 

2017 “If Not Me, Then Who?” The Narratives of Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) Providers and Supporters Around Their Professional Identity and Role in MAiD 


Burns, Rebecca 

2017 “If they fund people with good food, maybe they don’t end up on the medical end of things…”: Food Insecurity and Type 2 Diabetes among People Receiving Food Assistance in Halton Region, Ontario

Goertzen, Andrea 

2012 Patient Perceptions and the Path Less Travelled? A Review of the Literature on Alternative Cancer Treatments

Hornung, Lynnette 

2011 Cultivating Change: Building on Emergency Food by Incorporating Fresh, Local Produce into Hamilton’s Food Banks to Overcome the Good Food Gap 


Boychuk, Martyna 

2010 “Don’t Reject Me:” Directed and Non-Directed Living Organ Donor Narratives and the Construction of the Organ Donation and Transplantation Process as a Meaningful Experience

Chadwick, Sarah 

2010 Child Feeding Practices, Authoritative Knowledge, and Medication of Social Support Networks Among New Canadian Mothers Living in Hamilton, ON.

Duignan, Sarah

2021 Be Like the Running Water: Exploring the Intersections of Health and Water Security with Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation


Medeiros, Priscilla

2019 On the Margins of Care: Women and HIV in Atlantic Canada


Wallace, Lauren J.

2016 Making Modern Families: Family Size and Family Planning in Northern Ghana


Holland, Alyson

2016 Thwarting the silent thief: Informing nutrition-based osteoporosis prevention education for Canadian young adults


Downey, Bernice

2014 Diaspora Health Literacy: reclaiming and restoring Nibwaakaawin (wisdom) and mending broken hearts.


Nafte, Myriam

2014 Trophies and Talismans: The Traffic of Human Remains


Pace, Jessica E.

2013 Meanings of Memory: Understanding Aging and Dementia in First Nations Communities on Manitoulin Island, Ontario


Battles, Heather T.

2013 Examining Mortality Patterns in the Epidemic Emergence of Poliomyelitis in Southern Ontario, Canada (1900-1937)


Carraher, Sally

2013 “Never Say DIE!” An Ethnographic Epidemiology of Helicobacter pylori Infection and Risk Perceptions in Aklavik, NWT


Galley, Andrew

2011 Colombian Refugee Migrant Experiences of Health and Social Services in Ottawa, Canada: Navigating Landscapes of Language and Memory


Cowall, Emily S.

2011 Puvaluqatatiluta, When We Had Tuberculosis: St. Luke’s Mission Hospital and the Inuit of the Cumberland Sound Region, 1930–1972