Revised syllabus and schedule posted

Posted by on August 31st, 2009 |

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Thanks to Mandy for pointing out that I had made an error in the original course syllabus and schedule. I initially identified Week 2 as Sept. 2 and Week 3 as Sept. 16—skipping Sept. 9 altogether. The problem was that I wrote the syllabus with our original Monday meeting time in mind, when we would have missed class on Sept. 7 due to Labor Day. Moving to Wednesday will allow us to hold class that week (and trade it for a Wednesday holiday on Veterans Day).

So the syllabus and schedule of readings have been updated. The list of topics and readings each week have stayed the same; I’ve just updated the dates that correspond to each week of the semester through Week 11 (Nov. 4). We will then have a week off for Veterans Day and pick up again on Nov. 18.

If you have any questions (or spot another error), please leave a comment below.

Welcome to Fall 2009

Posted by on August 22nd, 2009 |

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Welcome to the course website for the Seminar in Medical Anthropology (ANG 6737) at the University of Florida. This website will be the main web portal for the course this semester. To get started, I suggest you follow the links to the syllabus and course readings. As the semester progresses, we’ll be adding new material to the course wiki.

Students registered for the course should have received an email with a username and password that provides access to PDFs of required readings. If not, please contact me. I encourage all of you to subscribe to the RSS feed for the course (by email or in your favorite feed reader) and to follow me on Twitter. I’ll update the site frequently to let you know about relevant news and events, to share useful resources, and to stimulate your thinking about assigned readings and activities.

This website was also used for Culture and Medicine (ANT 4462) in Fall 2007. Feel free to browse the archive of blog posts from that semester, too.

I look forward to a great semester and hope you do, too. What do you hope to learn about in this course? Leave a comment below to let me know.

The rise of psychiatric drugs for kids

Posted by on January 14th, 2008 |

Filed in Mental health, Pharmaceuticals | 2 Comments »

FrontlineLast week, the PBS series Frontline aired its latest documentary, The Medicated Child. The program starts from the fact that some six million children in the United States are taking psychiatric drugs, yet we know very little about how these drugs work in children or how they affect developing brains.

It’s a remarkable—and often frightening—story that some aspiring medical anthropologist ought to write a dissertation about. Among the issues that deserve attention are the medicalization of normal childhood behavior, the influence of the pharmaceutical industry in child psychiatry, and the biological consequences of prescribing drugs that were not designed for kids.

You can watch the full program online. What other questions does it raise for you?

Special screening: Business of Being Born

Posted by on January 8th, 2008 |

Filed in Announcements, Pregnancy and birth | No Comments »

This semester, I’m teaching a large (~650-student) undergraduate course titled Human Sexuality and Culture. I’m experimenting with a blog in that class, too, and some of you may want to stay tuned to what happens there.

For starters, I’ve just posted an announcement about a local screening of the new documentary, The Business of Being Born. Judging by the trailer, the film touches on many issues we dealt with in class last semester.

Hope over to the sexuality blog for more details.

Class is over, but the blog lives on?

Posted by on December 13th, 2007 |

Filed in Announcements | 6 Comments »

The semester is drawing to a close, but strangely, the class blog has gained new life. I’ve added a few new items in the last week, and there’s a new discussion unfolding in the comments on my post about female circumcision.

So here’s the question: how many of you would like to see the blog continue? News related to medical anthropology didn’t end with the semester, of course. If you’d like the blog to keep going, too, leave a comment to let me know.

Medicinal plants in the news

Posted by on December 11th, 2007 |

Filed in Ethnomedicine, News | 1 Comment »

Traditional medicine — and medicinal plants in particular — have been in the news of late. Two weeks ago, for example, the New York Times reported that “Dragon’s blood” is good for you:

Researchers have discovered that a plant widely used in traditional Chinese medicine contains compounds that slow the growth of the germ that causes most peptic ulcers.

The chemists, led by Weimin Zhao of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, isolated 22 compounds from the treelike plant, Dracaena cochinchinensis, which gives off a dark-red resinous substance called dragon’s blood. They found two that were effective against the ulcer bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, and eight others that worked as blood thinners.

Their report appears in the October issue of The Journal of Natural Products.

Earlier this year, NPR ran a series on “Sacred, threatened plants of the Himalayas.” The series includes a report on Tibetan medicinal plants, which are increasingly endangered by global climate change and by global demand for the plants.

As you read or listen to these stories, keep in mind some of the different perspectives we encountered from medical anthropology this semester. How can we understand the ecological relationships between plant biodiversity and ethnomedical knowledge? What factors at a global and local level influence the use, distribution, and ownership of medicinal plants? How do U.S. media outlets depict traditional healing practices and the medicinal plants, relative to Western biomedicine? What values underlie the standards of evidence used to evaluate the efficacy of traditional healing practices?

AAA redux: Female circumcision

Posted by on December 11th, 2007 |

Filed in Ethics, Gender | 3 Comments »

Two weeks ago class was cancelled while I was in Washington, DC for the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. The is running a series of posts summarizing a few of the hundreds of sessions that took place at the AAA. The latest post features a debate at AAA over female genital cutting:

Is female circumcision violence against women or a feminist act? Are critics of this practice guilty of cultural imperialism? Those questions were debated at the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in Washington – among others by African anthropologists who have undergone the procedure themselves.

I didn’t see the original session, so I don’t know all the details. But it has been getting lots of coverage, including a feature in two posts (1, 2) by New York Times blogger John Tierney. In the second post, Tierney reproduces a detailed response to a reader’s question from University of Chicago anthropologist Richard Shweder.

Several of you wrote about female circumcision in your research papers. What’s your take on the discussion in the blogosphere, based on your research in writing the paper? Would you change anything about your paper, based on the issues Shweder raises? How does the issue of female circumcision relate to the concepts of cultural relativism and ethnocentrism?

Documentary screening and discussion

Posted by on December 6th, 2007 |

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By next Wednesday, most of you will have left town for the break; those of you left behind may be studying for finals. But if you’re here and need a study break, here’s something to consider. The narrative medicine group at the College of Medicine will hold a discussion of A Closer Walk, a documentary about the global AIDS epidemic, which aired on PBS last year. See more about the film and related resources on its website.

The discussion will take place at noon on Wednesday, December 12, in room CG-041/42 (the communicore building at the College of Medicine).

Debate over climate change and health

Posted by on December 5th, 2007 |

Filed in Global health, News | No Comments »

Today the Boston Globe reports on a debate between scientists over whether climate change is associated with the spread of infectious disease. The debate took place during a workshop on global climate change at the Institute of Medicine, the health-related branch of the National Academy of Sciences.

The skeptical voice, according to the Globe, was Donald S. Burke, Dean of the Graduate School of Public Health at the University of Pittsburgh. Burke argued that there remains a lot we don’t know about the effects of climate change on health. He expressed caution about limits to existing data and argued that we can’t yet establish a causal relationship between climate change and increasing rates of infectious diseases like dengue fever, influenza, and West Nile virus.

Paul R. Epstein, from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard, disagreed. He argued that climate change was involved in changing disease ecologies related to the spread of infectious disease.

The Globe article points out that the scientific debate parallels debate between the Bush administration and several states, and that it relates to policy deliberations on Capitol Hill and around the world. What are some of the different ways that medical anthropologists might approach this debate?

Peer review of paper drafts

Posted by on November 9th, 2007 |

Filed in Announcements, Research papers | No Comments »

As we discussed in class on Tuesday, you are required to read and provide constructive feedback on the drafts of research papers written by members of your peer response group. Your feedback is due to members of your group and to me by Tuesday, Nov. 20.

Here I am posting the form you should use in reviewing each other’s work. Most word processing software can open this file. If you have problems, please post a comment below.

For each paper you review, please add your comments in response to each question and send the final version to the author and to me as an email attachment by Nov. 20.

Peer response form