UCL Anthropology


Medical Anthropology IBSc

About the programme

Do you want to prepare yourself for working in the real world as a medical practitioner in diverse cultural contexts and with different patient populations?

How about exploring a wide range of healing practices that include everything from shamanism and witchcraft to reproductive technologies and maternal health?

Would you like to have a chance to pursue a dissertation research project of your choice?

Want to immerse yourself in a different world of knowledge and understanding?

Then come and study the IBSc in Medical Anthropology and take a journey of discovery to look at medical training and what it means to be a doctor with fresh eyes.

This Integrated BSc is uniquely designed to provide Medical students with techniques for gaining cross cultural understanding through specially designed courses including 'Clinical Ethnography' and 'Anthropology for Medical Students' to provide them with life long learning skills that they can use throughout their medical career. Students will be taught key concepts in Medical Anthropology to examine how health and well being are socially and culturally constituted in contexts of cultural diversity.

We examine issues such as gender and the body, ritual and religion, new health technologies, global health politics, and barriers and obstacles to health and healing. Beyond this core syllabus, students are able to select from across the full range of disciplinary options in the topic ranging from social and cultural anthropology, evolutionary anthropology and human ecology.

Medical Anthropology at UCL provides a comprehensive and innovative teaching, learning and research environment with an active student society. The department offers one of the best and most exciting programmes of broad based anthropology for graduate and undergraduate study in the UK . We are committed to developing medical anthropology at the intersection of, and in dialogue with clinical practice, primary care, public health, psychiatry, demography, genomic science and technology.

Aims & objectives of core course teaching

  • To examine the social and cultural context of health, well being and a variety of diverse medical practices from a cross cultural perspective
  • To investigate the political, social, economic and practical dimensions of health care in clinical and non-clinical settings
  • To explore health care delivery in international environments through critical examination of NGO work and health policy
  • To consider the barriers and obstacles to health in a comparative way in to understand illness and disease experiences in the context of healing and curing especially in circumstances of cultural diversity
  • To introduce students to relevant theories and methods within anthropology, including gender, class, kinship, the body, agency, risk, subjectivity and personhood
  • To support student development of skills in critical evaluation of evidence and to encourage oral and written expressions of informed opinions about health as understood from both biomedical and nonbiomedical perspectives.


None, other than successful completion of years 1 and 2 of the MBBS programme. No previous academic knowledge of social anthropology is required, though an interest in experiencing ways of thinking beyond scientific biomedicine may be an advantage.


60 credits of compulsory subjects (ANTH0208, ANTH0182, ANTH0033), and a further 60 credits of the student's choice. The course ANTH0033 "Anthropology for Medical Students" is exclusive to the intercalated students taking IBSc Medical Anthropology. It is designed as a 'link course' to the other Anthropology options and focuses on those issues of particular interest to medical students. It is assessed through a dissertation on a subject of the students' choice. Most other courses are assessed by examination and/or essays.

Compulsory Courses

  • Medical Anthropology ANTH0182
  • Anthropology for Medical Students ANTH0033
  • Introduction to Social Anthropology ANTH0208

Optional Courses

Recent Dissertation Projects

  • Understanding Mental Illness in London's South Asian Muslim Community
  • Blood: Soup or Soul? A Study into the Meaning and Representations of Blood as Encountered in the Clinical Setting
  • "It Does No Harm Anyone, but It Is Harming Us". Crematoria, Cremation and a Culture Clash
  • Fetal Personhood and Mothers in Limbo: an Anthropological perspective on narratives of Miscarriage
  • Lectures, Labs and Anatomy: a Medical Student's Notion of the Body
  • Organ Transplants and the Contemporary Body-Self in a Euro-American Context: Online Communities and the Social Lives of Organs
  • The Singleton Experience in reference to China's One Child policy
  • No visible whip marks please, I have a meeting on Monday. An ethnography of a london Fetish Club
  • Women and High Heels: The Search for Power
  • Cosmetic Surgery as a Cultural Phenomenon: Race and Gender Ideologies and the Medicalisation of the South Korean Female Body
  • Papering over the cracks: A Critique of the Admissions Process at the Royal Free and University College Medical School
  • Ori: The Yoruba Conceptualisation of Destiny, Society and Religion
  • How has the medicalisation of childbirth altered Women's subjective experience of childbirth
  • Risk and Public Health Policy
  • Bangladeshi Shamanism
  • Cultural perspectives of Epilepsy
  • The Emergence of an Autistic Culture

Programme tutors

Dr Dalia Iskander 

Senior Teaching Fellow, Medical Anthropology 

E-mail: dalia.iskander@ucl.ac.uk 

Fieldwork in the Philippines on malaria, environmental change, sensory experience and youth. Particularly interested in using participatory visual methods (photography, film and mapping) in engaging communities in research. More recent work on sugar taxes in the UK, use of drones in mapping disease and debt and nutrition. Interests in infectious diseases, political ecology, phenomenology and the body, participatory methods, behaviour-change and activism.    

Dr Carrie Ryan 

Teaching Fellow, Medical Anthropology 

E-mail: c.ryan@ucl.ac.uk 

Fieldwork in the United States and United Kingdom on ageing, care, wellbeing, and loneliness. Interests include medical anthropology, population ageing, risk, retirement, end-of-life care ethics, disability, play, friendship, ritual, community, and applied anthropology. 

Dr Joseph Calabrese 

Lecturer, Medical Anthropology 

E-mail: j.calabrese@ucl.ac.uk 

Fieldwork with Native North Americans, in Haiti and, most recently, Bhutan. Trained in Anthropology and Clinical Psychology. Interested in culture and mental health, with several years spent working with persons having mental illness (both as a clinician and as a researcher). Was a Medical Anthropology fellow and a Clinical Fellow in Psychology at Harvard. Other interests include anthropology of religion and ritual, healing, postcolonial revitalization, symbolism, and comparative human development. 

Dr Gareth Breen 

Teaching Fellow, Medical Anthropology 

Fieldwork in Taiwan with followers of the Chinese Christian Reformers Watchman Nee and Witness Lee. Received PhD from the LSE in January 2020. Research interests include healing and the religious body, sexuality, religious language, and anthropological theory. Have taught medical anthropology, political economy, linguistic anthropology, and the anthropology of religion. Currently developing a research project on the migrations of ghosts. 

Dr Jo Cook 

Lecturer, Medical Anthropology 

E-mail: joanna.cook@ucl.ac.uk 

Fieldwork in Thailand and the United Kingdom on Buddhist meditation practices and their incorporation into mental healthcare programmes. Interests include medical anthropology, the anthropology of religion, the anthropology of Southeast Asia, anthropology of ethics, asceticism, gender, the body, the gift, hagiography, theory and methodology. 

Dr Sahra Gibbon 

Lecturer, Medical Anthropology 

E-mail: s.gibbon@ucl.ac.uk 

Fieldwork in Cuba, Brazil and UK on genetics, breast cancer, disparities and activism. Interested in genomic knowledges/technologies and public health in comparative cultural arenas (especially Latin America); gender, kinship, breast cancer and 'BRCA' genetics; biosocialities and communities of health activism; and inter and cross-disciplinary research practices. 


The following resources are available to those who wish to apply to undertake the IBSc in Medical Anthropology: