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The M.S. in Medical Anthropology & Cross-Cultural Practice requires that students complete the following:

  • GMS MA 700  History and Theory of Medical Anthropology, Pt. 1
  • GMS MA 701  History and Theory of Medical Anthropology, Pt. 2
  • GMS MA 710  Medical Anthropological and Qualitative Research Methods and Design
  • GMS MA 770  IRB Proposal Development and Writing
  • GMS MA 711/GMS MA S711  Summer Fieldwork, Pt. 1
  • GMS MA 712/GMS MA S712  Summer Fieldwork, Pt 2
  • GMS MA 734  Reading Ethnography in Medical Anthropology
  • GMS MA 735  Writing Ethnography in Medical Anthropology
  • GMS MA 742  Medical Anthropological and Qualitative Data Analysis
  • GMS MA [# TBA]  Final Writing Project, Pt. 1
  • GMS MA 786  Final Writing Project Seminar, Pt. 2

In addition to the required seminars and thesis-related requirements, students must also take a total of seven electives:

minimum of three MACCP electives (although, of course, you can take all seven in the program)

Up to 12 elective credits can be taken outside of the program, either as three 4-credit courses, or combinations of 2-credit and 4-credit outside courses.

  • You may take all of these credits through the School of Public Health
  • Only 4 of these credits may be taken on the Charles River Campus. Any exceptions must be approved through a petition to the Program Director and your program advisor, explaining why an additional CRC course is necessary for your program.
  • These credits must be taken during the academic year, and may not be taken during the summer
  • The only exception involves the following: BUSM allows you to take up to 18 credits per semester without paying extra tuition. If you have developed a plan to fulfill your required 7 electives, and it has been approved by your adviser, you can propose taking additional courses anywhere within the School of Public Health or GMS.

That allows any one of the following options, each of which must first be approved by your adviser:

  • Take four MACCP electives;
  • Take three MACCP electives, plus a 3-4 credit independent directed-study project within MACCP. To do so involves identifying a faculty member within the program who is both willing and available to supervise the directed study, and to arrive at a learning agreement with related assignments and deadlines;
  • Take three MACCP electives, plus a 4th elective within another GMS program. This will not have to count against the 12 allowed outside credits;

Although directed-study credits do not count against the 12-credit limit allowed outside of GMS, they also do not let students take extra courses outside of the program. Again, the limit on outside-of-GMS credits is 12 credits.

Students who opt to cluster several directed-study credits to comprise a fourth in-program elective cannot do so to “take” a program elective course that they missed when it was actually offered. That said, students can use directed-study credits to address interests not represented in specific courses, as long as the credits remain within the program.

Students may not register for an elective through a non-GMS department, program, or school at BU if an equivalent course is offered by one of the GMS programs.

All electives must be 600-level or higher (exceptions may be made for language-study courses, for example, but require adviser’s approval and a petition to the Division to be submitted by the Program Director)

Be sure to plan your electives in consultation with your adviser

MACCP students engage in our Service Learning Internship Program (SLIP) throughout their first academic year. The identification of an internship site directly related to a student’s research interests gets underway during the summer prior to the start of the first year. Engagement in the internship supports our program’s commitment to community-based, participatory research.

The primary purpose of this internship is to:

  • Involve students in a service-learning experience that will afford them the chance to learn about, and give back to, the larger community/ies surrounding the medical campus and Boston University.
  • Create an opportunity to identify, explore, and establish a potential field-site(s) and/or community-based partnership(s) for ongoing participant-observation and later data collection.
  • Develop a research question in dialogue with the community and/or group, to arrive at a thesis project that will address issues and needs identified by members of those communities and groups.

On average, internships consist of one-day/eight-hours per week of volunteer service in an approved setting. Students are expected to begin their internship by mid-October at the latest, and continue through the fall and spring semesters.

We understand global health to be both a local and an international phenomenon. We also take the study of health and health care to be as important to improving care locally as it is in settings abroad. Indeed, Boston and its surrounding communities present a microcosm of global health through their many cultural groups of longstanding and New Americans.

During the first year in the program, each student will develop a research question. It should grow out of the student’s field experience in their Service-Learning Internship, and reflect not only their own research and career commitments, but also concerns identified by the community or group with whom the student conducted their internship.

Through the series of required seminars in Theory and Methods, the student will build a research plan, establish related community connections and relationships, write a research protocol, and secure approval for their proposal from the Institutional Review Board of the B.U. School of Medicine.

Based on this foundation, students will participate in two weekly summer seminars, while conducting a minimum of 20 hours a week of fieldwork that includes participant observation, interviewing, and other forms of data gathering. They will learn different strategies for coding and analyzing data, in preparation for the series of thesis-writing seminars during their second year of the program

These Professional Development Workshops represent skills necessary to graduate-level research, the pursuit of funding support, preparation for the job market, and training in skills related to an academic career.

  • Literature Searches and Library Research
  • Grant Writing and Funding Sources
  • Transferable Skills, Professional Development, and Looking for a Job
  • Making Research Presentations
  • From Thesis to Publication

Students must conduct original research that results in a master’s thesis of at least 25,000 words. The thesis must emphasize the integration of medical anthropology fieldwork and theory with a research question related to the student’s career objectives. This independent research must be advised by a three-member faculty committee, and presented at the end of the fourth semester to the student’s committee, and other program faculty and students. The thesis must demonstrate a solid research design; engagement in fieldwork with the collection and analysis of related data; the effective application of theory; and well written results.

Over the two years of the program, each student will develop an e-Portfolio, “an electronic collection of evidence that shows your learning journey over time. Portfolios can relate to specific academic fields or your lifelong learning. Evidence may include writing samples, photos, videos, research projects, observations by mentors and peers, and/or reflective thinking. The key aspect of an eportfolio is your reflection on the evidence, such as why it was chosen and what you learned from the process of developing your eportfolio. (Adapted from Philippa Butler’s “Review of the Literature on Portfolios and Eportfolios” (2006), page 2, in ePortfolios with GoogleApps).


Schedule of MACCP Requirements

MACCP Course Sequence

Year One (Fall)

This course introduces the history of the field of medical anthropology and of theoretical orientations related to understanding and analyzing health and medicine in society and culture. Readings will exemplify interpretive strategies applied to health-related experiences, discourse, knowledge, and practice. 3 cr. Laird M 10:00 AM-12:50 PM

Introduction to methodology for ethnographic field research in medical anthropology, and qualitative research methods. This course examines issues in designing anthropological research, and reviews theoretical approaches to research ethics, designing research, framing questions and interview design, and data collection techniques. 3 cr. Ready W 10:00 AM-12:50 PM

For this internship, students will arrange a volunteer project with the group or community with whom they plan to conduct their fieldwork. The purpose of the practicum is to initiate the process of engagement in Community-Based Participatory Research design. Ready

Two Elective Courses (see below)

Students will begin keeping a required MACCP e-portfolio while enrolled in GMS MA 700 (History and Theory of Medical Anthropology, Part I).  Each student’s e-portfolio will collect and reflect on important classwork in courses for the program, as well as the work they do related to their service-learning internship. Laird

  • Literature Searches
  • Library Research

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Year One (Spring)

Prereq: Permission of Instructor. Course will address theoretical traditions in medical anthropology, focusing on orientations developed and applied within the field over the past two decades to interpretations of health-related phenomena. 3 cr. Laird M 10:00 AM-12:50 PM

Prereq: Permission of Instructor. Students will learn to write a medical anthropology research proposal and related Institutional Review Board Proposal, through the structure provided by the IRB of BUSM. We will address theory and methods related to the design and review process. 3 cr. Ready W 10:00 AM-12:50 PM

For this practicum, students will continue working on their a volunteer project with the group or community with whom they plan to conduct their fieldwork. The purpose of the practicum is to initiate the process of engagement in Community-Based Participatory Research design.

Two Elective Courses (See below)

Students will update their ePortfolio to reflect the work they have done during the Spring semester. Laird

  • Grant Writing and Funding Sources

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Year One (Summer)

Participant-observation fieldwork  experience is an integral dimension of anthropological methodology. Therefore, it represents an essential feature of the curriculum in the M.S. in Medical Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Practice program. Fieldwork allows students to complement their classroom study with field-based learning, link theory with practice, and refine their skills. It also helps students establish contacts, develop relationships, and learn from the experience of interacting with different cultural communities and groups.

This first of a two-part seminar will build on the student’s Service-Learning Internship Program experience, and provide a weekly opportunity to discuss issues likely to arise in the experience of conducting fieldwork. The course is structured around a core set of common readings, in tandem with each student’s individual research goals, as laid out in each student’s Learning Contract and Institutional Review Board protocol. Barnes & Laird W 10:00 AM-12:50 PM

During this second of a two-part seminar, students continue their thesis fieldwork, while also learning different strategies for coding their data. Thee course is structured around a core set of common readings, in tandem with each student’s individual research goals, as laid out in each student’s Learning Contract and Institutional Review Board protocol. Barnes & Laird W 10:00 AM-12:50 PM

Thesis-Related Fieldwork

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Year Two (Fall)

This seminar will read medical anthropological texts analytically. Starting with a review of the debates, going through selected classic ethnographic studies, the seminar will explore ethnographies that address different cultural meanings of human experiences of suffering and affliction, including illness and violence. Students will engage in studying the methodology, theoretical underpinnings, writing, and social positions represented in these ethnographies. Specific attention will be given to the role of applied anthropology and applied anthropologists, 3 cr. Ready T 10:00-12:50 PM

Prereq: Permission of instructor. Examines strategies for analyzing medical anthropology data deriving from interviews and documents. In addition to reviewing different coding strategies and the rationales underlying them, the course will discuss topics such as approaches to managing textual data; the selection and application of epistemological and theoretical frameworks; narrative and discourse analysis; cognitive anthropology theory and methods; the use of grounded theory. Emphasizes the application of these strategies to the analysis and interpretation of data collected by the students as part of the course process. 3 cr. Barnes W 10:00 AM- 12:50 PM

This seminar will train learners in the theory and practice of writing up anthropological research findings, and of writing ethnography. The course emphasizes analytical writing. Students will learn to identify and employ rhetorical and stylistic strategies and genre conventions. The class is structured as a seminar, emphasizing class discussion, workshops and peer-group work. Barnes. 3 cr,

One Elective Course (See below)

Students will update ePortfolio to reflect work for Fall semester. Barnes

  • Transferable Skills, Professional Development, and Looking for a Job

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Year Two (Spring)

Prereq: Permission of Instructor. This seminar builds on GMS MA 734 (Reading Ethnography in Medical Anthropology), turning the focus to the actual craft of writing ethnography. It is an integral part of MACCP students’ thesis-writing training.  Students will learn to identify and employ rhetorical and stylistic strategies and genre conventions. Through a series of exercises that draw on their own field notes and participant observations, students learn to employ three genres of cultural representation—realist tales, confessional tales, and impressionist tales. Students will explore their own authorial voice and style, and their relationship with truth, objectivity, and point-of-view. The class is structured as a seminar, emphasizing class discussion, workshops and peer-group work. Barnes W (TBA) PM

Prereq: Permission of instructor. This seminar will train learners in the theory and practice of writing up medical anthropology research findings, and of writing ethnography. The course emphasizes analytical writing. Students will learn to identify and employ rhetorical and stylistic strategies and genre conventions. The class is structured as a seminar, emphasizing class discussion, workshops and peer-group work. 3 cr. Barnes W 10:00 AM-12:50 PM

Two Elective Courses (See below)

Thesis: Completion of thesis and approval through thesis defense.

Students will update and complete ePortfolio to reflect work for Spring semester, and accomplishments from their involvement in MACCP Barnes

  • Making Research Presentations
  • From Thesis to Publication

Presentation of Thesis Findings to group or community with whom student conducted his or her research


MACCP Elective Course Offerings

Some MACCP elective courses are offered on a  two-year cycle:

Cycle 1 (2017-2018)

FALL 2017

An introduction to approaches to healing integral to Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, African, African-descended, Latin American, Chinese, Native American traditions, and to some of the outcomes of their interactions, in relation to the experience of affliction and suffering. Draws on source materials from history, religious studies, and medical anthropology. 4 cr, Fall sem. Barnes M 2:30-5:15, Charles River Campus.

This medical anthropology course will explore relationships between religion, culture, and health in the context of public health projects. We will examine historical developments, examples of faith-based public health organizations, and current research on “religious health assets,” both locally and internationally. Students will design and conduct qualitative research projects on the culture of a faith-based health organization. 3 cr, Fall sem. Laird Th 3:30-6:15, Charles River Campus.


This course examines biomedicine as a cultural system with multiple local and national expressions worldwide, all of which have undergone changes over time. Topics will include the exploration of biomedicine as a cultural system, with cultural variations and different conceptual domains; processes of acculturation to biomedicine, the medicalization of social realities; biomedical narratives; the patient-doctor relationship (including when the physician is the patient); understandings of interventions and the meanings assigned to them; and different ways of thinking about efficacy in relation to process and chronicity. The course will draw on ethnographic studies of biomedicine not only in the United States, but in other global settings. 3 cr, Spring sem. Barnes M 2:30-5:15, Charles River Campus.

This medical anthropology course explores the ways in which mental health and illness are constructed by and for those who migrate across national, cultural, and other borders. We will examine the historical development of the fields of psychology, psychiatry, and social work in the context of Western societies, in parallel with the anthropological study of ritual, violence, ecstatic and possession experiences in non-Western societies. We will then explore debates in cross-cultural mental health care that bring these historical disciplines into dialogue, particularly in the context of programs for the treatment of refugee and immigrant mental health. The intersection of political, economic, religious, and gender issues in the construction of mental health will also be considered. 3 cr, Spring sem. Laird Th 3:30-6:15, Charles River Campus.

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Cycle 2 (2018-2019)

FALL 2018

Renowned medical anthropologist Arthur Kleinman writes, “Each illness episode and each clinical encounter presents the anthropologist who works in medical settings with an occasion to interpret how illness and clinical reality are organized in particular local cultural systems of meanings, norms, and power.” This course examines interfaces between applied medical anthropology, and challenges confronting clinicians and researchers who work in interdisciplinary healthcare teams in a wide range of settings, and who engage in complex cross-cultural intersections. Applied medical anthropology draws on the theories, methods, and ethnographic findings of anthropology to address the kinds of challenges that can arise in these contexts. 3 cr, Fall sem. Barnes T 2:30-5:15, Charles River Campus.

This course will examine key areas in the study of immigrant and migrant health, drawing on concepts, methods, and theories developed by medical anthropology. We will explore intersections between health care and immigration policy, access to services, practiced characterized as “cultural competency,” the contests and collaborations within medical pluralism, segmented acculturation, and the politics of “illegal status” as a form of social regulation. We will also employ ethnographic analyses of those processes that exacerbate the structural vulnerability of immigrants (whether undocumented or not) to ill-health, and discuss case examples of advocacy- and community-based initiatives that have improved immigrants’ access to social services and their overall well-being in their social and health landscapes. 3 cr, Fall sem. Laird Th 3:30-6:15, Charles River Campus


This course explores the history of medical and therapeutic pluralism in the United States, beginning with the colonial period and continuing to the present. We will examine how this pluralism necessarily includes the story of American religious pluralism, the rise of biomedicine, and the changing faces of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), while factoring in the roles of class, race, and gender. We will work with primary source materials, as well as sources from history of medicine, and medical anthropology. 4 cr, Spring sem. Barnes M 3:30-6:15, Charles River Campus.

This course explores historical, social, political, and economic forces that shape health care work and organizations. Focusing on professional and nonprofessional health workers, as well as family providers, it examines how cultures of health care work affects health policy and practice. Looking at health policy and the health professions from a variety of perspectives, including first-person accounts, the series is aimed at a wide audience including those who work in health care, academics, policy makers, and professional organizations, as well as general readers. 3 cr, Spring sem. Laird Th 3:30-6:15, Charles River Campus.

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All other MACCP elective courses are offered every year:


This course will provide a context for exploring and reflecting on one’s own cultural formation in relation to such topics as gender, sexual orientation, race, class, religion, body size, and other areas where there are the greatest risks for health disparities through unexamined bias. The course examines the values one brings into one’s practice as a care provider, and how they influence one’s personal and professional life, including responses to diverse patient cultures. Offered through M.A. program in Medical Anthropology. 3 cr, Fall sem. Barnes W 5:00-7:50, Medical Campus.

(Description forthcoming)


This seminar focuses on selected issues in medical anthropology. This semester, the course will introduce epidemiologic theories and methods to students who are in the social sciences and humanities. The course seeks to systematically analyze the field of epidemiology and how the discipline is leveraged in a spectrum of health arenas. We will examine core topics and concepts such as causality, associations, confounding and interactions, as well as review epidemiologic study designs, as a way to critically engage with the epidemiologic activity of quantitative analysis toward specific public health aims and objectives. Students will be encouraged to approach epidemiologic methods and theories with a critical eye toward recognizing the assumptions, disciplinary power and actions that epidemiologists take to achieve their mission and vision for health and wellbeing. 3 cr, Spring sem. Check T 12:30-3:15, Charles River Campus.

Reproductive Anthropology can encompass all aspects of human reproduction and sexual/reproductive health, including: adolescent sexuality, fertility, contraception, pregnancy, abortion, birthing, adoption, breastfeeding, the health needs of LGBTQ communities, assisted reproductive technologies, masculinity & male infertility, reproductive health care in and across various care settings and in varying sociocultural and political-economic contexts locally, nationally, and internationally, the roles of race, class, gender, and nationality in all of the above, and many other topics. Any issue, practice, illness, trend, or debate that combines human behavior and reproductive health or ability is fertile ground for anthropological examination from evolutionary, biocultural, and critical-medical perspectives. 3 cr, Spring sem.  Ready Th 12:30-3:15, Charles River Campus.


Links for Other Potential BU Electives

Courses offered through our Division, Graduate Medical Sciences ( The Division expects that, if a course in which you are interested is offered both through GMS and another program, and is essentially identical in content, that you will register for the GMS version. (If you have questions, do please talk with your advisor.) If you identify a course you want to take, you might want to check with that particular program to be sure it is being offered, as course listings are occasionally out of date.

The School of Public Health (

Courses offered on the Charles River Campus, through departments with complementary resources (

You may also want to look through information about the university’s different Centers and Institutes, to get an overview of different concentrations, faculties, and interest groups (

If you have trouble locating courses in areas of interest to you, contact your adviser, as there are search tools he or she can use on your behalf.


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