MS in Medical Anthropology & Cross-Cultural Practice

This graduate program awarded by Boston University School of Medicine is designed to train new generations of interdisciplinary scholars and clinicians to study and engage with the growing cultural and medical pluralism that characterizes the United States, as well as other countries around the world. Coursework goes into depth in both the theories and methods of medical anthropology and cross-cultural practice, while supporting students’ own research interests and career goals.


The Master of Science in Medical Anthropology & Cross-Cultural Practice is designed as a two-year, full-time program requiring:

  • a total of 60 semester hours
  • a year-long community-based internship
  • summer-long intensive fieldwork experience in Greater Boston
  • five professional development workshops

Eight courses will be completed in the first year, and seven in the second year, plus a Special Project Course (4 credits) for writing the master’s thesis.

The fieldwork will be undertaken during the summer after completion of the first year. Students are also required to participate in one professional-development workshop per semester, and in one during the summer.

The overall goal of the master’s program in Medical Anthropology & Cross-Cultural Practice is to provide interdisciplinary training in medical anthropology and cross-cultural clinical practice. The curriculum has been designed to provide students with a solid foundation in the theory and methods of medical anthropological and qualitative research, and in the student’s own area of concentration. Students also participate in anthropology-related skill and career-development workshops.

The program will prepare students for:

  • Leadership roles in the health professions, in response to the growing need for personnel trained in cross-cultural perspectives, methods, and skills
  • Incorporation of anthropological and qualitative methods, skills, and knowledge into research, teaching, and clinical work
  • Doctoral-level training and eventual academic positions

The combination of a core curriculum and elective courses allows students to design a program tailored to their specific needs and career plans.

The Boston University School of Medicine (MED) Master of Science (MS) program in Medical Anthropology & Cross-Cultural Practice is offered through the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS) and has been designed to meet the requirements and standards of the GMS for master’s training.

Research and Thesis

Original research experiences that result in a master’s thesis (15,000 words) are required and emphasize the integration of medical anthropology with the student’s own discipline or profession. 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, other faculty, and students. The thesis, on a topic of the student’s choice, must demonstrate a solid research design; engagement in fieldwork and/or practicum with the collection of related data; the effective application of theory; and well-written results.

Medical Anthropology, Health Care Diversity, and Globalization

Human experiences of affliction, suffering, and sickness are deeply influenced by the historical and cultural contexts in which they arise. Medical anthropology is the interdisciplinary branch of anthropology that addresses all such aspects of health, illness, and disease. Medical anthropology formulates and addresses both theoretical and applied problems, with the goal of conducting research that will contribute to the social sciences and to the different domains of health care. This application of anthropology to the study of illness and health brings the field into dialogue with scholars and practitioners in the medical sciences. Drawing on the various methods and types of data from the different branches of anthropology and other disciplines, medical anthropology examines relationships between biological and cultural factors that contribute to the epidemiology of disease. It explores the meanings that cultural groups assign to these experiences, along with the different healing traditions, healers, and health care practices and systems in different cultures that have  arisen in response. Common analytical frameworks include social, cultural, political, economic, gendered, racial/ethnic, and other analytical strategies, particularly in relation to the effects of globalization.