MS in Medical Anthropology & Cross-Cultural Practice

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

The program will prepare students for:

  • Incorporation of anthropological and qualitative methods, skills, and knowledge into research, teaching, and clinical work
  • Doctoral-level training and eventual academic positions
  • A domestic focus on global health issues, as these have entered the US context as a result of globalization
  • Consulting for health care agencies and companies
  • Leadership roles in the health professions, in response to the growing need for personnel trained in cross-cultural perspectives, methods, and skills

All of our graduates have either gone on to doctoral-level training or to jobs directly related to their training. Some, for example, have been accepted to medical anthropology doctoral programs and medical schools. The others have found jobs in research project management, clinical research coordination, and health care consulting both in the United States and internationally.

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


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

  • a total of 60 semester hours
  • a yearlong, community-based, volunteer service-learning internship
  • a summer-long, intensive fieldwork experience in greater Boston
  • five professional development workshops
  • original ethnographic research resulting in a master’s thesis

Full-time students complete eight courses in the first year and eight in the second year. Students also attend weekly Research-In-Progress meetings in the Department of Family Medicine, with clinician researchers. Ethnographic fieldwork will be undertaken during the summer after completion of the first year. Students may also opt to participate in the program on a half-time basis.

The core curriculum incorporates state-of-the-art, advanced training in:

  • Theory and its application to medical anthropological research
  • Research design and related proposal development for ethics-committee review
  • Qualitative and anthropological research and fieldwork methods
  • Proposal development for funding applications
  • The student’s own area of research concentration
  • Skill and career development workshops
  • Techniques for translating medical anthropological research into clinical applications and services
  • Strategies for effective public and professional communication of medical anthropology research through publication and presentations

A minimum of three elective courses must be selected from those offered within the program. Students also have the option to pursue a 3- or 4-credit independent directed study project within MACCP and also take an elective course from any of those offered within the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS). Up to 12 credits can be taken outside of the program and of GMS. All program electives are offered on a biannual schedule.

By the time students complete their program, they should be able to demonstrate:

  • Advanced knowledge of the history and breadth of medical anthropology theory and its application in research;
  • An ability to design and propose an original fieldwork research project for ethics-committee review and funding agencies;
  • Expertise in a particular area of research concentration;
  • Effective public and professional communication of medical anthropology research through publication and presentations;
  • The ability to collaborate with a group related to research focus, to develop applied dimensions;
  • The ability to work across disciplinary boundaries.

The Boston University School of Medicine Master of Science program in Medical Anthropology & Cross-Cultural Practice is offered through the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences 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

Recognizing that human experiences of affliction, suffering, and sickness are influenced by historical, cultural, and biological factors, medical anthropologists use analytical frameworks (social, cultural, political, gender, and racial/ethnic) to explore human health and diseases, health care systems and bio-cultural adaptation.

As globalization brings about an increasingly interconnected world, the work of medical anthropologists—and our understanding of how cultures and societies are organized and influenced by issues of health and health care—has become increasingly important. Accordingly, the MACCP program philosophy is to prepare graduates to engage with the world not just as academics, but also as activists and allies.