Skip to main content

School of Social and Political Science: Graduate school

Search

60 Second Interviews

We have asked some of our recent graduates about their experiences studying medical anthropology at Edinburgh:

Dr (MD) Hannah Lesshafft (has now completed the Masters and a PhD in Social Anthropology)

What were you doing before you applied to the MSc?

Before the Master programme I worked as a medical doctor in Berlin. Earlier, I wrote my MD thesis about a leprosy colony in Brazil and studied a poverty-associated parasitic skin disease in a slum in the Brazilian Amazon region.

Why did you apply to the programme?

During my clinical work in Germany and my studies in Brazil I was constantly confronted with the socio-political and cultural dimensions of health and medicine. The commercialisation of medicine, global and local health inequalities, stigmatisation of patients with certain diseases – leprosy being an extreme example –  and the ritual character of daily medical practice were obvious and compelling. At the same time, I wanted to learn more about healing practices of other cultures. The MSc Programme is a great opportunity to study these topics.

What are your best memories from your time studying here?

The lectures and the discussions in the tutorials. I had some small tutorials that gave room for intense debates with fellow students of different backgrounds and very supportive, engaged lecturers. It is great to study in an environment that actually calls for critical thinking. And then there are these amazing moments when you read an article that says it all and blows your mind.

What are you doing now? Did the degree help you to get where you are?

Currently, I am preparing a PhD project in social anthropology about healing rituals of  the Afrobrazilian religion Candomblé. The MSc Programme makes this career change possible and provides me with the necessary base of theory and writing skills.

What's it like being a student in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities I know – where else can you go to the beach for lunch by bike, pass by a mountain and visit a small castle on the way? And the university societies offer countless activities for students.

Jordan Sloshower (now MD student at Yale Medical School)

One year after finishing my Masters in Medical Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh I began medical school at Yale University. After several months engaging the curriculum and medical education environment, I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to study health and illness from the perspective of medical anthropology. Training in this discipline, like training in art or medicine, is learning a way of seeing. Specifically, medical anthropology provides a critical lens through which to view phenomena related to the health and illness of people, populations and the global community. In the western world, health and illness are predominantly conceptualized in biomedical terms, such as molecules, bacteria, and disease. Medical anthropology provides a wider perspective by considering the wide array of social, cultural, economic, and political factors that operate alongside and interact with the biomedical determinants of health and illness to affect the wellbeing of people and populations. In so doing, I believe medical anthropology can provide actors in the health sector with a more complete analytical perspective. In visiting patients in the hospital, working at community clinics and learning about the ills, injustices and inequalities of the world, it has quickly become apparent that an understanding of the extra-bodily factors that interact with the biomedical body is critical to a clinician’s ability to not only cure disease, but restore wellbeing and alleviate suffering. Moreover, it is this kind of holistic approach that enables a physician to help heal communities, countries and the world through the creation of effective, culturally sensitive health policies and programs.

Colin Buzza (now Fellow, University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine)

What were you doing before you applied to the MSc?

Before entering the programme I was a visiting undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh, with plans to go to medical school in the U.S.  After experiencing the city for a year, and being introduced to both the anthropology faculty and the field of medical anthropology, the decision to defer entrance to medical school and stay on for the MSc was an easy one. 

Why did you apply to the programme?

With a strong interest in medicine and international public health, I hoped a programme in the anthropology of health and illness would provide a critical complement to later professional training in the medical/public health fields.  The location and faculty made this specific programme very appealing.    

What are your best memories from your time studying here?

Making friends from all over the world, lively debate in tutorial sessions, socializing with students and faculty after seminars, beautiful daily walks to campus, exploring Edinburgh, weekend trips to the Highlands, cheap flights to the continent 

What are you doing now?  Did the degree help you to get where you are?

I am currently pursuing an MD/MPH at the University of Iowa.  The MSc definitely provided critical skills that have already proven helpful in recognizing many methodological assumptions of medicine and public health.  I believe the sort of intellectual independence it fostered will continue to prove helpful in considering the many social, cultural, political and economic forces that provide both barriers to, and possible solutions for, upholding high standards of health.   

What's it like being a student in Edinburgh?

The school itself provides a stimulating academic environment—including experienced faculty and thoughtful peers—that affords students a great deal of independence.  On the whole, Edinburgh is very student-friendly, very liveable: easy to meet interesting people, easy to get around, and lots of music, art and other cultural offerings.  Edinburgh is an exciting place to be a student, with very few drawbacks.   

Maria Mekhael (now PhD student in Anthropology at Oxford University)

What were you doing before you applied to the MSc?

Before applying for the Masters programme I was at Edinburgh University studying for an undergraduate degree in Social Anthropology. I did consider going to another city for further study, but after looking into this course at Edinburgh, I decided to stay on. I felt this programme offered much more flexibility and freedom of choice for students when selecting outside courses to complement the core anthropological components, (such as from the Faculty of Public Health in the Medical School). 

Why did you apply to the programme?

I did my undergraduate dissertation on the relationship between traditional healing and biomedicine in Tanzania, which ignited my interest in medical anthropology. I wanted to explore the applied element of anthropology – and see how theory could be of relevance in real-life terms; looking at bioethics and biotechnology, international global inequalities in access to medicines, and how cross cultural comparisons between different healing systems could inform public health policy and action for international development. 

What are your best memories from your time studying here?

Edinburgh is still my favourite city– the landscape is extraordinarily beautiful, and the architecture is steeped in history. Everything in Edinburgh is very accessible, and I really miss just being able to pop into an art gallery on my way back from university! My fondest memories are of the people I met - I had a fairly small group on the MSc programme, which was great as we all got on really well and met for coffee or lunch after lectures. I really enjoyed socialising and learning with people from a variety of countries and cultures. 

What are you doing now? Did the degree help you to get where you are?

I am currently working for a small research institute in London, and we are applying for funding to look at organisational issues within the NHS. My MSc in the Anthropology of Health and Illness has been invaluable – both in helping me get this job, and giving me insight within my professional role. I see daily how anthropology can inform multidisciplinary health research, both conceptually and methodologically. 

Edinburgh Students