Medical Anthropology

The Joint UCSF/UCB PhD in Medical Anthropology is one of the pioneering programs in the discipline both nationally and globally. The program provides disciplinary leadership and outstanding, comprehensive training leading to the PhD degree. No other program offers the Joint Program’s combination of excellence in critical medical anthropology; studies of science, technology, and modernity; and training in historically informed, pedagogically rigorous social theory. Our students are trained to develop original, creative, and relevant scholarship that makes contributions across the medical and social science fields.

The program emphasizes the way social theory can be used to analyze urgent issues in contemporary health including:

  • Formation of subjectivities and the governance of populations around forms of life
  • How populations are constituted for care or violence
  • Structuring logic of markets in the provision of aid and health
  • Constitution of truth through particular conceptualizations of life, ethics, and personhood  

The Joint UCSF/UCB PhD Program brings together one of the finest medical universities and one of the finest arts and sciences universities in the country to offer students a theoretically engaged approach to emerging issues in medical anthropology.  It also offers a unique opportunity for PhD training for MDs and MD students through our MD/PhD track, which includes the Medical Sciences Training Program.



The next cohort will be for Fall 2024, as the Fall 2022 cohort has already been finalized.

Students applying to the Medical Anthropology PhD Program must submit the online Medical Anthrpology program application between September 1st, 2023 and January 1, 2024.

The graduate Programs in Medical Anthropology and the History of Health Sciences are committed to providing access to graduate students with disabilities and will provide reasonable accommodations as necessary. Applicants with disabilities, who are invited for interviews, will be offered reasonable accommodations if requested.

UCSF does not require that students with disabilities disclose their disability status on the admissions application. Decisions around disability disclosure are personal and should be carefully considered. Once students are admitted, they should contact Student Disability Services to begin the Disability Services registration process if they wish to ensure that accommodations and services are in place for the start of their courses.

MD/PhD applicants

Students applying to the Medical Services Training Program (MSTP - also known as MD/PhD in Medical Anthropology) must submit the online Medical Anthropology program application by December 1st each year.

Please note that the School of Medicine and MSTP Medical Anthropology interview dates will be in January of each year.

Please read our MSTP Medical Anthropology Applicant Information.

The full Medical Anthropology application can be found at the UCSF Graduate Division's Online Application Portal.

Additional resources 

Policy on student progress: requirements, notification, remediation, and review

1. Criteria for satisfactory academic progress

The policy regarding satisfactory academic progress in the Medical Anthropology PhD program is as follows:

Productivity is expected of students as they progress through the program. Each year, the faculty meets to discuss individual student progress, course, and examination performance. Students who fail to meet the standard of performance deemed necessary for progression will be asked to withdraw from the program.

Academic progress is marked by the timely and successful completion of all courses with grades of B or better in all required courses and a cumulative grade average grade of 3.0 or above in all coursework, passing all qualifying examinations, successful completion of dissertation, and presentation based on the dissertation.

For more specifics on time to degree and pre-qualifying and qualifying exams can be found in the Medical Anthropology Student Handbook.

First year students

First year students meet with their graduate advisors at least once per quarter. Student progress is assessed at the end of the year on the basis of the first year pre-qualifying exam, course grades, plus additional comments from course instructors and advisors about students who might be struggling.

Second and third year students

Second and third students are evaluated on the basis of their progress toward and then successful completion of the qualifying exam (including meeting pre-exam requirements, having the statements and proposals approved, and passing the qualifying exam). Students must meet with their advisors in person at least once a quarter and keep advisors informed of their progress. Each advisor must review/approve each student’s plan of study annually.

Students who have completed the qualifying exam

Students must form their thesis committee before or within one quarter (three months) of passing their qualifying exam. Students are expected to complete all degree requirements within five years and students requiring more than 6 years will be evaluated for continuation in the program on a case-by-case basis. The thesis committee should serve as a guide to the student through both easy and difficult phases of their thesis work.

Unsatisfactory progress indicators

  • Falling below a 3.0 GPA
  • Failing grades in any course
  • Failure to complete courses for which an incomplete has been given
  • Failure to find a dissertation advisor
  • Unsatisfactory research work (as reported by the dissertation advisor)
  • Unprofessional conduct (as reported by the dissertation advisor, a course instructor, or other faculty)
  • Failing to complete pre-exam requirements
  • Failing the pre-qualifying exam or the qualifying exam
  • Disciplinary problems and other conduct and professionalism infractions that fall within the scope of UCSF’s Code of Conduct.

2. Process by which failing students will be notified and remediated

Students whose progress is unsatisfactory (according to one or more of the criteria listed above) will be notified and will meet with the advisor and the program director to develop an individualized remediation plan to address the deficiencies. The meeting results in a memorandum of understanding that clearly outlines specific steps and associated deadlines that the student must fulfill in order to receive a satisfactory report. The report is then signed by the following parties: the student, the dissertation advisor (or graduate advisor if the dissertation advisor has not yet been chosen), and the program director.  At this point, the report is filed in the student’s academic file within the program, and the Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs is notified.

Should the student be unable to fulfill the expectations according to the timeline outlined in the letter, the student will be subject to dismissal from the program. The process for in-depth review of a student’s eligibility for dismissal will follow the UCSF Divisional Procedure for Student Grievance in Academic Affairs, section 4.0, and will be conducted by the following in-depth committees for each program.

3. Composition of the in-depth review committee, should one be necessary

Medical Anthropology Executive committee

Student disability services

UCSF is committed to ensuring access to graduate education for all students. Early communication with the relevant administrators is critical to successful partnership in arranging accommodations. SDS is the appropriate and confidential office for seeking accommodations, and will coordinate communications and procedures with you and the graduate faculty and programs. Please visit the website and look over the student disability services info for more information.

Student success at UCSF

Success in graduate school requires care and attention to all aspects of your life: health and wellness, community, career development, personal and professional relationships, and security and safety. UCSF is committed to providing a full range of resources and services to help you succeed. Learn more about these resources by visiting our Student Success website.

Medical Anthropology Alumni and their Dissertation Titles