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University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Master of Arts Concentrations

Anthropology of Health and the Environment

Our MA program in cultural anthropology offers a unique focus on the Anthropology of Health and the Environment. The Anthropology of Health and the Environment blends insights from medical anthropology and political ecology to offer students a holistic understanding of relationships among health, illness, poverty, development and the environment. It includes the study of all aspects of health, illness, and disease in human communities, populations, and ecosystems across the globe.

The Anthropology of Health and the Environment takes as its subject matter a broad range of specific topics, including the study of health policymaking, global public health advocacy, health care systems, health disparities, maternal and child health, nutrition and food habits, the anthropology of substance use, migration and health, environmental justice, and digital health storytelling. We also examine resource management systems and environmental knowledges and their relationships to particular ecosystems and environmental justice initiatives; as well as the culture of the global and local institutions – ranging from small-scale non-governmental organizations to the World Bank – that design and implement development activities in non-dominant countries.

Faculty take a variety of theoretical approaches to the topic, but our program is distinguished by its applied and engaged perspectives. A particular strength of our program is its integration of theoretical knowledge with field-based training opportunities and challenges. We prepare students for careers in nonprofit and community groups, non-governmental organizations, advocacy, public health, health care institutions, and health sciences research; our graduates also attend doctoral programs at selective institutions. Courses in the department are complemented by electives in other departments (sociology, biology, psychology, history, geography, political science) and programs on the UC Denver campus (public affairs, education, health administration) and at the Anschutz Medical Campus (Schools of Medicine, Public Health, Pharmacy and Nursing).

Read about our current and past students here.


As part of the MA degree, students may take between 6 and 18 credits of electives in this track, choosing from:

  • Anth 4000/5000 Special Topics in Anthropology
  • Anth 4014/5014 Medical Anthropology: Global Health
  • Anth 4040/5040 Anthropology of Food and Nutrition
  • Anth 4060/5060 Evolutionary Medicine
  • Anth 4080/5080 Global Health Practice
  • Anth 4090/5090 Political Economy of Drugs
  • Anth 4150/5150 Human Biocultural Adaptability
  • Anth 4180/5180 The Nature of Power
  • Anth 4230/5230 Anthropology and Community Based Participatory Research
  • Anth 4290/5290 Anthropology and Public Health
  • Anth 4300/5300 Migrant Health
  • Anth 4350/5350 Anthropology of Globalization
  • Anth 4450/5450 Development and Conservation: Contemporary Issues
  • Anth 4460/5460 Development and Conservation: Theory and Practice
  • Anth 4600/5600 Medical Anthropology: Anthropology of the Clinic
  • Anth 4200/5200 Gender in Cross Cultural Perspective
  • Anth 4800/5800 Special Topics in Medical Anthropology

Note: Students are encouraged to take elective courses in GIS mapping (geography), ecology (biology/anthropology), public policy, public health, epidemiology and biostatistics as it is relevant to their course of study.

Those Interested in Advanced Study

A doctoral program on the UC Denver campus that may be of particular interest to graduates is the PhD in Health and Behavioral Sciences offered through the Department of Health and Behavioral Sciences ( and is highly interdisciplinary. It is a natural extension of a master's degree in anthropology.

Full-Time Faculty

John Brett (PhD, University of California-Berkeley/University of California-San Francisco, 1994)

Nutrition, ethnoecology, evolutionary medicine, issues of sustainability; Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia, urban and rural Colorado

Profile |

Sarah Horton (PhD, University of New Mexico, 2003)

Medical anthropology, public policy, health citizenship, globalization, migration and transnationalism, “illegality,” US Latinos; US Southwest, Mexico

Website | Profile |

Steve Koester (PhD, University of Colorado, 1986)

Medical anthropology, substance use, disease transmission, political ecology, resource management (US, Vietnam, Eastern Caribbean)

Profile |

Marty Otanez (PhD, University of California-Irvine, 2004)

Political ecology, visual ethnography, media production, labor studies, health policy, tobacco control; Africa

Website | Profile |

Zaneta Thayer (PhD, Northwestern University, 2013)

Human biology; developmental plasticity; reproductive biology; health disparities

David Tracer (PhD, University of Michigan, 1991)

Biological anthropology, maternal and child health, growth and development, decision-making theory

Profile |

Affiliated Faculty

Sharon Devine (PhD, University of Colorado Denver, 2009)

Research ethics, public health evaluation, health disparities, Latino “health paradox”

Profile |

Manuel Espinoza (PhD, UCLA, 2007)

Migrant education, literacy, modernity, human development, Chicano studies

Dave Ruppert (PhD, University of Arizona, 1979)

Cultural Anthropology, Southeast Asia, Western United States

Jean Scandlyn (PhD, Columbia University, 1993)

Healing and ritual; community based health care delivery; adolescence; migration; gender and anthropology; North America, Latin America, Southeast Asia

Profile |


Career Opportunities

Choose from bachelor's degree programs in the humanities, natural and physical sciences, social sciences and integrated sciences.

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Engaged and Community-Based Anthropology

Choose from bachelor's degree programs in the humanities, natural and physical sciences, social sciences and integrated sciences.