The research conducted in the Medical Anthropology Lab provides opportunities for students to develop research, participate in a research team, and present or publish findings. Students are engaged at an appropriate level and are mentored in a supportive lab composed of diverse scholars and students. Research falls into three areas:

  • 1) Medical Anthropology and Public Health
  • 2) American India Sovereignty and Health, and
  • 3) Academic Institution and Disciplinary Practices

Medical Anthropology and Public Health

  1. Protective Factors for Covid-19 Utilized by Disabled Peoples During Extended Periods of Social Isolation
    This research seeks to understand better how the disabled community is coping with social isolation. For details on this research, please visit the website of L. C. “Spike” Osadchuk, MA(c).
  2. HIV Risk among Trafficked Women
    A collaboration between Drs. Yeon Jung Yu, Sean Bruna, and several undergraduate students. This research examines global literature concerning HIV/STI risk among trafficked female sex workers (FSWs) in relation to sex trafficking and drug.
  3. Recreational Drug Use in the Pacific Northwest
    Drs. Yeon Jung Yu and Sean Bruna. This research investigates recreational drug use (e.g., cannabis, cocaine, marijuana, LSD, prescriptions, and various other soft drugs) and its effects on WWU students. Due to the variable legal status of cannabis, there is lack of social studies on the topic. We seek to remedy this by collecting data and gaining an understanding of the community culture of WWU drug users as well as the lived experiences of the WWU population of drug users. The data we intend to collect will provide information about the demographics, social networks and community culture of drug users, perceptions/stigmas around recreational drugs, effects on mental and physical health, and resources for drug users among our WWU students. A portion of this research is examining drug use during Covid-19 Social Isolation. Faculty Summer Research Grant, Western Washington University.
  4. Corazón por la Vida: Comparative Effectiveness Research for Eliminating Disparities
    Corazón por la Vida: Comparative Effectiveness Research for Eliminating Disparities,” a large interdisciplinary study which examined the cost effectiveness of a promotora (community health worker) led hypertension management program for Latinos in rural New Mexico (National Institutes of Health, National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Grant #3P20MD004996-01S1). Also a sub-award partnership between the Prevention Institute, Hidalgo Medical Services, and the Hidalgo County Health Consortium which examined upstream health policy issues in Hidalgo County, NM.

American Indian Sovereignty and Health

  1. “Sowing Seeds for the Future to Honor Tigua History and Tradition”: Diabetes Prevention Practices at Ysleta del Sur Pueblo (Book Manuscript)
    This research, funded by the CDC, Smithsonian Institution, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Mellon Foundation, was a community- based participatory research study of type II diabetes prevention practices at a Federally Recognized Tribe. In dialogue with both public health and anthropology, the study critiques translational health theories and examines a community health center and the broader tribal community it serves. Topics explored include a detailed political economic history and the impact on present day diabetes prevention efforts, structural challenges hindering individual oriented biomedical prevention practices in a health center, communal “emergent” religious/spiritual prevention practices, and generationally defined wellness trends.
  2. Is Ethnographic Evidence Public or Private? Opportunities and Challenges to Ethnographic Data Sharing Requirements with American Indian Tribes (Phase 1)
    Sean Bruna (PI). “Is Ethnographic Evidence Public or Private? Opportunities and Challenges to Contemporary Data Sharing Requirements with American Indian Tribes,” in Organize This! Data Management for Anthropology. Jerome Crowder and Richard Freeman, eds.  Palgrave Publishers.
  3. Is Ethnographic Evidence Public or Private? Opportunities and Challenges to Ethnographic Data Sharing Requirements with American Indian Tribes (Phase 2)
    As a second portion of this research, I am partnering with Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, TX, a tribe in west Texas to develop a living tribal archive and repository for research data. Though details are under embargo, we are examining the possibility of developing an archive where (1) historical and contemporary content may be actively engaged by community participants given various community-designated restrictions and (2) a repository for data collected by researchers that are (a) hired by the tribe, (b) partner with the tribe, or are (c) internal tribal researchers.  This project is in consultation.

Creating Change in Disciplinary Practices

  1. Surviving Fieldwork: Mixed Methods Evaluation of Fieldwork Risk-taking, Safety, and Mitigation Strategies
    Led by Sean Bruna (PI), in collaboration with Heather Fullerton (College of Charleston), and Emilio Bruna (University of Florida). In 1990 the American Anthropological Association published “Surviving Fieldwork: a report of the Advisory Panel on Health and Safety on Fieldwork, American Anthropological Association.” The risks addressed in this survey covered a variety of topics, some of which include death, assault, tapeworms, and disease. This research updates and enhances the original survey to address global fieldsites, adds qualitative components, disentangles how academic level, gender and ethnicity impact risk/safety practices, and examines the content and quality of related institutional material/training. Currently (1) identifying trends in the literature and (2) drafting large grant for submission.  Support from 2017 NSF Summer Course on Grant Writing at the University of Florida & 2018.
  2. Informal Mentoring of Historically Excluded Students at a Predominantly White Institution
    Sean Bruna (PI). While the role and success of official academic advising programs in post-secondary institutions have been widely covered in existing literature, there is a marked shortage of research studying unofficial mentoring in the same way. In contrast to the more standardized structures of official academic advising, mentoring often takes place in a far less rigid fashion. How students, particularly students from historically excluded (ie. “underrepresented minority (URM)” populations), select their mentors and the roles that these mentors fill remain questions not often addressed. Using community-based participatory research (CBPR), this research provides an initial investigation of how undergraduates at a predominantly white undergraduate institution (PWUI) select unofficial mentors: what criteria students use to make these selections, what they discuss with their mentors, and what roles these mentors fill in these students’ lives. The six themes that emerged from this research shed light on the more nuanced relationships cultivated in support of students’ academic and professional goals.
  3. Women and BIPOC Scholars are underrepresented on the editorial boards of journals in anthropology: a 40 year analysis of ten anthropology journals
    Led by Sean Bruna (PI) and in collaboration with Heather Fullerton, Emilio Bruna. As part of the Gatekeeper Project, this research examines the changing demographics of editorial boards and staff of ten leading anthropology journals over the last 40 years.  We completed the pilot project, are in the final stages of manuscript preparation, and are now preparing a large grant to examine all American Anthropology Association Editorial Boards in greater detail.
  4. Teaching Medical Anthropology: Analysis of Medical Anthropology Syllabi in the U.S.
    Sean Bruna (PI) with Tyler Stodola (WWU BA, 2017), the aim of this study is to understand the topics and content taught in U.S. medical anthropology courses, and to consider if courses address MCAT exam related content. Mini-Research Grant, Western Washington University
  5. Is service work always ‘women’s work’?: Rewards and Regrets of Gendered Institutional Housekeeping
    Nayantara Sheoran (PI) (Postdoctoral Fellow, The Graduate Institute, Geneva), and Sean Bruna. This mixed methods research examines gendered leadership within the Society for Medical Anthropology.