Executive Board


Carolyn Smith-Morris, President
Southern Methodist University

Carolyn Smith-Morris (PhD University of Arizona, 2001) is a medical anthropologist and professor at Southern Methodist University. Her research documents experiences of chronic disease, particularly diabetes, among Indigenous, migrant, and marginalized communities and contributes to theories of chronicity and decolonization of healthcare. Her books include two monographs (Diabetes Among the Pima: Stories of Survival by U. Arizona Press, and Indigenous Communalism by Rutgers U. Press), two edited volumes (Chronic Conditions, Fluid States, with Lenore Manderson, Rutgers U. Press; and Diagnostic Controversy, Routledge Press). She is also a contributing researcher and author with Cultural Survival in support of Indigenous rights.

Steven P Black, Treasurer
Georgia State University

Steven P. Black is associate professor of anthropology at Georgia State University. His research explores global health discourses at the intersection of medical and linguistic anthropology with a focus on topics such as ethics, stigmatization, techno-optimism, and performance based on fieldwork in South Africa, Costa Rica, and the United States. He is the author of Speech and Song at the Margins of Global Health: Zulu Tradition, HIV Stigma, and AIDS Activism in South Africa (Rutgers University Press, 2019) and co-editor (with Lynnette Arnold) of a special issue of Medical Anthropology (39[7]), titled “Communicating Care.”

Adia Benton, Secretary
Northwestern University 


Adia Benton is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and African Studies at Northwestern University, where she is affiliated with the Science in Human Culture Program. Her body of work addresses transnational efforts to eliminate health disparities and inequalities, and the role of ideology in global health. In addition to ongoing research on public health responses to epidemics, including the 2013-2016 West African Ebola outbreak, she has conducted research on the growing movement to fully incorporate surgical care into commonsense notions of “global health.” Her first book, HIV Exceptionalism: Development Through Disease in Sierra Leone, won the 2017 Rachel Carson Prize, which is awarded by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) to the best book in the field of Science and Technology Studies with strong social or political relevance. Her other writing has touched on the politics of anthropological knowledge in infectious disease outbreak response, racial hierarchies in humanitarianism and development, and techniques of enumeration in gender-based violence programs.

Because she is interested in establishing dialogue with thinkers outside her field, she writes frequently about these topics on her blog, ethnography911.org, and on twitter (as ethnography911). There, Dr. Benton connects these issues with broader conversations about political economy, race and gender. Her first book, HIV Exceptionalism: Development through Disease in Sierra Leone (University of Minnesota, 2015), explores the treatment of AIDS as an exceptional disease and the recognition and care that this takes away from other diseases and public health challenges in poor countries. Her second book project, tentatively titled Cutting Cures, focuses on the global movement to improve access to quality surgical care in poor countries, using it as a case study for describing and understanding ideological formations in global public health. She is also completing a short book about “remote anthropology” during acute crises like the 2013-15 West African Ebola outbreak.

Charles L. Briggs, Past-President 
University of California Berkeley 

Charles L. Briggs (PhD University of Chicago, 1981) has focused primarily on forging entanglements between medical and linguistic anthropology and media studies. Long-standing dialogues with scholars and practitioners of Latin American social medicine and critical epidemiology and critical approaches to health communication inspire his efforts to document, analyze, and challenge the lethal effects of communicative health inequities as they unfold in clinical interactions, public health practice, health communication, epidemiology, health policy, and health-related media circuits. Decades of collaboration with Indigenous people in Venezuela documented unconscionable cholera and rabies epidemics, and work in Latin America, the United States, and elsewhere has been uncomfortably imbricated with pandemics, especially H1N1 (“swine flu”) and COVID-19. His publications include Learning How to Ask, Stories in the Time of Cholera and Tell Me How My Children Died (both with Clara Mantini-Briggs), Making Health Public (with Daniel Hallin), and Unlearning: Rethinking Poetics, Pandemics, and the Politics of Knowledge.


Salih Can Açiksöz
University of California, Los Angeles

Salih Can Aciksoz is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research areas include critical disability studies, masculinities, political violence, reproductive technologies, affect, humanitarianism, and the Far Right. He is the author of Sacrificial Limbs: Masculinity, Disability, and Political Violence in Turkey (University of California Press, 2019), which won the Fatima Mernissi Book Award, which is given by the Middle East Studies Association to the best work in studies of gender, sexuality, and women’s lived experience. His new project examines the politics of humanitarianism in the militarized and conflict-ridden Turkish/Kurdish/Syrian borderlands.

Emma Backe
PhD candidate at the George Washington University

Emma’s dissertation research focuses on the politics of crisis and care for survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV), examining how flows of international aid impact the duration and nature of care provided to survivors; discourses of emergency are mobilized by global health and governance apparatuses; and what dynamics of care, healing and recovery look like through a survivor-centered, trauma-informed lens. Emma’s work is informed by feminist, activist medical anthropology, with a focus on mental health, gender-based violence and care assemblages. Her work has been published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly; Cultural Anthropology; Feminist Anthropology; Violence Against Women; and Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. In her spare time, she also serves as Managing Editor of The Geek Anthropologist and tweets @EmmaLouiseBacke

Chelsey Carter
Mentoring Committee Chair
Princeton University

Chelsey R. Carter is an anthropologist of medicine, public health, and race and a Presidential Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Princeton University. Her research program examines how racialized knowledge, oppression, and marginalization impact Black Americans at the intersection of biomedicine and public health. Her ethnographic dissertation project informs her first book project, which examines how the illness experiences of Black and white Americans living with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) are mediated by socio-cultural productions of ALS knowledge and anti-Black racism. Her forthcoming research projects investigate medical cannabis and caregiving in ALS communities and genomic medicine targeted toward Black Americans. Chelsey’s scholarship and personal praxis are rooted in a Black feminist methodological and epistemological tradition. Her public and scholarly work has been published in Anthropology News, Scientific American, Museum Anthropology, American Ethnologist, Journal for the Anthropology of North America, and Medical Anthropology Quarterly.

Erin Koch
AAA/SMA Conference Program Committee Chair
University of Kentucky

Erin Koch is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky. She works at the intersections of cultural and medical anthropology, feminist STS, and interdisciplinary multispecies studies. Erin’s research focuses on global health inequalities with a particular focus on the ways in which human-microbe relationships are experienced and negotiated through health interventions, institutions, and practices at various scales. She is the author of Free Market Tuberculosis: Managing Epidemics in Post-Soviet Georgia. Erin has also conducted research on the relationships between health, protracted displacement, and governmental and non-governmental programs for internally displaced persons in the country Georgia. Her current research examines relationships between plant-human-microbe health and the opportunities community-based organizations generate for understanding and improving local communities, ecologies and wellbeing.

Michelle Munyikwa
Resident, Internal Medicine-Pediatrics Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania & Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

Michelle Munyikwa received her MD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2021 and is a current resident in combined internal medicine & pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her PhD in anthropology in 2019. Her book project in progress based on her dissertation, The Spatial Promise of Refuge, examines care for asylum seekers and refugees in Philadelphia. She also serves as a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Health System’s Center for Health Equity Advancement, where she has contributed to scholarship in medical education, particularly training in the medical social sciences for health professions trainees, health equity and systems practice, and racial justice in medicine. Her work has been published in Academic Medicine; Science, Technology, and Human Values; and the New England Journal of Medicine. She is currently a contributing writer and section editor for Synapsis: A Health Humanities Journal.

Adeola Oni-Orisan

Committee Chair

University of California, San Francisco 

Adeola Oni-Orisan is a medical anthropologist and family physician with specific clinical interest in reproductive health, adolescent health, addiction, and community health. In her research, she engages critical race theory, Black feminist studies, and science and technology studies to examines how ideas about Blackness, gender, and health are reinforced, deployed and resisted in struggles for health and well-being. She has conducted research on issues related to reproductive health in Nigeria, Zambia, and the United States. Her book project, “To Be Delivered: Pregnant and Born Again in Nigeria” is an ethnographic and historical exploration of the lived experiences of pregnant Nigerians as they navigate intersecting yet competing systems of care proposed by state, church, and international development organizations in search of successful deliveries. She received her M.D. from Harvard Medical School and her Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology from the joint program at the University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley.

Richard Powis
Washington University in St. Louis

I’m a PhD Candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. My research interests are in reproductive health, global health, kinship and gender, STS, research methods, ethnographic photography, and West Africa. My ethnographic dissertation, titled “Relations of Reproduction: Men, Masculinities, and Pregnancy in Dakar, Senegal,” is an examination of both how organizations like USAID talk about “men’s involvement” in prenatal care and how men in Dakar navigate gendered social expectations and economic barriers in order to support their pregnant partners. I’ve been a member of the Society for Medical Anthropology since 2012 and a longtime advocate for student-workers’ rights, underrepresented minority students, and open-access publication. Now, as Student Representative to the Executive Board, I’m working to remove the institutional obstacles that students face in their own universities and in our professional organizations, not least of which is bullying, harassment, and abuse.

Personal Website: http://www.dickpowis.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/dtpowis

Thurka Sangaramoorthy
University of Maryland

Thurka Sangaramoorthy is currently Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Maryland. She is a cultural anthropologist with specific expertise in medical anthropology and social epidemiology. She conducts community-engaged ethnographic research, including rapid assessments, among vulnerable populations in the United States, Africa, and Latin America/Caribbean. Her work is broadly concerned with how everyday experiences of individuals and communities intersect with institutional policies and practices. She has worked at this intersection on diverse topics, including global health and migration, HIV/STD, health system inequities, environmental racism, and critical studies of racialization. She is the author of Treating AIDS: Politics of Difference, Paradox of Prevention (Rutgers, 2014), and co-author of Rapid Ethnographic Assessments: A Practical Approach and Toolkit for Collaborative Community Research (Routledge, 2020). Her current book projects include (1) Afterlives of AIDS (Aevo, University of Toronto Press, forthcoming), based on oral history narratives of older Black women living and aging with HIV in Washington DC, for which she won the 2020 New Directions Prize from the American Anthropological Association General Anthropology Division and (2) Immigration and the Landscape of Care in Rural America, an ethnography of the inherent relations between immigration, health, and rural precarity, using Maryland’s Eastern Shore as a case study, for which she was awarded the Rudolf Virchow Professional Paper Prize by SMA’s Critical Global Health Caucus in 2018. She also routinely writes on issues of racism and health inequities for public audiences, including recent commentaries in Newsweek, Inside Higher Ed, The Conversation, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Sapiens.

Ayo Wahlberg 
SMA Communications Committee Chair
University of Copenhagenayo.wahlberg@anthro.ku.dk

Ayo Wahlberg is Professor MSO at the Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen. Working broadly within the field of social studies of (bio)medicine, his research has focused on traditional herbal medicine (in Vietnam and the United Kingdom), reproductive and genetic technologies (in China and Denmark) as well as health metrics (in clinical trials and global health). In his current project “The Vitality of Disease – Quality of Life in the Making”, funded by the European Research Council (2015-2021), a team of ethnographers are exploring how chronic living forms the everyday lives of millions of people who live with (chronic) conditions throughout the world and has emerged as a therapeutic site. He is the author of Good Quality – the Routinization of Sperm Banking in China (University of California Press), co-editor of Selective Reproduction in the 21st Century (Palgrave MacMillan) co-editor of Southern Medicine for Southern People – Vietnamese Medicine in the Making (Cambridge Scholars Publishing) and editor at the interdisciplinary journal BioSocieties (Palgrave Macmillan).

Elizabeth Wirtz, SIG Membership Coordinator
Purdue University

Elizabeth Wirtz is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses on humanitarian aid in relief and development, forced migration, gender-based violence, reproductive health, human-centered technology design, and STEM higher education.

MASA Liaison

Richard Powis
Washington University in St. Louis

Ex-Officio Members & Staff

Stephanie Cruz

Stephanie Cruz, Communities Manager
University of Washington

Stephanie Cruz is a doctoral candidate in Medical Anthropology at the University of Washington. Stephanie holds a BA from Stanford University in Anthropological Sciences. She holds a Master’s in Anthropology from the University of Washington. Stephanie’s dissertation focuses on how professional beliefs and behaviors interact and inform policies on cadaver use in continuing medical education. She also works in public health dentistry on qualitative projects researching patient, practitioner, and family perspectives on dental care access for Medicaid populations or children with special health needs. She hopes to become an applied medical anthropologist with the goal of working in interdisciplinary health research teams.

Anika Jugović Spajić, Digital Communications Manager
University of Pittsburgh

Anika Jugović Spajić is a PhD candidate in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. Her interests lie in the intersection of medical anthropology and anthropology of the state. Her dissertation concerns the practices of patient-activists with diabetes and the ongoing negotiations of their positions and caregiving responsibilities in the larger matrix of the public-private healthcare system in Serbia. She is also interested in the interplay between chronicity and politics of pandemics. She sometimes tweets here: @_p_anika.

Alex Nading, Medical Anthropology Quarterly Editor
Cornell University

Alex Nading is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Cornell University. His research examines the interface of biomedicine, public health, and environmental change in Latin America. He is the author of Mosquito Trails: Ecology, Health, and the Politics of Entanglement (University of California Press, 2014). His current research involves ethnographic work with environmental health activists on Nicaraguan sugarcane plantations, and collaborative research on futures, infrastructures, and qualities of life in periurban Managua.

Melissa (Mel) Salm, Anthropology News SMA Contributing Co-Editor
University of California, Davis

Melissa (Mel) Salm is a PhD candidate in the department of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. She is currently completing her dissertation on One Health approaches to global health research in Peru. Her doctoral thesis depicts a contemporary moment in the history of infectious disease epidemiology characterized by ecological orientations to disease emergence at “the human-animal-environment interface”. The dissertation also examines the entangled histories of US naval medicine and infectious disease research in Latin American and the Caribbean, thereby drawing critical attention to the legacies of power, empire, and the politics of security that undergird contemporary global health research partnerships across the Americas.

Victoria Sheldon, Anthropology News SMA Contributing Co-Editor
University of Toronto

Victoria Sheldon is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology and the Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. Entitled Vital Bodies, Natural Cures: Moral Quests for Care in Kerala, South India, her dissertation lies at the intersection of medical anthropology, the anthropology of ethics and morality, and political-social histories of the body in South Asia. Based on thirty months of continuous ethnographic fieldwork, she examines how non-professionalized nature cure and herbal healers in Kerala, South India provide care in the midst of a mediatized health crisis of chronic lifestyle diseases. Identifying as public health activists, these healers aim to repair ill bodies, revitalize the toxic environment, and nonviolently respond to moral collapse. Her dissertation examines the historical present of Kerala, while also stepping back to inquire about the human condition: what does it mean for the body to be invoked as the medium of self-healing, as opposed to a static object upon which the norms of medical interventions are written?

SMA Assistant


Carolyn Mason




Past Board and Ex Officio Service List

SMA Board Roster

SMA Ex Officio Roster