Our Story

Erica Caple James, Associate Professor of Medical Anthropology and Urban Studies, launched the Global Health and Medical Humanities Initiative (GHMHI) at MIT in 2014, where she has taught for more than a decade. Originally housed within the Anthropology Department in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, the Initiative relocated to the Department of Urban Studies and Planning within the Schohol of Architecture and Planning in summer 2017. The goal of GHMHIis to promote an understanding that “health,” whether local or global, requires interdisciplinary analyses of its complex determinants. The Initiative aspires to combine best practices in global health and the classical medical humanities to add a distinctive approach to the study of human health at MIT grounded in the social sciences. Professor James's proposal of GHMHI was prompted in part by a request from the MIT Committee on Prehealth Advising to aid in preparing pre-health/medical undergraduates for changes to the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) Exam in 2015 with the addition of a new section of the exam that, “…recognizes the importance of socio-cultural and behavioral determinants of health and health outcomes” [Preview Guide for the MCAT2015 (Second Edition): 4, 7]. Moreover, while GHMHI will have a practical dimension of aiding in MCAT preparation, it will also add a distinctive approach to thinking about the field of medical education critically and comprehensively, even for students who do not choose to pursue health-related studies. 

In addition to supporting the preparation of pre-health students at MIT, the establishment of GHMHI offers a vision of several pathways to the study of “health” that MIT could offer as an Institute-wide endeavor, one that aids in fulfilling our mission to, “advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.” Through research, courses, seminar series, and interdisciplinary fora, GHMHI provides training and mentorship in qualitative research methods to support directed research in global health, cross-cultural psychiatry, gender and health, bioethics, and human rights and health.

GHMHI is dedicated to diversity and inclusion for our students, faculty, and staff with regard to their backgrounds and opinions. We applaud MIT's nearly-met 2004 goal of doubling the percentage of underrepresented minority faculty over ten years and we vigorously endorse the as-yet-unmet 2004 aim of tripling the percentage of underrepresented minority MIT graduate students over the same period.

We are presently working to develop new qualitative research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students within the Greater Boston area, the United States and overseas; our team traveled to Uganda in 2015 to explore one such possibility. As project designs are finalized, additional information will be posted to this website so please check back often!

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity" (Preamable to the Constitution of the World Health Organization, entered into force on 7 April 1948).