Cultural and Social Studies of Biomedicine emphasize social science research on the culture and political economy of the profession of medicine and health care globally and locally. Since 1993, seminars, workshops, and courses addressing core issues in biomedicine and biotechnology have been offered at HMS and in FAS, in Anthropology, Sociology, and History of Science by Department of Global Health and Social Medicine faculty. In addition, Cultural and Social Studies of Biomedicine has an on-going collaboration with MIT’s program in Science, Technology and Society and its faculty.
Current research addresses critical issues in American medicine and health care as well as in global medicine and health systems. Recent research programs on American medicine address issues of disparities and inequalities in medical and psychiatric treatment and care; a major project examines the response of psychiatry’s institutions of training and care to increasingly culturally and economically diverse patient populations. Research on mental health interventions in post-tsunami, post-conflict Aceh, Indonesia, addresses how psychiatric care is to be provided in contexts of high need yet extreme scarcity of trained clinicians. Additional comparative projects address a myriad of challenges to educating and training 21st century physicians, globally and in the United States, including end of life care for patients.
Although plagues, technological limitations, and health systems which compromise quality of care and medical training, increasing risks for medical errors and mismanagement of patients, assault the technical and cultural power of the profession of medicine, 21st Century biomedicine and biotechnologies are also infused with the optimism of the medical imaginary, the political economy of hope and the biotechnical embrace. Projects exploring these multiple aspects of contemporary biomedicine and psychiatry in global, comparative and cross-cultural perspectives are pursued by departmental faculty, fellows, and students from throughout the university.