Medical Anthropology/Sociology

Dr. Robert Sanderson
Office hours by appointment only
Stabler Hall 401-G
Phone: 569-3173



William C. Cockerham, Medical Sociology (8th Edition)


The principal goal of this course is to introduce students to medical sociology/anthropology by presenting the ideas, concepts, themes, theories, and research findings in the field. The selection of topics for classroom presentations is intended to identify and discuss the most current issues, debates, and findings in medical sociology/anthropology.

The course is designed to focus on this central question: What is the relationship between "sickness" and "society"? By utilizing relevant information provided by many disciplines we're going to develop a framework for thinking sociologically about medical and health care concerns. That is to say, using medicine as a topic, we're going to see what sociology and anthropology have to say about it.

Medical sociologists and anthropologists exercise their craft in an increasingly independent manner, either working with a greater degree of partnership with health care professionals or functioning as medicine's critics should the situation warrant it. Therefore, much of the material will be presented from both a functionalist and a critical perspective, theoretically.

To accomplish this, the course is divided into three major sections:

Sectoin 1: Defining health and illness
Epidemiology; The Social Demography of Health; Social Stress; Health Behavior; Illness Behavior; Healing Options; The Sick Role.

Section 2: Health Care Professionals
Doctor-Patient Interaction; Physicians; The Physician in a Changing Society; Nurses, Physician Assistants, and Midwives.

Section 3: Health Care Institutions and Policy
Hospitals; Health Care Delivery and Social Policy in the United States; Health Care in Developed Countries; Health Care in Developing Former Socialist, Socialist, and Developing Countries.

We'll start by examining the history and evolution of medical sociology/anthropology from its origins in social epidemiology to the present. The primary focus will be on exploring different theoretical "models" used to conceptualize disease and the practice of medicine. Second, we will examine the roles of all persons involved in the delivery of health care, including doctors, nurses, and medical technicians. Finally, our study will turn toward the comparison of health care institutions and the policies that guide and govern the practice of medicine. Via examining the text and specific assigned readings, we'll attempt to develop a sociological/anthropological depiction of human society relevant to our understanding of modern health care problems. Essentially, this course is for sociology or anthropology students interested in the theory and practice of medicine and is beneficial for anyone involved in Public Health, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Nursing.


It is the policy of UALR to accommodate students with disabilities, pursuant to federal and state law. Any disabled student who needs accommodation, for example, in seating placement or in arrangements for examinations, should inform the instructor at the beginning of the course. The chair of the department offering this course is also available to assist with accommodations. Disabled students are also encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Support Services, located in the Donaghey Student Center, telephone 569-3143.