I took my first medical anthropology course during the spring semester of my freshman year. I realized I was hooked to the field in the middle of a lecture in Professor Rivkin-Fish’s Comparative Healing Systems class. As I recall, we were discussing an anthropological explanation of the transition from the era of midwifery prevalence to the rise of obstetrics and gynecology as a male-dominated, biomedical “profession.” Previously, I had been drawn to the natural sciences and their steadfast faith in the scientific-method, evidence-based research and the like. Fortunately, my first medical anthropology class – and the many that ensued – opened my eyes and my mind to the extremely complex nature of human beings and the way the world works in general. Though we may like to view the world as regimented, consistent and predictable; this is rarely the case. I continued to learn this lesson throughout my college career and have carried it with me into what many call “the real world.”
1. How did the idea for this project come about?
It was a question of being in the right place at the right time. I was brought on to the project after the initial investigators, who were two professors of sociology at UCLA, had developed this idea to study the impact of newborn screening in the clinic. They had learned that newborn screening was in this new phase of development where the state had just rolled out screening tests for a large number of disorders. They were really interested in doing something around the idea of medical uncertainty and this seemed like a perfect target for exploring some of those ideas, because it was really unclear what the impact of screening asymptomatic children for such a large number of disorders was going to be. At the time that this was getting off the ground, I was a graduate student. I was working on my dissertation research and I started out working on the newborn screening project as a research assistant. Over time, one of the investigators got busy with other projects, and I ended up taking on a bigger role, and working more closely with Stefan Timmermans, who co-authored the book with me.