Member Profiles

Laura A. Meek, Co-Chair

Laura Meek is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. She holds an MA in Women’s Studies from George Washington University and a BA in Comparative Human Development from The University of Chicago. Laura’s dissertation explores the globalization of pharmaceuticals in East Africa, embodiment and bodily epistemologies, and the ethics of healing. She conducted over two years of ethnographic fieldwork in Tanzania (supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation), examining how pharmaceuticals were used and understood by diversely situated social actors. In her dissertation, Laura frames her interlocutors’ engagement with pharmaceuticals as a form of healing—involving the re/creating of right social relationships—and contrasts this with a biomedical emphasis on curing—which locates the efficacy of medicines in their chemical properties, rather than in the contexts and circumstances of their use. The work that emerges from this research lies at the intersection of medical anthropology, postcolonial studies, and feminist science studies, and grapples with how to theoretically render both radical uncertainty and “world making” innovation in Africa today. Additional areas of research interest include counterfeits & other “fakes”; the history of medicine and healing across the Indian Ocean world; methods as theory; bodies, experimentation, and practices of dreaming.

Jane L. Saffitz, Co-Chair

Jane L. Saffitz is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. She holds an MSW in Policy Practice and International Social Welfare from Columbia University, and a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis. Her work explores the politics of albinism in Tanzania, where in recent years a minority population of people with light skin—biomedically said to have albinism—have been murdered and violently attacked. She conducted over 22 months of fieldwork between 2012 and 2018 funded by the Fulbright-Hays Program, National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the University of California. The resulting dissertation details the work of traditional healers and laborers in extractive industries who are rumored to use albino body parts in medicines, as well as the activism of transnational albinism rights NGOs, humanitarians, scientists, and journalists who aim to transform albinism into a uniformly understood artifact of biomedical knowledge. More broadly, Jane’s research and teaching interests address violence and humanitarianism; social movements, development, and the future; and comparative epistemologies of health and healing in East Africa.

Emery R. Eaves, Ph.D.

Emery Eaves is an Assistant Professor of Medical Anthropology at Northern Arizona University. Her research is focused on chronic pain and self-medication. Her interest in CAM and IM started as a graduate student working on Traditional Chinese Medicine and CAM focused research for chronic pain with Dr. Cheryl Ritenbaugh and Dr. Mark Nichter and she has continued interests in alternative methods for managing chronic pain. Currently, she is working on a PCORI funded project to engage American Indian stakeholders in designing and implementing alternative and traditional medicine research to address chronic pain and opioid overuse in underserved and Tribal communities in Arizona.

Eric Jacobson, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Eric Jacobson is a medical anthropologist and clinical trialist who investigates alternative medicine.  He recently completed an NIH funded pilot clinical trial of Structural Integration as an adjunct to outpatient rehabilitation for chronic low back pain. He also studies of the placebo effect in clinical trials and diagnostic reasoning in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  His dissertation research investigated the diagnosis, treatment and experience of psychiatric illnesses among Tibetan refugees being treated by classical Tibetan medicine in northern India. He currently teaches ethnographic methods at the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School.

Venera Khalikova, Ph.D.

Venera Khalikova is a Research Associate at the Department of Anthropology, the University of Pittsburgh. Currently, I am working on a book manuscript which sets to investigate the

politics of wellness and national belonging as shaped by the government policy on alternative medicine and the growing market of traditional herbal pharmaceuticals in India. Through the analysis of healthcare infrastructure, doctors’ and patients’ medical ideologies, and media discourse, I trace the processes of both boundary-making and entanglements across Ayurveda, Unani, Homeopathy and other state-sanctioned forms of alternative medicine. This book analyzes the popularity of some alternative medical traditions and the marginalization of other traditions by developing the theories of biomoral citizenship and the biopolitics of homegrown consumption. In addition to this project, I also write and teach about knowledge formation, cultural identity, kinship, class, and gender.

Kathryn Oths, Ph.D.

Kathryn Oths is a medical anthropologist at the University of Alabama with an area specialization in Latin America, especially the Andes and Brazil.  My work has been conducted using a combination of traditional anthropological methods and quantitative research designs. My interests include Biocultural Medical Anthropology, Alternative Health and Healers with a focus on Musculoskeletal Disorders, Medical Decision-making, Reproductive Health,  Food Use and Social Status, Gender, Ethnicity and Health, and Ethnographic Film Making.  I have carried out research on practitioner-patient interactions in a chiropractic clinic, health seeking behavior in highland Peru, the social value of food in Brazil, and psychosocial factors in low birth weight in the southern United States, among other topics.  My colleague, Adam Booher, and I have recently signed a contract with Documentary Educational Resources to distribute our films, The Last Bonesetter: An Encounter with Don Felipe, and Asi Sobrevivimos: Getting By in a Changing Climate.

Lauren S. Penney, Ph.D.

Lauren Penney is a Research Health Scientist for the Veterans Health Administration and an Assistant Professor at University of Texas Health San Antonio. She is currently evaluating and assisting with the spread of a VA whole health program for chronic pain. Her interest in CAM/IM began while an undergraduate doing research on eating disorders, and developed further under the mentorship of Dr. Cheryl Ritenbaugh. Lauren’s work in CAM/IM will continue along with her work in complex systems theory, syndemics, and implementation science.

Carolina Avila Testa

Carolina Avila Testa is a graduate in Social Work (UBA) and currently works as an associate doctoral student in the Graduate School “Human Development in Landscapes” Christian-Albrechts-Universität (Kiel, Germany). After obtaining a doctoral scholarship (2012-2017) at the National University of Arts (Buenos Aires), she studied the Doctorate in Culture and Society and works in Argentina is the Center for American Ethnology. Currently she is writing her doctoral thesis in Germany. Her doctoral research is about complementarities and therapeutic combinations among Peruvian immigrants in Buenos Aires. Its focus is on traditional medicines, alternatives, religion, history and migrations. She is also particularly interested in Naturopathy and in the study of childhood and social policies.


This page is under construction. If you are a CAM/IM member and would like to have your profile included on this page, please email:

  • A photo of you
  • A brief bio containing your position, research topic, and interest in topics related to this special interest group

to lameek [at] ucdavis [dot] edu