Professor Emily Mendenhall is a medical anthropologist who writes about how social trauma, poverty, and social exclusion become embodied in chronic mental and physical illness. She is an Assistant Professor of Global Health in the Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) Program in the School of Foreign Service.
Prof. Mendenhall’s first book, “Syndemic Suffering: Social Distress, Depression, and Diabetes among Mexican Immigrant Women,” considers how poverty, immigration, and interpersonal violence become embodied in depression and Type 2 diabetes. Syndemics consider why certain social and health problems travel together, and syndemic suffering examines the human experiences of disease clusters. The research behind “Syndemic Suffering” inspired comparative research projects in India, South Africa, and Kenya, which are the focus of a book in preparation on how social trauma, poverty, and mental illness travel together with Type 2 diabetes among low-income women in these contexts.
Prof. Mendenhall’s research also engaged with the movement for global mental health. Her co-edited book with Dr. Brandon Kohrt (Duke) entitled, “Global Mental Health: Anthropological Perspectives” was released in 2015, along with a companion article published in Lancet Psychiatry (2016). Drawing on the experience of many well-known experts in this area, these projects illustrate that mental illnesses are not only problems experienced by individuals but must also be understood and treated at the social and cultural levels. Prof. Mendenhall co-organized an international conference on “Global Mental Health: Transdisciplinary Perspectives” at Georgetown University in April 2016.
Prof. Mendenhall has held the following previous positions: Visiting Researcher at the Africa Mental Health Foundation in Nairobi, Kenya; Visiting Research Fellow at the Centre for Global Mental Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; Research Fellow in the Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa; NIH Fogarty International Clinical Research Scholar at Public Health Foundation of India in Delhi, India; and Research Associate with the Collaborative Research Unit at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County in Chicago, United States.
Prof. Mendenhall’s research has been supported by Cells to Society at Northwestern University, the National Science Foundation, the NIH Fogarty International Center, South African Medical Research Council, and Global Futures Initiative and School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Prof. Mendenhall also develops global health curriculum for youth. More information is available at www.GHN4C.org.
Areas of Expertise: medical anthropology, syndemic suffering, syndemics, health inequalities, idioms of distress, ethnopsychiatry, women’s health, embodiment, co-morbidities and multi-morbidities, global mental health.
- Ph.D. (2012) Northwestern University, Medical Anthropology
- M.P.H. (2006) Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Hubert Department of Global Health
- B.A. (2004) Davidson College, Interdisciplinary: Global Reproductive Health