Director, Senior Lecturer                       

170A, Martha Van



With a new focus in the program, I am developing an enriched understanding of the social determinants of health, health equity and inequity, and the r elationship between clinical medical practice and community development to facilitate the health and well being of the most vulnerable in society. I am researching health disparities that cause higher rates of morbity and mortality Among African Americans in the United States and eventually comparing the similarities with the Roma population, as people of color, in Europe.This requires a literature review concerning the health and well being of Roma.


I continue to do research in public and engaged anthropology through practice, advocacy and activism.


I continue to refine the texts I have written to support students in learning ethnographic fielwork methods, experiential learning, intergroup relations and the struggle for affordable housing in Brooklyn/NYC, and medical culture and practice.  This entails research on Latinos, Hasidim, and Hipster/Yuppy sociocultural systems, policy implementation as it regards socioeconomic and political dynamics in Williamsburg, Bedford Stuyvesant, and Bushwick, Brooklyn and how urban develoment is being theorized.  This includes a cross-cultural understanding of gentrification, displacement, the struggle among the vulnerable for affordable housing and for sustaining community.  I also continue my resarch on medical education, transformative education, medical cultural and practice, ethical dimensions of medical practice that include issues realted to social justice and the social determinants of health.


I am working on a text for Urban Semester students, an ethnographic approach to participation and action in North Brooklyn.


My research efforts are carried out with students who are applying ethnographic methods in the process of carrying out community service activities in North Brooklyn and participating in the North Brooklyn Latino (and other ethnic groups) oral history, youth development, and community sustainability.

I am also researching the role of Public and Engaaged Anthropology in the development of Anthropology as a discipline and its role in the future.

I am in the beginning stages of developing research on medical disparities in hospital settings and in low income neighborhoods.  This includes research on the history of Critical Medical Anthropology.  

Currently I am researching the use of ethnographic research methods in the study of medical practice.  I am carrying out fieldwork, when time permits, with anesthesiologist, Dr. Peter Goldstein that includes how to structure undergraduate (premed) rotation experiences at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

I am working on an article on the role of undergraduate (collegiate) shadowing experiences in the development of medical practitioners with Dr. Peter Goldstein and Dr. Carol Storey-Johnson.

2018 Book edited

Roma Activism: Reimagining Power and Knowledge (co-edited with Ana Ivasiuc). Berghahn Books.

Book Chapter



1. 2015 Introduction. Public Anthropology in a Borderless World, co-edited with Carl Maida. Brooklyn: Berghahn Books.

2. 2015 Urban Transitions: Graffiti Transformations. Public Anthropology in a Borderless World. Brooklyn: Berghahn Books.

3. 2016 "The Hasidim of North Brooklyn." T. A. Booker, ed. Public Space. Public Policy, and Public Understanding of Race and Ethnicity in America: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Akron, Ohio: The University of Akron Press.



Book Edited



1. 2015 Public Anthropology in a Borderless World. (co-edited with Carl Maida). Brooklyn: Berghahn Books.

2. Beck, Sam and Carl Maida, eds. Engaged Anthropology. NY: Berghahn Press

Edited by Sam Beck and Carl A. Maida
Published (July 2013)
New York: Berghahn Press.



Journal Article Refereed



1. 2014 “Facilitating the initiation of the physician’s professional identity: Cornell’s urban semester program. (with Peter Goldstein and Carol Storey-Johnson). Perspectives in Medical Education.

2. Edited Special Two-Part Issue on Public Anthropology. Amnthropology in Action: Journal for Applied Anthropology in Policy and Practice. Volume 16(2). Summer 2009.

"Introduction to Special Issue: Public Anthropology" Part One. Anthropology in Action, Journal for Applied Anthropology in Policy and Practice. Volume 16(2). Summer 2009. Pp. 1-13.

"Introduction to Special Issue: Public Anthropology" Part Two. Anthropology in Action, Journal for Applied Anthropology in Policy and Practice. Volume 16(3). Winter 2009. Pp. 1-4.

3. "Public Anthropology as Public Pedagogy: An Autobiographical Account." McKenna, Brian and Antonia Darder, eds. 2011 The Art of Public Pedagogy: Should 'The Truth' Dazzle Gradually or Thunder Mightily? Special Issue Policy Futures in Education 9(6). 6.asp

4. 2011 “Public Anthropology as Public Pedagogy: An Autobiographical Account.” McKenna, Brian and Antonia Darder, eds. The Art of Public Pedagogy: Should ‘The Truth’ Dazzle Gradually or Thunder Mightily? Special Issue Policy Futures in Education 9((6). Invited contribution. 6.asp




Developed two new courses : HE 4080 Practiccing Medicine: Health Care Culture and Careers and HE 4901 Practicing Health Equiy: Theory and Fieldwork in North Brooklyn. These courses focus on the social determinants of health and creating health equity in partnership with the Cornel Center for Health Equity and the Weill Cornell Medicine  Diversity Center of Ecellence dedicated to increasing the number of minority physicians in academic medicine. I was asked to become a member of the Advisory Board of the Rogers Health Policy Colloquium and I continue to participate as a member of the New York Presbyterian Medical Ethics Committee.

Organized the downsizing of our Weill Cornell Medicine space in Olin Hall and the move into the new offices on East 51 st Street and Lexington Ave. Facilitated the adjustment of my administrative assistant to the new offices and the changed courses/progams.


Integrated Lecturer Marianne A. Cocchini into the Urban Semester Program.  Worked with Division and Nutritional Sciences Department faculty on a funded grant on Engagement that enables Global Public Health Sciences majors to participate in the Urban Semester and gain academic credit toward their major.  Facilitated the integration of CIPA into the Urban Semester Program developing a reflection course to support these graduate students.  Worked with Amber  Cohen Warner and campus personnell to support students being housed in the LIU dormatory.

Published a book, Engaged Anthropology in a Borderless World.  

Wrote draft chapters for a text used by Urban Semester students who carry out community service in North Brooklyn to provide a social historical and sociocultural context for them (Hispanics, Hasidim, and Hipsters, 83 pages).  

Re-wrote a draft of a text used by students to understand ethnographic methods (Ethnographic Methods, Experiential Learning and the Urban Semester Program, 225 pages).

Re-wrote a draft on the social history of medicine/public health with a focus on New York City (Medical Practice and Culture in New York City, 45 pages).

Wrote multiple letters of recomendations for students for medical schools and graduate schools.

Am now a participant in the bi-weekly EPC/DUS meetings and bi-weekly meetings with Associate Dean and Lecturer Marianne A. Cocchini.

Meetings with Weill Cornell Medicine Network Hospital Medical Education Directors with Dr. Oli Fein, Associate Dean, Weill Cornell Medicine.

Member of the New York Hospital Medical Ethics Committee.

Board member, Churches United for Fair Housing, Vernon Avenue Project/Reconnect Industries, Inc., Grand Street Boys, and Brooklyn Legal Services A, all from North Brooklyn.  

Developed cooperating relationships with Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Cordiology, Surgery, and Anesthesiology to facilitate how students gain access to experiences with physicians in these departments.  Am in discussion with Psychiatry to do the same.

Students are no longer receiving their medical and security clearances through the NYP Volunteer Services Department, but instead directly with Weill Cornell Medicine making it easier for our students to gain access to the hospital.


Worked with students on presenting a report on Churches United for Fair Housing data related to affordable housing in North Brooklyn to Community Board 1.

Published book Toward Engaged Anthropology (co-editor Carl Maida).  Berghahn Books.

Collaboration with Anesthesiologist, Dr. Peter Goldstein and Senior Associate Dean, Dr. Carol Storey-Johnson, Weill Cornell Medical College/New York Presbyterian Hospital resulted in the publication of "Facilitating the initiation of the physician's professional identity:  Cornell's urban semester program."  Perspectives in Medical Education.


Colaboration with Anesthesiologist, Dr. Peter Goldstein and Senior Associate Dean, Dr. Carol Storey-Johnson, Weill Cornell Medical College/New York Presbyterian Hospital.

2012                   Directed the development of the Los Sures Museum for the Southside Development Corporation and curated its first photographic exhibit with students.

2010-present    Board Member VAP/Re-Connect

2010-present    Leadership Committee, College of Human Ecology

2010- 2011   Member of Medical Navigator Committee, Woodhull Hospital

2009-present     Board Member, Churches United for Fair Housing, North Brooklyn

2006-present     Planning Committee of the Iscol Family Program for Leadership Development in Public Service

2006                Christo Rey Brooklyn High School Steering Committee Member

1998-present     Member of the New York Presbyterian Hospial Medical Ethics Committee

2004-2007        Consultant, South Side Mission After School Program

2005-present    Consultant, Monserat Skills Academy After School Program

1999-present    Member of the Advisory Board, New York Presbyterian Hospital, Dept. of Pastoral Care and Education

2008-present    Member of the Department of Pastoral Care and Education Ten Year Review Committee of the New York Presbyterian Hospital


Our winter intersession course involves community enggement with North Brooklyn community based organizations. Otherwise, our course work was prohibited from community engagement activities as a result of administrative decisions. Students in the summer course engage a community of physicians through their shadowing experiences.


In refocusing the Urban Semester, engagements efforts are taking place through health fairs and actions and creating colaborations and partnerships that are student centered and focused.


The Urban Semester Program as an undergraduate academic program (now with a graduate element-CIPA) is built around the idea of "public engagement."  The two principle areas where "engagement" takes place is in internships, including medical rotations, where students engage a variety of professional settings, and in community service (we use a community action model of engagement) in which students are involved in CBO placements in the Bronx and North Brooklyn based on the talents and assets they bring and use these to create improvements in the respective communities where they participate as agents of change.

Both Urban Semester Program faculty members, Marianne A Cocchini and Sam Beck are engaged in a variety and wide-ranging organizations as Board members, facilitators, and advisors in North Brooklyn and the Bronx.


Although I do not have Extension responsibilities, I am involved in community outreach, based on my activities in North Brooklyn, participating in three project, Churches United for Fair Housing in Williamsburg, a youth development project in Bed-Stuy, and in Woodhull Hospital.

In 2011 my work included a partnership with Los Sures Houdsing Development Corporation, the MAChO public health outreach and education project, and Nuestros Ninos Early Childhood Organization.  Much of this work continues in 2012.


Colaborative engaged research and teaching through construction of knowledge with students, and advising through role modeling and mentoring are central to my professional practice. 


Student engagement through experiential learning activities lie at the heart of Urban Semester program teaching.


I consider teaching and advising as a complementary activity to engage students in learning.  


Kendall S. Carpenter Memorial Advising Award


Outstanding Educator Award, Merrill Presidential Scholar

I have received multiple teaching awards.  The most recent was through the "One Professor tribute to higher education faculty who made a difference in the world every day" (2012 Fall semester).  These can be viewed on YouTube.

The Urban Semester Program is based on a highly indiviualistic and personal pedagogy. During academic semesters and shorter summer sessions students participate in internships and community service and participation learning.  Students learn ethnographic methods that they apply to their strategies for knowledge production in their internship and service sites.  A process of imersion in both their sites is complemented with reflection seminars that focus on how and what they learn in anthropological-like fieldwork.  Disparities in medicine and health is the semester thematic that explores inequalities and professional practice.  Service and participation, community engagement, in a low income neighborhood in North Brooklyn complements student rotation experiences in New York Presbyterian and Woodhull Hospitals.

Summer sessions are similarly structured but shorter.  The pedagogy also is similar, but less intense because summer sessions include larger numbers of students (between 60 and 70) and the level of intimacy possible is reduced.  However, I am able to reach most of the students in our seminars to provide what the Urban Semester is known for, a close interaction between students and their instructor and the creation of a learning community among students.

Experience based learning places a significant knowledge production effort on students with the instructor creating the parameters of learning through the use of readings, excercises, discussions, lectures, exposures to a variety of leaders in the medical community and from the North Brooklyn neighborhood, examinations, daily journals, and final term papers or oral presentations.


HE 4901 Practicing Health Equity: Theory and Fieldwork in North Brooklyn.

HE 4080 Practicing Medicine: Health Care Culture and Careers

HE 4901 Medical Anthropology

HE 4902 Professional Practice and the World of Medicine

HE 4903 Community Participation and Service in North Brooklyn

HE 4060 Fieldwork: Diversity and Professional Practice (Summer)


HE 4060  Fieldwork in Diversity and Professional Practice:  The Culture of Medicine and Public Health

HE 4800  Participatory Action Research

HE 4900  Reflexivity and Reflective Practice in Ethnography

HE 4950  Ethnographic Methods and Research


HE 470 Multicultural Issues in Urban Affairs, 3 credits

HE 480 Communities in Multicultural Practice, 6 credits

HE 490 Multicultural Practice, Service, and Leadership, 6 credits

HE 495 Medicine, Culture, Service, and Professional Practice in a Diverse World, 6 credits

HE 406  summer session course of Medicine, Culture and Professional Practice, 3 credits

1967-1968                  Year Abroad, University of Zagreb, Yugoslavia
1969            B.A.          Anthropology, Portland State University
1973            M.A.         Anthropology, University of Massachusetts
1979            Ph.D.       Anthropology, University of Massachusetts

1979-1980                  IREX Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, Romania
1980-1981                  Post-Doctoral Fellow in Alcohol Studies, Anthropology, Brown University


2018-Present Director, Medical Practice Program

1992-Present-Director of the New York City Urban Semester Program.

1988-1992-Director, Field and International Study Program, College of Human Ecology, Cornell University.

1985-1988-Associate Dean, Assistant Dean, Assistant Dean of Planning, Eugene Lang College, New School for Social Research.

1985-1982 City of Providence, Rhode Island, Acting Director of Public Programming, Director, Program Manager, Museum of Natural History



Urban Semester Program, College of Human Ecology website.

Human Ecology Urban Semester Program, Cornell University School of Continuing Education and Summer Sessions.

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