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Carolyn Sargent facts for kids

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Carolyn Sargent is an American medical anthropologist who is Professor Emerita of Sociocultural Anthropology and of Women, Gender, and ... Studies at Washington University in St. Louis. Sargent was the director of women's studies at Southern Methodist University from 2000-2008. Sargent served as president of the Society for Medical Anthropology for 2008-2010 and 2011-2012.

Her work focuses on gender studies and health issues, with interests in reproductive health, managing the health of women in low-income families, and decision making in the medical field. She has done fieldwork in Benin and Mali in West Africa, Jamaica and the Caribbean, and with immigrant women in France where she worked on reproductive health, midwifery, prenatal care, migrant fertility patterns, and medical decision-making.

Sargent has served on the Ethics Committees of the Barnes Jewish Hospital, Baylor University Medical Center and Parkland Memorial Hospital. Sargent admires the French medical insurance system for its attempt to guarantee the right to health care under the French constitution. She has examined the ways in which the French health care system may be changing, in response to debates about entitlement and deservingness, affecting the immigrant experience of health care. Sargent has called upon anthropologists to learn about and become involved with national health care issues. In an issue of the Medical Anthropology Quarterly, speaking as the president of the Society for Medical Anthropology, Sargent asked that anthropologists help to, "shape public discourses and policy in ways we have rarely done before."


In 1968, Sargent graduated from Michigan State University with High Honors and a Bachelor of Arts. She majored in Japanese, French and international studies and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. However, in her senior year of college took anthropology classes, and a professor suggested that she earn a graduate degree in anthropology. Sargent received a Marshall Scholarship, which finances up to forty young Americans annually to study at the University of Manchester. In 1970, she received her M.A. for social anthropology.

As she was finishing at Manchester, she decided to visit her boyfriend in the Peace Corps in West Africa. She found that they were looking for a researcher and joined the project. She was part of an animal traction project that was training draft animals. Ten men worked on training oxen, while she worked on researching what kind of people invested in the oxen, what types of supplies they required and how much it would cost. In her free time, she went to a local maternity clinic, which fed her interest in maternal and child health.

After three years in the Peace Corps, she returned to the U.S to work on her Ph.D. Her experiences with the maternity clinics in the Peace Corps inspired her dissertation and she returned to West Africa to work on it. In 1979, she received her Ph.D. in anthropology at Michigan State University.


From 1980 to 1985 Sargent was an assistant professor at Southern Methodist University (SMU). She became an associate professor in 1985 and in 1990 became a representative for the Texas Committee on Health Objectives for the 90's sponsored by the Department of Public Health. She became a full professor at SMU in 1992 and director of the Women's Studies Program at SMU in 1994. ..... She was the president of the Society of Medical Anthropology (SMA) for 2008-2010 and 2011-2012.

As president, Sargent proposed the formation of an SMA Task Force on national health insurance, to examine national health care policy and make recommendations on health care reform to policy-makers. She encouraged anthropologists to look at ways to make their research more available to policy makers. Most information is available in the form of (unread) articles and books. Sargent had the idea that the Medical Anthropology Student Association and Medical Anthropology Graduate Association could compile annotated digests and shorter versions of articles and books for policy-makers. She also suggested that anthropologists could work with legislators to do "research on demand" and examine potential policy changes.


During her time in the Peace Corps, Sargent worked in a maternity clinic that primarily catered to elite women. Sargent began collecting data on baby weights despite disapproval from the midwives working in the clinic. Along with observations compiled over her three-year service this became the focus of her graduate research on reproductive health.

Over the years, Sargent's interests expanded to include medical ethics, immigrant health and the ways in which state institutions interact with the healthcare system and the provision of care. Many of her observations stem from her experiences as a patient. Consequently, she supports a "single-payer" healthcare system for the United States.

Additional experience

  • Ethics Committee, Barnes Jewish Hospital
  • 2003—Community Representative, Parkland Memorial Hospital Ethics Committee
  • 1999—Community Representative, Baylor Institutional Ethics Committee


  • 1975: Rockefeller-Ford Program of Social Science, Humanistic, and Legal Research on Population Policy Award, with EUSEBE ALIHOUNOU.
  • 2003: Enduring Edited Collection Book Prize, Council on Anthropology and Reproduction, SMA (for Childbirth and Authoritative Knowledge, with Robbie Davis-Floyd)
  • 2005: Ford Senior Research Award, SMU
  • 2006: Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Grant, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research Grant
  • 2012: Eileen Basker Memorial Prize (with Carole Browner of UCLA) for Reproduction, Globalization, and the State: New Theoretical and Ethnographic Perspectives
  • 2012: Council for Anthropology and Reproduction (CAR) Most Notable Recent Collection Award (with Carole Browner of UCLA) for Reproduction, Globalization, and the State: New Theoretical and Ethnographic Perspectives
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