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This collection features scholarly work by Marsha Quinlan, associate professor in the anthropology department at Washington State University. Quinlan is a medical anthropologist with primary concentrations in family health, ethnomedicine and ethnobotany. Her research (and much of her teaching) concerns the ways culture affects health and medical care. One of her foci is the use and knowledge of medicinal plants. She is also interested in biocultural public health, and family-based well-being (psychological/mental and physical health). She takes an empirical approach to ethnography by using quantitative and qualitative data together to describe medical systems. Her fieldwork has been in North and South America and the Caribbean, with most of my research on the medicine of a largely-horticulturalist community in Dominica (Lesser Antilles).

Since 1993, she has been involved with numerous aspects of anthropological research in the Dominican village of “Bwa Mawego” including general medical ethnography, ethnobotany, ethnomedicine, ethnopharmacology, alcohol use, child health, breastfeeding, growth, and mental health (these topics overlap on the ground). She is co-PI of an NSF Cultural Anthropology Grant for research in Bwa Mawego, “Early Childhood Stress, Personality and Reproduction in a Matrifocal Community,” This project examines the complex interactions between family life, culture, biology, development and well-being.

She began research with two Washington communities (in addition Dominica fieldwork) during 2009. She is working with the Lummi Indian Nation as research PI on a USDA grant, the “Lummi Traditional Foods Project.” This is a collaborative WSU-Northwest Indian College (NWIC) feasibility study dealing with diabetes prevention through traditional plant use, present dietary assessment, and culturally relevant and responsive ways to for Lummi to re-incorporate traditional fruits and vegetables, or similar substitutes, into their present diets. The project aims to help preserve some traditional ecological knowledge through ethnobotanical research, and to offer user-friendly nutrition recommendations for this highly diabetic population. Elsewhere in Washington, she conducted pilot research on behavioral aspects of the “Hispanic health paradox” (whereby Hispanic-Americans tend to become less healthy with time and generations in the US, even as their wealth, status, and education increase) among Hispanics in Pasco, WA, a hub of Washington’s agricultural industry. She is (with WSU colleagues) proposing a project on the cultural aspects of depression in Latinas, who experience more depression and are less likely to receive mental health support than White women or African American women.

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