Meet the researchers

Making Clinical Sense is a comparative, collaborative ethnographic project, which brings together insights from anthropology, history and science and technology studies. Our team members have come from across these fields and many parts of the world to work together.

About Andrea Wojcik

I am a PhD candidate at Maastricht University (promoted by Professor Harro van Lente) working on the Making Clinical Sense project. At the university, I am part of the Department of Technology and Society Studies (TSS) as well as the ‘Media Technologies’ research line within the Maastricht University Science, Technology & Society Studies (MUSTS) research group. During my PhD I will engage in ethnographic research at the University for Development Studies’ medical school in Tamale, Ghana in order to investigate the role of educational technologies and the body in training doctors’ physical examination skills.

More about Andrea

As a scholar I situate myself at the intersection of medical anthropology and science and technology studies. I obtained my Bachelor of Arts from the University of Hartford (USA) with a focus in communication and gender studies, but my interest in the former disciplines developed while completing the Social Sciences Research Master’s (MSc) at the University of Amsterdam (Netherlands). During this time I conducted ethnographic research and wrote my master’s thesis on temporality in laboratory practices (under the supervision of Emily Yates-Doerr).

As a participant observer for my master’s research, I became intrigued by the central role of the body in laboratory practices. For instance, I watched two PhD candidates work to identify the moment of successfully having administered treatment to a mouse by describing the feel of a syringe, and I myself struggled to develop sensibilities for slicing and preserving less-than-paper-thin tissue samples. These striking experiences prompted me to more directly question the interaction between materiality, the body, and knowledge, but this time in the context of medical education.

Fieldwork for the Making Clinical Sense project: Tamale, Ghana

How do doctors learn in digital times? This is pertinent question in the light of medical education research indicating that physical 3D models and low-fidelity simulators may be more effective pedagogical technologies than their digitised counterparts. In practice, however, it is difficult to make a stark division between the digital and non-digital; a lecturer, for instance, may draw on a video to complement a text.

In addition, the majority of academic literature on medical education has been generated within and about North America and the United Kingdom. Given challenges to the universality of biomedicine from the disciplines of anthropology and science and technology studies, it is important to investigate the role of pedagogical technologies in medical education outside of the global North.

At the same time, scholars within these same disciplines have demonstrated that pedagogical technologies are not everything; the body also plays a central role in learning as a source of embodied, sensory knowledge. Working from these insights, I aim to investigate how educational technologies and medical bodies mutually shape each other. In order to do so, I take on the case of learning physical examination skills at the University of Development Studies in Tamale, Ghana.

The research will consist of 10 months of ethnographic research at the Ghanaian medical school. More specifically, I will shadow medical students in the classroom, at the hospital, and during self- or group-study sessions relevant to learning physical examination skills. I will also conduct interviews and use audio-visual recording methods in order to experience, elicit, and document the mutual shaping of educational technologies and the bodies they are meant to inform.

About Anna Harris

I pursue an approach to the social study of medicine that is grounded in ethnographic studies of contemporary medical practices, my clinical experience working in hospitals, and collaborations with historians, doctors, artists, museum specialists and craftspeople. My research spans the fields of anthropology, science and technology studies, medical education and medical humanities and health sociology. My empirical cases focus on the anthropology and history of technological medical practices, especially concerning questions of sensorality, embodiment and learning. I also write about hospital infrastructures (see my blog www.pneumaticpost.blogspot.com and my twitterfeed @pneumaticpost). I have held research posts at Maastricht University, University of Exeter and the University of Melbourne, and been a visiting researcher at the University of Amsterdam, McGill University, RMIT (Melbourne), Brocher Foundation and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. I am currently a member of the Global Young Academy, and the Maastricht Young Academy.

Maastricht fieldwork

For the Making Clinical Sense project I will be returning to the SkillsLab in Maastricht, where I have previously undertaken ethnographic research for the Sonic Skills project , based at Maastricht University.

More about Anna

On a personal note …

I grew up on the island of Tasmania, spending the mild summers on quilts under apricot trees with stacks of library books. In school I was fascinated by two things in particular: the body and the “world out there”, beyond the island shores. So I studied medicine, dissected bodies, laboured over anatomical drawings for my bedroom walls and learned chemical equations off by heart. In my spare time I kept reading and making things, pulling apart clothes and putting them back together again, knitting, sewing, beading. When I graduated I worked as a doctor in rural Tasmania, then rural England, then the Australian border town of Tweed Heads. All the while I travelled as much as I could. There was a pandemic during one trip (SARS) and I became fascinated by questions of public health and cultural differences in medicine. I eventually applied to study medical anthropology back in Australia for a Masters degree, then after much thought, more travelling, returned for a PhD. I still love reading novels from the library and making things with my hands, including more recently cooking, becoming somewhat obsessed by cookbooks, lugging around a growing collection from place to place. I am fascinated with craftsmanship, whether related to medical practice, making objects or cooking food, thinking about how things are put together, tinkered with, how people are instructed and learn skilled practices, the sensory knowledge involved, and how this tells us something about bodies – what bodies can do, how they change and how they work with tools and technologies.

About Harro van Lente

To add

About John Nott

I am MCS’s in-house historian. My role in the project is to look beyond the boundaries of the teaching hospital and to contextualise the technologies which are found there. To this end, I will be conducting oral histories with doctors, patients and medical administrators in the Netherlands, Ghana and Hungary. Oral histories will be bolstered by archival research and analyses of historical technologies in hospital archives and medical museums.

My background is in the medical and economic history of modern Africa, but I have supplementary interests in medical anthropology, STS, demography and epidemiology. I hope that the extra-European orientation of my previous work – which concerned the history of nutrition and nutritional medicine in Ghana and Uganda – will allow for a relatively novel perspective on the history of medical education in Europe as well as in Tamale.

At Maastricht I am a member of the Department of Technology & Society Studies (TSS) and the Maastricht University Science, Technology & Society Studies (MUSTS) research group.

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I grew up on the edge of London’s commuter belt, where I spent most of my time in what green spaces remain. Childhood daydreams were fostered by maps and history books, and I am extremely privileged to still be daydreaming about such things.

I was trained in the School of History at the University of Leeds, where I fell in love with Yorkshire and its Dales. A decade in the north of England was punctuated by long periods abroad, for travel, training and research.

I have held fellowships at Leeds, as well as at Pennsylvania State University and as a Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress in Washington DC. I have received funding from, amongst others, the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, the Past & Present Society and the Society for the Social History of Medicine. In 2014 I was a recipient of the Royal Historical Society’s Martin Lynn Scholarship for the study of African history.

Away from books, I enjoy breaking and fixing bicycles, and riding bicycles when they’re not broken.

About Rachel Allison

Drawing on the rich history of medical education ethnography and dancing through the intersections of anthropology and science and technology studies, I situate myself as a researcher within the social study of medicine, an arena which lends itself to the delicate and fruitful grafting together of multiple academic disciplines in the pursuit of an encompassing knowledge as relates to the entanglement of human bodies, medical practices and technologies, and the socio-cultural meshwork in which they exist.

I am currently pursuing a PhD (promoted by Professor Dr Sally Wyatt) as part of the Making Clinical Sense project, located in the Department of Technology & Society Studies (TSS) at Maastricht University. Here, I am a member of the Maastricht University Science, Technology & Society Studies (MUSTS) research group.

Throughout the course of my PhD I will conduct ethnographic fieldwork alongside medical students within The Faculty of Medicine at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary. Through an ethnographically grounded approach to the collection of empirical material, this research will explore themes of skill, embodiment, and sensory translation, in relation to pedagogical technologies.

More about Rachel

Having grown up on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia, I received a Bachelor of International and Global Studies (Anthropology) from The University of Sydney. Following this, I relocated to Copenhagen, Denmark where I obtained my Master of Science in Anthropology from the University of Copenhagen. Here, my MSc. thesis (completed under the supervision of Professor Dr Susan Reynolds Whyte) explored the contemporary temporal and experiential configurations of impaired fecundity in the United States, in light of the development, uptake, and proliferation of assisted reproductive technologies.

Beyond the scope of this project, my wider research interests include reproduction and reproductive technology, temporality, chronicity and acuteness, medicalisation, human-animal studies, gender studies, and feminist theory.

PhD Research: "Crafting Bodies"

The collection of material within this project will occur over the course of 10 months of fieldwork within the Faculty of Medicine at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary. Here, I will attend lectures, practical classes, study sessions, and clinical rounds with medical students, ensuring throughout that learning alongside remains the primary tenet of my methodology—that is, learning how bodies are crafted as sensorially specific, in part, through the crafting of my own. The Faculty of Medicine at Semmelweis University, a nearly 250 year old institution, has been chosen as the site of this ethnography in light of both its burgeoning international orientation and appeal and its self-described “Old-World” approach to medical education. As such, I hope that my research at Semmelweis will allow me to explore the way in which different constellations of technologies (new and old, digital and non-digital) craft specific kinds of sensing bodies.

More about Rachel’s research

Medical education, a learning that is both situated within the human body and seeks to know the human body, deals closely with the human sensorium in the training of novice physicians. Here, a multisensorial understanding of oneself, translations of sensory experience, and the embodiment of sensory skills, are vital to both teaching and learning. But how do doctors acquire the “non-verbal,” “tacit,” and “taken-for-granted” bodily and sensory knowledge and skills necessary to their trade? That is, what do experiencing, sensing bodies know? How do we come to know what these bodies know? And, when considering the wide range of pedagogical tools employed in contemporary medical education, how are technologies implicated in what bodies know?

With these overarching questions informing my research trajectories, this project will consider contemporary understandings of human sensorial faculties and the production and translation of sensory knowledge in digital times. This will be explored through the empirical problem of the teaching and learning of physical examination skills within medical education—specifically in the interrogation of the way in which pedagogical technologies are implicated in this endeavour. Here, I will consider the central question, how are sensing bodies crafted in and through 21st century medical education?

About Sally Wyatt

Dr Sally Wyatt is Professor of ‘digital cultures’, Maastricht University. She holds a PhD in Science & Technology Studies from Maastricht University (1998), but originally studied economics in Canada and England. Her current research interests include digital media in the production of knowledge in the humanities and the social sciences, and the ways in which people incorporate the internet into their practices for finding health information.