Adrienne Strong

Medical anthropology, maternal mortality, hospital ethnography, and dignity in women's health care

I am a medical anthropologist and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida with a joint Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, USA and the Universiteit van Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I study maternal mortality and women's health in Tanzania, currently in the Kigoma region on a birth companionship program and the notions of ideal comfort, care, and support for pregnant women in labor. Before my current position, I was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Columbia University's Mailman School of Health, in the Averting Maternal Death and Disability (AMDD) Program in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health and a Fellow at the Columbia Population Research Center.

My current book project, Documenting Death: Maternal Mortality and the Ethics of Care in Tanzania, under contract with University of California Press, focuses on the inner workings of a government regional referral hospital in Tanzania, examining how institutional structures related to hierarchy, bureaucracy, historical precedents, communication and other factors, may influence the capacity of the institution to provide effective maternal healthcare during times of obstetric crisis. My research focuses on biomedical healthcare providers and administrators, groups that are often overlooked in the context of medical anthropology in sub-Saharan Africa. I contextualize the hospital ethnography with interviews, participant observation, and focus group discussions in communities throughout the region, as well as through the use of primary archival sources from the colonial and post-independence eras. This is the first ethnography to examine the issue of maternal mortality in a low resource setting from this perspective and in the setting of a biomedical facility, complementing the existing work of anthropologists of reproduction who have worked at the community level.

I worked in the Rukwa Region for my PhD fieldwork, which I conducted from January 2014- August 2015. From September 2010 through July 2011, I conducted research on access to healthcare services during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period in the Singida Region of Tanzania. My most recent project was about a birth companion pilot program in the Kigoma region of Tanzania from January through December 2018, which focused on the ways in which companions impact the social dynamics of health center maternity wards and the care provided in those settings. This project also included an 80-question cultural consensus survey and analysis around the cultural domain of care and support for pregnant women.

This is my personal website, which includes updates on my research, collaborations, conference presentations and papers, publications, teaching, and critical responses to current events related to women's health and reproduction.

Mentions and Public Anthropology

Paper Prize

Washington University Feature

Feature on Anthropology Department Website

Research Report on Global Health Hub

Photoessay on

Mention on Anthrodendum

Mention on Anthrodendum for fieldwork blog

external teaching assessments

Washington University in St. Louis: Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Spring 2016- Faculty Assessment

As a requirement for obtaining the Graduate Certificate in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, I taught a section of the introductory course, WGSS 100B, Introduction to Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. In order to support professional development, the Chair of the WGSS Department and/or the department coordinator of the 100B sections observed each graduate student instructor once during the semester and provided comprehensive feedback.  I have included my letter of assessment below from Mary Ann Dzuback, Chair of the Department of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. 

Professor Dzubak highlights the following strengths demonstrated in my teaching:

  • Clear respect for students and the creation of a class environment that allows students to share their ideas and interact with each other, in addition to with the instructor.
  • Effective use of my own research to inform my teaching in a way that was informative and accessible to students. This also helped to develop the students' "critical sensibility" as they engaged with issues in a non-Western context.
  • Impressive grasp of the day's material and a critical feminist perspective, which it was clear the students had begun to adopt.

Areas for improvement:

  •  The students needed more time for the group activity and several of the quieter students did not participate in the full group discussion.



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