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Adjunct Professor
Medical Anthropologist
MacNider Hall 341A

Research Interests

United States; reproductive governance; death and dying; medicine and law; clinical ethnography


Medical Anthropology

Research Background

Mara Buchbinder, Ph.D. is Professor of Social Medicine and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at UNC - Chapel Hill, as well as core faculty in the UNC Center for Bioethics. Dr. Buchbinder is a medical anthropologist with broad interests in cultures of health, illness, and medicine in the United States. Her recent work focuses on how patients, families, and healthcare providers navigate social and ethical challenges resulting from changes in medical technology, law, and health policy. She is currently the Principal Investigator of STEPPS, the Study to Examine Physicians’ Pandemic Stress, a qualitative study of frontline physicians in four U.S. cities who cared for hospitalized COVID-19 patients during the pandemic. She is also the co-Principal Investigator (with Deena Kelly Costa) of CORE-ICU: Clinical and Organizational Resilience in the ICU, an NHLBI R01 study that will investigate how organizational factors contribute to burnout in ICU clinicians and adverse outcomes in patients with acute respiratory failure.

Dr. Buchbinder’s newest book, Scripting Death: Stories of Assisted Dying in America, chronicles two years of ethnographic research documenting the implementation of Vermont’s Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act. Weaving together stories collected from patients, caregivers, health care providers, activists, and legislators, it illustrates how they navigate medical aid-in-dying as a new medical frontier in the aftermath of legalization. Scripting Death explains how medical aid-in-dying works, what motivates people to pursue it, and ultimately, why upholding the “right to die” is very different from ensuring access to this life-ending procedure.

Dr. Buchbinder is also the author of Saving Babies? The Consequences of Newborn Genetic Screening (with Stefan Timmermans, 2013, University of Chicago Press) and All in Your Head: Making Sense of Pediatric Pain (2015, University of California Press), the editor of Understanding Health Inequalities and Justice: Bridging Perspectives for New Conversations (with Michele Rivkin-Fish and Rebecca Walker, 2016, UNC Press), and co-editor of the two-volume series The Social Medicine Reader, 3rd edition, (2019, Duke University Press).


PhD, Anthropology, UCLA, 2010; MA, Anthropology, Case Western, 2005; BA, Psychological and Brain Sciences, Dartmouth College, 2002

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