Reimagining healthcare through a social science lens

Dr Kate van Berkel is a junior doctor practising in Melbourne. She wants to change the way illness and health are thought about and structured in western society.

To bring herself closer to that goal, Dr van Berkel has been undertaking, part-time and remotely, the Master of Culture Health and Medicine (MCHAM).

“I love anthropology and the courses offered in the MCHAM allow me to delve deeper into this area. It also offers hands-on learning where I’ve been able to conduct qualitative research – a skill I wanted to hone.”

“What drew me to the program over a Master of Public Health is the social science courses which bring a different lens to medicine and public health.”

Dr van Berkel credits the program for helping her frame and articulate criticisms of the biomedical model of health utilised in most western countries, which primarily focuses on physical health independent of the sociocultural environment.

“Most medical schools* focus on the biomedical model and that mindset grows in strength the more you practice. Unlearning this way of thinking has been a challenge, but a challenge I’m grateful to have undertaken.”

“I really appreciate that the MCHAM has helped me develop and employ a critical lens when thinking about public and population health issues, health interventions, and healthcare systems. These skills should be compulsory for all medical practitioners.”

“It has helped me maintain a curious, humanitarian, considered mindset I hope to bring to all aspects of my life.”

In addition to having a strong understanding of qualitative research methodologies, Dr van Berkel has gained skills in critical, persuasive and narrative writing, oral communication, and articulating the specific skillsets that set her apart for job and research opportunities.

“The cohort I study with is multi-disciplinary – something I value greatly and has been a highlight of the program. Some come from medical backgrounds, others allied health, others anthropological or sociological. Plus, the teaching team is interdisciplinary with experience in medical anthropology, public health and medicine. It makes for interesting discourse and it has substantially widened my professional network.”


*The Doctor of Medicine and Surgery curriculum at ANU is built on frameworks that explore the social foundations of medicine making it a unique offering among medical programs.