Student Profile: Katherine Warren

Here is the latest installment of ADTSG’s student profiles feature!

These profiles are a way for the ADTSG membership to become acquainted with the next generation of anthropologists of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco.  In this vein, each profile will introduce one graduate or undergraduate student to the group by asking him or her a series of questions related to his/her background and career aspirations in this field.

In this installment, we are profiling Katherine Warren, a M.D./Ph.D. student at Harvard University.

Why did you choose to study anthropology?

I grew up as a quiet kid who spent a lot of time listening to the world around me. The first anthropology course I took in college was also one of the first times that I found myself lost in time—passing hours at a time on reading and research without noticing. I was quickly enamored of this academic discipline that purposefully trained its students in “deep hanging out,” as Clifford Geertz called the practice of fieldwork. It brought together so many of the things that I loved in everyday life—people watching, reading, and writing—that I couldn’t really believe it was a formal social science. So many of the instincts that it instills in young anthropologists—to question assumptions and to constantly push ourselves in self-reflexivity—make me a better social scientist and hopefully a better physician and human being.

Why are you interested in alcohol, drugs, and tobacco research?

Alcohol, drugs, and tobacco sit at a fascinating intersection between medical, criminal, public health, and commercial institutions. Academically, I was first drawn to this research because of this definitional confusion. Like many in this arena, I had personal experiences with how these substances shaped social and family life and wanted to root my learning in how we talk about addiction and those who are addicted. When I was 19, I ended up in rural Montana in the midst of what the Public Health Service had declared a “suicide epidemic.” Though that was the original topic of my anthropological research, I soon realized how deeply intertwined alcohol, drugs, and tobacco were with many of the stories of adolescents and families with whom I worked. In my graduate research, I turned to focus explicitly on this topic and have been doing so ever since.

What are your research plans for studying alcohol, drugs, and tobacco?

I start back on the anthropology side of things this Fall as a Ph.D. student. My past research focused on suicide in rural Montana and then examined the intersection of public health and policing around opioid use in Baltimore, Maryland. I may end up working on alcohol and drug use in rural New England for my dissertation, a sort of crossroads of these past projects.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I am in an M.D.-Ph.D. program and will complete a medical residency program following graduation. From the clinical perspective, I am interested in how to provide care for people with substance use disorders in the primary care setting. I hope to continue with anthropology research alongside this clinical training and to continue to integrate medicine, anthropology, and advocacy in my future work.

If you are a student and would like to be profiled for the ADTSG website, please contact ADTSG Student Liaison, Breanne Casper, at for more information!