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Ria Reis

Professor Emeritus Medical Anthropology, in particular Anthropology In Public Health

Prof.dr. R. Reis
+31 71 526 9111

Ria Reis is professor of medical anthropology at Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) at the department of Public Health and Primary Care (PHEG). She is also associate professor at the University of Amsterdam, Dept. of Anthropology, and academic staff member of the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development (AIGHD). At the University of Cape Town in South Africa she is Honorary Professor at the Children’s Institute of the School of Child and Adolescent Health.

More information about Ria Reis

Medical anthropology

Medical anthropology offers detailed descriptions of health and health practices in the context of people’s social relations and daily life worlds, as these are embedded in wider social processes and institutional structures. Insight in the social context of (ill)health is indispensable in both evidence-based and value-based medicine. The best evidence available must be combined not only with the doctor’s clinical experience but also with the patient’s values: perspectives and needs originating from patients’ relations with their care providers as well as  with their own social network. Insight in the social context helps to understand mechanisms involved in the process whereby structural inequity and social disruption may result in exacerbated burdens of disease being transmitted from generation to generation. In the research line Prevention, Population Care & Disease management (Prepod) my medical anthropological theory and qualitative methodology helps to make context part of the causal models that allow us to design effective interventions. 

Academic Career

Ria Reis graduated in 1987 with honours in cultural anthropology. Whereas her graduate work was on Tibetan Buddhism in Ladakh, her doctoral research took her to medical anthropology, neuropsychiatry and Africa. She lived in Swaziland from 1985-88, and investigated traditional healing and the treatment gap for epilepsy. Her thesis Traces of illness; Epilepsy and medical pluralism in Swaziland (in Dutch) was defended at the University of Amsterdam in 1997. In the nineteen nineties she was involved in projects on epilepsy, chronic illness and disability in different cultural settings. Over the past 20 years her research shifted to the intergenerational transmission of vulnerabilities in contexts of inequality and (post)conflict, and young people’s health perceptions, strategies and resilience. 

Most of her work articulates anthropological research within multidisciplinary health research and interventions, in collaborative projects with partners in policy and practice. Dividing her time between LUMC and her other universities, she also divides energy between projects in the Netherlands and Africa. She is involved in a range of research and intervention studies in youth services and community health within the ‘Academic Collaborative Center Public Health - youth North South-Holland’ (AWP-j NZH). In Africa she is PI of the social science component in the MaxART Universal Test and Treat trial in Swaziland and of a mixed methods project on sexuality education in Burundi; within the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus Universities alliance she collaborated in the development of a frugal thermometer for Africa. 

Teaching and management have been core to her career from the early phases. With colleagues at LUMC she is involved in an ongoing program aiming at improvement of the integral embedment of cultural competences within the medical curriculum. Here she teaches on culture and health, and qualitative methodology in several modules. With colleagues at UvA she built one of the first advanced international Masters programs in the Netherlands, the Amsterdam Master’s in Medical Anthropology (AMMA).  This program, of which she was director until 2010, is still considered benchmark for applied medical anthropology programs worldwide. She has been member of many scientific advisory board and committees, such as the Scientific Advisory Board African Studies Centre (2004-12), the Working group and Sub-committee ‘Healthy Living’, Prevention Program, Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) (2001-2009). Since 2013 she is (technical) chair of the GO VIDI (now DO VIDI) selection committee, Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

Prizes and honourable appointments

In 2014 her commitment to make anthropology meaningful for African children and youth was awarded with an Honorary Professorship  at the Children’s Institute at the School of Child and Adolescent Health of the University in Cape Town.

Professor Emeritus Medical Anthropology, in particular Anthropology In Public Health

  • Faculteit Geneeskunde
  • Divisie 3
  • Public Health en Eerstelijnsgeneeskunde


  • Geen relevante nevenwerkzaamheden
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