Anthropology Professor Remembered for Commitment to Anti-Racism in Medicine

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The University of Washington community mourns the loss of Sam B. Dubal, assistant professor of anthropology, who died on Mt. Rainier in October. Despite an extensive two-week search of the mountain led by Mountain Rescue Association volunteers from across Washington, Dubal’s body has not been recovered.

Dubal joined the UW Department of Anthropology faculty in September 2020, and his future at the University was full of promise.  He came to the University with an undergraduate degree from Stanford University, a PhD in medical anthropology from UC-Berkeley and UW-San Francisco, and an MD from Harvard Medical School.

“We were immediately engaged by Sam’s deep commitment to anti-racism in medicine and his desire to change medical education,” recalls Patricia Kramer, chair of the UW Department of Anthropology. “Many of our undergraduates aspire to careers in the health professions and his work connected directly to our departmental emphasis on health.”

A sociocultural anthropologist with a focus in medical anthropology, Dubal had hoped to encourage the medical community to seek a more holistic understanding of the causes of various health issues, including the systemic racism that can lead to chronic health problems or even fatal gunshot wounds. He believed that the medical community must confront the bigger picture to adequately treat patients.

Dubal is the author of Against Humanity: Lessons from the Lord’s Resistance Army, published in 2018 by Oakland: University of California Press. His research included interviews with former rebels in the Lord’s Resistance Army, an insurgent group in northern Uganda accused of inhumane acts of violence. Many of the former rebels found personal meaning in wartime violence, politics, and spirituality, raising provocative questions about how to honor human life that exists outside the common ideas of what is good.

Dubal had just begun teaching his first UW course, Anthropology of Soccer, in late September. The course used soccer as a vehicle to explore such classic sociocultural themes as group behavior, exploitation of bodies, and violence. “He worked so hard to develop this course and looked so forward to it,” says Kramer. Dubal was also scheduled to teach an introductory course on medical anthropology and global health during winter quarter 2021.

“Faculty and staff in the Department of Anthropology admired and respected Sam’s talents and accomplishments and looked forward to the contributions that he would make in the years to come,” says Kramer. “He will be missed.”

The department will pursue fundraising efforts to support a graduate fellowship in the memory of Sam Dubal in the near future.

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