Dr. Lissie Arndt, Medical Anthropology

Lissie Arndt and Dr. Linda Hunt smiling in graduation regalia

Dr. Lissie Arndt is a dual degree DO and PhD student, having completed her PhD in 2020 under the mentorship of Dr. Linda Hunt (right). Dr. Arndt’s dissertation, titled “The Ambiguity of HIV Risk in Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Administration in New York”, combines her anthropological and medical training as she examines of the concept of “risk” in the emerging market of pharmaceutical prevention of HIV.

Based on close ethnographic examination of the contrasting perspectives of patients, caregivers, public health officials, and pharmaceutical industry representatives, Dr. Arndt reveals a complex picture of “risk” management as the pharmaceuticalization of self and society. She proposes the term “structural risk” to describe how the “risk” concept is built into both societal and health care structures, which manifests in a narrowing of definitions of health and illness, as well as of options for health professionals and patients.

Dr. Arndt’s research is an important contribution to the study of the corporatization of healthcare. Her work illuminates the intimate relationship between corporate interests, clinical models, and public health agendas—raising important questions both for the anthropology of pharmaceuticals and for clinical risk management. As “risk” is increasingly used to revise concepts of many conditions, requiring life-long ingestion of prescription medications, careful consideration of the “structural risk” concept will provide a useful lens for critically examining these issues. In addition to her research and studies, Dr. Arndt co-founded and volunteers with Spartan Street Medicine, a student-led group that provides basic healthcare services to homeless community members in Lansing, Michigan. Dr. Arndt is in the final stages of her medical training and plans to go into family medicine.

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