James Trostle to Teach, Conduct Research in Chile on Fulbright Grant

Professor to combine Expertise in Anthropology and Epidemiology

HARTFORD, CT, April 1, 2013 – James Trostle, Charles A. Dana Research Professor of Anthropology, has been awarded a Fulbright grant to teach a graduate seminar at the University of Chile in Santiago. The Fulbright, which will run from March 2014 through July, will also allow Trostle to lecture at different sites in Chile, and conduct research on the health impact of road development.

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Photograph by Jason S. Ordaz, courtesy of the School for Advanced Research​​

A medical anthropologist with training and experience in epidemiology and public health, Trostle was seeking an opportunity to travel to a country where he could continue his research on the health effects of social change. 

Chile, as it turns out, will afford him a chance to do just that. As Trostle wrote in his Fulbright proposal, “Chile offers a number of benefits for this project: it has a long and creative history of community public health, it has undergone rapid rural and urban social and economic development, and it has a strong educational system.”

 Trostle’s teaching and research will emphasize an interdisciplinary approach, making use of collaborations between social scientists, epidemiologists, health-care specialists and even ecologists and geographers.

A member of Trinity’s faculty since 1998, Trostle will teach a course from among the following: “Introduction to Medical Anthropology;” Anthropology and Epidemiology;” or “The Anthropology of Global Health.” He has experience teaching similar courses in Spanish at the graduate level in both Mexico and Argentina.

As for his research, it has been directed toward using anthropological and epidemiological methods and theories to explore issues such as adaptation to chronic disease, use of medications, transmission of infection disease, and the health effects of rapid social change.  In Chile, Trostle will seek to work with research teams who are engaged in studies of the health and social changes prompted by development projects such as inter-city roads or other construction projects.

Trostle’s work in Chile will build on the 12 years of research that he has done in Ecuador that has examined how construction of a new two-lane paved road in a previously road-less border region in that coastal South American country has changed the residents’ social lives and disease transmission. In essence, Trostle has asked the question: “What happens in terms of social, environmental and health changes when a road gets built in a place where no road existed before?" 

Again, in his Fulbright proposal, Trostle explained, “The research [in Ecuador] is interdisciplinary and longitudinal. Its methods and results are relevant to many other types of construction projects (so-called ‘linear intrusions’: railroads, canals, pipelines, electrical transmission lines) that change how people, products, and pathogens move across landscapes.”

Although it might seem that a road would not cause upheaval, in the area in Ecuador that Trostle studied, most people and goods had previously traveled by horse or boat. The road was a catalyst for the movement of valuable natural resources and population growth.

Trostle’s project in Ecuador has been done in partnership with Joseph Eisenberg, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan.

In Chile, Trostle will be exploring similar themes, such as do changes to the environment foment social change and affect public health, the transmission of disease, diet and the movement of pathogens.

Altogether, Trostle has taught in U.S. colleges and universities for 18 years and has worked in other countries for more than 25 years as a consultant in research design and institutional development. Mostly, he has conducted applied research on infectious diseases that kill children. 

He arrived at Trinity after helping to manage a large international health program at the Harvard Institute for International Development from 1998 to 1995, and working as a Five College Professor and Founding Director of the Five College Program in Culture, Health and Science in Massachusetts from 1995 to 1998. From 2001 through 2003, he was a professor at the National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

He has been awarded several grants, among them from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Kellogg Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the World Health Organization.

Trostle earned his B.A. and M.A. from Columbia University, and his M.P.H. and Ph.D. from the University of California, San Francisco and Berkeley campuses.

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