Paula Davis-Olwell

Global Health Institute, Epidemiology & Biostatistics,
Clinical Associate Professor
Undergraduate Academic Program Coordinator, Global Health Institute

Curriculum Vitae

Global Health Institute, Epidemiology & Biostatistics,


PhD, Population Dynamics and Anthropology, Johns Hopkins University, 1998

MA, Anthropology, University of Alabama, 1989

BS, Biology, Birmingham-Southern College, 1983

Areas of Expertise

Research: infant feeding, child malnutrition. female-headed households, child care and child development, qualitative and mixed methods research; anthropoligical demography; time use studies; informal economy; alternative and integrative medicine

Teaching: global health, public health, food systems and food policy, global health policy, medical and healthcare ethics, medical anthropology, minority health, health disparities, history of medicine and public health, qualitative and mixed methods research, economic anthropology, cultural anthropology, African studies

Honors, Awards, and Achievements

National Institutes of Health (NCCAM), Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, 2007-09, University of Virginia, Center for the Study of Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Mellon Foundation, Postdoctoral Fellowship in Anthropological Demography, 1997-99, Brown University, Population Studies and Training Center

Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society, Student Inductee, 1998, Alpha Chapter, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health

Paul Harper Endowment Award, Best Doctoral Dissertation, 1998, Department of Population Dynamics, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health

Diabetes Research Training Center, Summer Undergraduate Research Award, 1982-83, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB)


American Public Health Association

American Anthropological Association

Course Instruction

GLOB 3100 Introduction to Global Health

GLOB 3200 Global Health and Links Between Food, Culture and Health

GLOB 3150 Cultural Awareness and Global Health

Given Dr. Davis-Olwell’s academic experiences living in (at least) two disciplines, her career and her teaching reflects this interdisciplinary approach; She has previously held primary appointments in Public Health, Africana Studies, Anthropology, Population Studies, and Health Care Administration. In the classroom she combines lecture, small-group discussion, film, problem-solving and/or policy-making activities, service-learning and group research projects. Dr. Davis-Olwell has a strong commitment to social justice and health equity, as demonstrated by service and volunteer activities in refugee health, food policy and food security that she integrates into her courses.

Research Interests

Dr. Davis-Olwell’s research in Uganda and Ghana addresses the urgent problem of infant and child malnutrition, emphasizing caring work done by women and the social, nutritional and developmental significance of infant feeding and the mother-infant relationship.Using a study design that combined ethnographic methods with the more quantitative time use study (direct observation), her research posed questions concerning the impact on infant feeding practices, specifically breastfeeding rates, following women’s increased participation in the informal economy. Based on the time-use data she argued that women’s income generating activities did not interfere with breastfeeding, but that household work did, specifically carrying water. The second strand of Dr. Davis-Olwell’s research interrogates the reproductive and sexual identities of women market traders in Kampala and examines the social, political and cultural significance of the categories “town women” and female-headed household.