Dr. Jessica Cerdeña

My Biography

Dr. Jessica Cerdeña has been selected to receive the 2022 Sam Dubal Memorial Award for Anti-Colonialism and Racial Justice. This award honors the legacy of Sam Dubal, M.D., Ph.D., an anthropologist, activist, medical doctor, professor, and beloved contributor to many vibrant intellectual communities. Sam courageously centered the struggle against structural violence, including the everyday violence of colonialism and racism, in his thinking and scholarly research and writing.

Dr. Cerdeña’s praxis as a physician-anthropologist and her commitment to social justice is born of experience. Her activism began at a very young age when she volunteered in Costa Rica with the Maléku Indigenous people who had historically been been killed and enslaved by Nicaraguan settlers. She also protested the Costa Rican government’s forcible relocation of the Maléku from their ancestral territory. After witnessing early in medical school how physicians treated race as a risk factor for sickle cell and kidney disease, she critiqued race-based medicine and advocated for antiracist alternatives, co-coining the concept of “race-conscious medicine.”. More recently, Dr. Cerdeña’s activism and social justice research has given rise to the first medical anthropological study of Latinx maternal health in the midst of the COVID pandemic.