Sean Bruna, PhD

Associate Professor


Dr. Bruna is on leave and not taking on additional graduate students.

Dr. Sean Bruna is a Senior Advisor at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in the Biden-Harris Administration. He is a tenured professor of medical anthropology and has advised nearly 40 master's and doctoral students. His previous research on patient health and wellness has been funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, and the Smithsonian Institution, among others. In addition to research, Dr. Bruna has taught more than 150 undergraduate and graduate anthropology and health-related theory and method courses. 

Dr. Bruna, a Latino scholar, holds a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Chicago and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of New Mexico, where he specialized on chronic disease prevention with minoritized populations on the US - Mexico border. When not working in D.C., Sean can be found sailing in Charleston, SC, where he lives with his wife, Dr. Heather Fullerton. 


  • Ph.D. The University of New Mexico, Cultural Anthropology / Linguistics (Focus: Medical Anthropology and Health Policy), 2013
    Dissertation: "Sowing Seeds for the Future with Tigua History and Tradition”: Diabetes Prevention and Management at Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo
  • M.A. University of New Mexico, Cultural Anthropology, 2005
  • M.A. The University of Chicago, Social Science (Concentration: Federal Indian Law), 2003
    Thesis: Issues of Tigua Recognition: Negotiating Legal and Ethnic Identity on the U.S. - Mexico Border 
  • B.A. The University of Chicago, Anthropology & Latin American Studies, 1999


  • Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
  • Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Anthropology
  • Associate Faculty, Honors Program
  • Affiliate Faculty, Institute for Critical Disability Studies
  • Affiliate Faculty, Center for Cross-Cultural Research
  • Board Member, Palliative Care Institute
  • Assistant Professor (2014-2019)


  • 2018 Fellow, Society for Applied Anthropology
  • 2022 Equity and Inclusion Achievement Award, Western Washington University

Courses Taught at WWU

  1. ANTH 201: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology 

  2. ANTH 300: Independent Study (5 sections) 

  3. ANTH 303: Qualitative Research Methods for Anthropology 

  4. ANTH 361: American Indian Perspectives 

  5. ANTH 365: Latin American Perspectives 

  6. ANTH 400: Advanced Independent Study - various specialized topics (27 sections) 

  7. ANTH 424/524: Medical Anthropology 
  8. ANTH 454/554: Participatory Action Research 

  9. ANTH 469: Internship 

  10. ANTH 490: Community-Based Participatory Research Senior Seminar
  11. ANTH 495: Teaching & Learning Process of Anthropology 

  12. ANTH 496: Academic and Professional Portfolio Assembly 

  13. ANTH 497r/597r: Advanced Qualitative Inquiry (NVivo training) 

  14. ANTH 4XX/566: Computer Assisted Qualitative Analysis (Atlas.ti training)
  15. HRNS 203: Colloquium in Anthropology 

  16. HRNS 490: Honors Thesis Advisor / Senior Project 

  17. ANTH 500: Graduate Independent Study - various specialized topics (5 sections) 
  18. ANTH 502: Graduate Theory in Anthropological Research

  19. ANTH 503: Graduate Research Design & Methods 

  20. ANTH 585: Essentials of Graduate Study in Anthropology 

  21. ANTH 586: Research Mentorship & Professional Development 
  22. ANTH 690: Thesis 

Research Interests

  • Medical Anthropology
  • US Health Policy
  • Chronic Disease Prevention
  • Patient Safety
  • Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR)

Selected Publications

*Indicates publications co-authored with students/mentees

  1. Schafte, K.* & Bruna, S. (2023) The influence of intergenerational trauma on epigenetics and obesity in Indigenous populations - a scoping review, Epigenetics, 18:1, DOI: 10.1080/15592294.2023.2260218

  2. Miterko, P.*, & Bruna, S. (2022). Reframing sense of community with photovoice: Perspectives from residents of a permanent supportive housing program who have experienced chronic homelessness. Journal of Community Practice, 30(2), 155–168.

  3. Stodola, T. J. *, & Bruna, S. P. (2021). Medical Anthropology Courses and Concepts Tested on the MCAT: A Content Analysis of 40 U.S. Course Syllabi. Journal of Medical Education and Curricular Development, 8, 23821205211010812.

  4. Cacari Stone, L., Sanchez, V., Bruna, S. P., Muhammad, M., & Zamora, M., Carmen. (2021). Social Ecology of Hypertension Management Among Latinos Living in the U.S.–Mexico Border Region. Health Promotion Practice, 1524839921993044.

  5. Yu, Y. J., Bruna, S., & McCarty, C. (2021). HIV Risk among trafficked women: A systematic review of the global literature. AIDS Care, 33(8), 1068–1078.

  6. Bruna, S. P. (2021). Review of Qualitative Research Methods (2nd ed.), by Monique Hennink, Inge Hutter, and Ajay Bailey. Teaching and Learning Anthropology, 4(2). 

  7. Miterko, P. *, & Bruna, S. (2020). Resident identified strengths and challenges of project-based permanent supportive housing program implementation in a small metropolitan county. Housing and Society, 48(3), 239–260.

  8. Bruna, S. (2020). Opportunities and Challenges to Data Sharing with American Indian Tribal Nations. In J. W. Crowder, M. Fortun, R. Besara, & L. Poirier (Eds.), Anthropological Data in the Digital Age: New Possibilities – New Challenges (pp. 109–128). Springer International Publishing.

  9. Bruna, S. (2016). Religious Gardens, Pilgrimages And Dancing: A Critique Of Translated Interventions In A Tribal Community, in The Applied Anthropology Of Obesity: Prevention, Intervention And Identity. Chad T. Morris and Alexandra G. DeLaricheliere, eds. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 

  10. Stevenson, J. C., Rankin-Sunter, K., Maki, C., Bruna, S., Mosher, M. J., & Barrett, C. E. * (2015). Community Based Pilot Study of Diagnostic Paths to the Gluten Free Diet. International Journal of Celiac Disease, 3(1), 17–24.

  11. Sánchez, V., Cacari Stone, L., Moffett, M. L., Nguyen, P., Muhammad, M., Bruna, S., & Urias-Chauvin, R. (2014). Process Evaluation of a Promotora de Salud Intervention for Improving Hypertension Outcomes for Latinos Living in a Rural U.S.–Mexico Border Region. Health Promotion Practice, 15(3), 356–364.

  12. Bruna, S., Stone, L. C., Wilger, S., Cantor, J., & Guzman, C. (2014). The Role of Community Health Centers in Assessing the Social Determinants of Health for Planning and Policy: The Example of Frontier New Mexico. The Journal of Ambulatory Care Management, 37(3), 258–268.