Medical Anthropologist Ryan Logan Will Address COVID-19 in Classes

July 18, 2020

Ryan Logan
​With the COVID-19 outbreak striking halfway into his second semester as an assistant professor of anthropology at Stan State, Ryan Logan didn’t have time to incorporate the pandemic into his classes.

Like his Stan State colleagues, Logan was focused on making the transition to virtual learning as seamless as possible, recording his lectures so his students would be successful in his courses through the end of the spring semester.

When the fall semester begins, though, that will change.

In between visiting his dad in his home state of Indiana, Logan has been changing his lectures for his Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Anthropology and Global Issues and Ethnomedical Anthropology classes.

“One of my major interests in teaching is that students can see what they’re learning in their daily lives,” Logan said.

Anthropology, though sometimes confused with archeology and thought to be about studying ancient man and tribes, is really the study of humankind.

“I can begin filtering COVID-19 into different topics. In my Intro to Cultural Anthropology class, I’ll build it into lectures on race and racism, nationalism, gender and sexuality,” Logan said. “We’ll look at how COVID-19 disproportionately affects people of color in terms of infection rate and mortality. There are increased rates of domestic violence and intimate partner violence and we can look at how a pandemic exacerbates those situations. There’s the issue of wearing a mask and not wearing a mask and how messaging affects public health behaviors.”

Just as it is for medical experts and front-line workers, COVID-19 is new terrain for Logan, who will begin his second year of teaching at Stan State in August.

He arrived in fall 2019, after earning his Ph.D. in Applied Medical Anthropology and a master’s degree in public health from the University of South Florida.

He continues to be engaged in research and already has initiated a research project at Stan State to study promotores de salud (health promoters) on the California-Mexico border, but Logan’s heart is in teaching.

His first opportunity came as a graduate student at USF.

“I always had a fear of public speaking,” Logan said. “The first day of teaching my face blushed, but I realized I liked talking about things that were interesting to me. I didn’t realize it when it was happening, but student evaluations said, ‘Professor Logan made this interesting. It’s obvious he’s confident and passionate about what he’s teaching.’ Reading those comments was validating. I knew I had something to offer, and it impacted students and how they looked at the world. To me, that was intensely powerful.”

Logan previously earned an M.A. in Applied Anthropology from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, where he also earned his B.A. in Anthropology.

His research there looked at activism and immigration reform in the Latinx community in Indianapolis, and how religion, a shared faith or moral imperative, brought people of all political persuasions together.

His desire to help the disenfranchised stems from personal experience.

“I had a hard time in the public-school system and was bullied,” Logan said. “I lived in Carmel, a wealthy suburb of Indianapolis, and my family was not wealthy. It was about wearing Abercrombie and Fitch and Tommy Hilfiger. I had no interest in fashion or clothes. I wore my shirt tucked in. I wore Star Wars shirts. People perceived me as this nerdy kid who’s shy and doesn’t want to talk. I was an easy target.

“By high school it was fine. I found ways to blend in. It’s hard to speak about those things, but it’s important to who I became. They were hard times in my life, but they shaped me for the better.”

They made him kind. They influenced his research choices.

His first master’s degree looked at “the ramifications of lack of access, especially to health services, if you’re undocumented or financially insecure or you don’t have health insurance,” Logan said.

At USF, he met people who led him to become a medical anthropologist.

Specifically, his Ph.D. research focused on community health workers (CHWs), taking him back to work with people he’d met in Indiana while working on his first master’s degree.

CHWs come from the communities they serve. They share race, ethnicity, socio-economic background, language or culture and are trusted members of community. They provide non-clinical services such as health education and information on how to navigate the health care or social service system.

“I saw these workers as a huge missing gap in the health care system in the U.S., because they’re doing all their work outside of a clinic or hospital,” Logan said.

His Ph.D. research showed “how they advocate, which is a form of caregiving, and how they were being formally integrated into the workforce in Indiana,” Logan said. 

The work with CHWs led Logan to apply for and receive in-house Stan State grants to study similar workers on the border.

“Originally, I intended to do my research project along the Texas-Mexico border, but I decided to shift my focus after meeting my students at Stan State,” Logan said. “I wanted to bring anthropology in California, and that research project, into my classes to underscore and emphasize the role anthropology is playing right here in their own state. I want them to see what I’m discovering here and hopefully, see it used for policy development and to aid the local partner organization in the San Diego region.

“Ideally, I’ll be bringing students into the research. Eventually I’d like to take students down there so they can do their own research projects branched off from this. l’d also like to co-author research papers with them, especially those who want to go to graduate school.”

While COVID-19 will delay Logan’s research plans for now, this fall he will be teaching his students how the pandemic is affecting their lives and others in ways they may not have imagined.