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Photo of Michel, Joanna

Joanna Michel, PhD

Director, Urban Medicine Program

Deputy Director AHEC-Illinois (Illinois Area Health Education Centers)
Clinical Assistant Professor in Medical Education
Affiliate Professor in Public Health
Field Museum of Natural History Research Associate in Integrative Health Sciences


Building & Room:

CMET Room 370


808 S. Wood St., Chicago, Illinois 60612


I am passionate about bringing health access and equity to minority, underserved communities, with a particular interest in our food apartheid, health care disparities, and the preservation of cultural practices around health and healing. I am a two-time Fulbright Scholar (2004, 2017) for my research on the medical ethnobotany of the Q’eqchi Maya (Izabal, Guatemala) and urban ethnobotany (Medellin, Colombia). As a Research Associate in Integrative Sciences at the Field Museum of Natural History I curated exhibits at both the Field Museum and the International Museum of Surgical Sciences about Chicago's urban farms and herb stores, entitled: Plant Medicine: Multi-Species Wellness is a Global City.


I am currently the Director of the Urban Medicine Program (UMed) for the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Medicine. UMed is a 4-year curricular program that runs in parallel to the medical school curriculum. UMed is dedicated to training a workforce of future physician leaders, regardless of specialty, who are committed to partnering with local organizations to address health disparities through service learning and advocacy. UMed accomplishes this through seminars, workshops, medical colloquia, and long-term involvement with community-based organizations via the Longitudinal Community Rotation (LCR).

Courses taught for the BA Public Health degree:

  • PUBH 330 - Health Disparities and Inequities (3 credits)
  • PUBH 320 – Ecologies of Health and Modern Life (3 credits)

Selected Publications

Sufian, S., Blackie, M., Michel, J. Garden, R. (2020) Centering Patients, Revealing Structures: The Health Humanities Portrait Approach. Journal of Medical Humanities. Available from,

Michel, J., Caceres, A., Mahady, G.B. (2016). Ethnomedical Research and Review of Q’eqchi Maya Women’s Reproductive Health in the Lake Izabal Region of Guatemala: Past, Present, and Future Prospects. Journal of Ethnopharmacology,178:307-22.  DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2015.12.006.

Girotti, J., Michel, J., Henderson, V., Loy, G. (2015). The Ur4ban Medicine Program: Developing physician-leaders to serve underserved urban communities. Academic Medicine, 90(12): 1658-66. DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000970.


B.A., Spanish Language and Literature; Tulane University
PhD, Pharmacognosy and Medicinal Chemistry – Specialization in Medical Ethnobotany
Certificate in Ecological Horticulture – University of California, Santa Cruz Center for Ecological Horticulture
Certificate in Permaculture – Permaculture Institute