University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Galen Joseph, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine, UCSF

Cancer Center Program Memberships

Cancer Control

Research Summary

Trained as a cultural anthropologist, I have been working at the intersection of medical anthropology and public health for over a decade. With expertise in health disparities, I have extensive experience conducting research on hereditary cancer screening and genetic counseling in diverse and low-income populations. I utilize mixed qualitative and quantitative research methods, often in the context of community based participatory research.

My current study, "Translating Cancer Genetics to the Safety Net Setting" (Susan G. Komen, 2012-2016), builds on pilot research with low-income Latinas undergoing genetic counseling. Based at two public hospitals, this ethnographic study inductively describes current practices in hereditary breast cancer communication with low-income English-, Spanish-, and Cantonese-speaking patients; identifies key dimensions of genetic counseling communication across cultures and literacy levels; and pilot tests an intervention with counselors to improve genetic counseling communication.

I have also been a Co-I on two recently completed studies to develop and test interventions to increase hereditary breast and ovarian cancer (HBOC) screening. The NCI-funded R01 study, "Statewide Communication for High-Risk Low Income Women" (2007-12), was a randomized delayed control trial to test the effectiveness of an intervention to identify uninsured women at risk for HBOC among callers to California’s statewide free breast and cervical cancer screening phone service. In addition, I was a founding member of the International Network for the Comparative understanding of BRCA breast cancer gene research and medical practices, a collaboration with European social science scholars (2009-2014). The network organized workshops and conferences, and published a special section of the journal BioSocieties in 2010, and produced an edited volume Breast Cancer Gene Research and Medical Practices: Transnational Perspectives in the time of BRCA.

A second key area of my research is communication about cancer clinical trials with vulnerable patients. I am PI of "Engaging Underserved Women in Health Research" (California Breast Cancer Research Program, 2014-2017), a randomized controlled trial of a patient navigator intervention with multilingual low-income breast cancer patients and survivors to increase information about and access to breast cancer research participation opportunities. I previously conducted ethnographic research on recruitment practices at public, academic, and private community-based oncology clinics to elucidate mechanisms by with potential participants are included and excluded from clinical research (ACS, Dohan 2005-2010).


Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, B.A., 1988, Anthropology
University of California, Santa Cruz, M.A., 1993, Cultural Anthropology
University of California, Santa Cruz, Ph.D., 1999, Cultural Anthropology
Yale University, Center for International & Area Studies, Post-Doctoral Fellowship, 2001, Migration, Globalization, & Citizenship

Professional Experience

  • 1988-1989
    Northern Manhattan Improvement Corporation, Immigrant Advocate Permanent Housing Program for Homeless Families
  • 1989-1991
    National Council of Jewish Women Program Manager Child Care Program for Working Women
  • 1991-2000
    University of California, Santa Cruz Instructor, Teaching Fellow, Teaching Assistant Departments of Anthropology, Sociology, Women's Studies
  • 1999-2002
    Institute for the Future , Research Manager , Palo Alto, CA
  • 2002-2003
    Criterion Consulting Ethnographic Research Consultant, Health Insurance for Faith Organizations Project
  • 2003-2004
    University of California, San Francisco, Research Associate, Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine; Comprehensive Cancer Center; Institute for Health and Aging
  • 2008-2013
    University of California, San Francisco, Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, History & Social Medicine
  • 2013-present
    University of California, San Francisco, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, History & Social Medicine

Honors & Awards

  • 1999
    Advanced Studies Fellowship; Anthropology and Education Institute
    Spencer Foundation

  • 1998
    Spencer Foundation Dissertation Writing Fellowship
    Spencer Foundation

  • 1994
    Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Research Fellowship
    Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

  • 1991
    UCSC Graduate Division Fellowship
    University of California, Santa Cruz

  • 1993
    Sigma Xi Graduate Research Grant
    Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society

  • 1992
    Graduate Fellowship Honorable Mention
    National Science Foundation

  • 1992
    UCSC Anthropology Department Research Grant
    University of California, Santa Cruz

  • 1987
    Wesleyan University Anthropology Department Research Grant
    Wesleyan University

Selected Publications

  • Joseph G. Taking Race Seriously: Whiteness in Argentina's National and Transnational Imaginary in Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. 7(3) 2000.
  • Joseph G, Pasick RJ. Kaplan C. Recruiting Healthy Low-Income Women to Research: An Exploratory Study in Ethnicity and Health.2007 Nov;12(5):497-519.
  • Joseph G, Dohan, D. Diversity of Participants in Clinical Trials in an Academic Medical Center: The Role of the ‘good study patient’? Cancer 2009 Feb 1;115(3):608-15. [Chosen by Cancer for media promotion]
  • Joseph G, Dohan D. Recruiting Minorities Where They receive Care: Institutional Barriers to Cancer Clinical Trials Recruitment in a Safety Net Hospital. Contemp Clin Trials. 30:6, 2009:552-559.
  • Joseph G, Burke NJ, Tuason N, Barker JC, Pasick RJ. Perceived Susceptibility to Illness and Perceived Benefits of Preventive Care: An Exploration of Behavioral Theory Constructs in a Transcultural Context. Health Educ Behav, Oct 2009; vol. 36: pp. 71S-90S.
  • Burke NJ, Joseph G, Pasick RJ, Barker JC. Theorizing Social Context: Re-Thinking Behavioral Theory. Health Educ Behav, Oct 2009; vol. 36: pp. 55S-70S.
  • Washington P, Burke N, Joseph G, Pasick RJ. Adult Daughters’ Influence on Health-Related Decision Making in Health Educ & Behav. Health Educ Behav, Oct 2009; vol. 36: pp. 129S-144S.
  • Pasick RJ, Burke NJ, Barker JC, Joseph G, Bird JA, Otero-Sabogal R, Tuason N, Stewart SL, Rakowski W, Clark M, Washington PK, Guerra C. Behavioral Theory in a Diverse Society: Like a Compass on Health Educ & Behav. Health Educ Behav, Oct 2009; vol. 36: pp. 11S-35S.
  • Pasick RJ, Otero-Sabogal R, Barker JD, Burke NJ, Joseph G. Intention, Subjective Norms, and Cancer Screening in the Context of Relational Culture. Health Educ Behav, Oct 2009; vol. 36: pp. 91S-110S.
  • Pasick RJ, Burke NJ, Barker JC, Joseph G. Authors' Response to Commentaries Health Educ Behav, Oct 2009; vol. 36: pp. 167S-171S.
  • Joseph G, Beattie MS, Lee R, Braithwaite D, Wilcox C, Metrikin M, Lamvik K, Luce J. Pre-Counseling Education for Low Literacy Women at Risk of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer (HBOC): Patient Experiences Using the Cancer Risk Education Intervention Tool (CREdIT). Journal of Genetic Counseling. 2010, 19 (5):447-462.
  • Mozersky, J. and Joseph, G. Case Studies in the Co-Production of Populations and Genetics: the Making of 'At Risk' Populations. BioSocieties 2010 (5) 4:415-439.
  • Sahra Gibbon S, Joseph G, Kalender U, Kampriani E, Mozersky J, Nieden AZ and Palfner S. Introduction to Special section: Perspectives on globalising genomics: The case of ‘BRCA’ breast cancer research and medical practice. BioSocieties 2010 (5) 4: 407-414.