Susi Keefe Header

Susi Keefe

Associate Professor - Sociology; Program Director - Public Health Sciences
Work space: St. Paul Main Campus > Giddens/Alumni Learning Center > Giddens/Alumni Learning Center GLC 214E

Susi Keefe, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Public Health Sciences and Sociology. She earned her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Brown University in 2010. In addition to graduate education, she was a trainee of the Population Studies and Training Center (PSTC) at Brown. This training culminated in dissertation research in Tanzania funded by a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Award. As a medical anthropologist with two decades of fieldwork and research expertise studying issues surrounding healthcare, family life, and Islam in Tanzania, Kenya, and the United States, her research demonstrates a longstanding engagement with global health and medical anthropology that contributes to scholarly conversations in reproductive health, intimate relationships, gender, and East Africa.

Professor Keefe’s interdisciplinary interest, engagement, and expertise in Public Health began as an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College where she earned her BA with honors with her self-designed major in “Culture, Health, and Science,” which included four graduate courses at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in Public Health. She spent her junior year abroad with the School for International Training in coastal Kenya and Zanzibar where she learned to speak kiSwahili and developed her passion for East Africa. This early academic foundation deepened her knowledge of human health, disease, and healing through a mixed methods perspective and highlighted the importance, and necessity, for addressing public health through interdisciplinary inquiry, an approach that continues to guide her teaching and scholarship today.

Professor Keefe's doctoral research centers on the intersection of gender, religion and health in East Africa. Based on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork in northern and coastal Tanzania, she has published articles and chapters on reproductive health and decision making, Islam and bioethics, marriage and kinship, and intimate relationships among Pare and Swahili women and men. Since coming to Hamline she has taught Introduction to Public Health, Epidemiology, Health and Environment, Global Health, Health Equity, Reproductive Justice, and Senior Seminar. She has worked with Public Health students at Hamline to publish their community engaged health equity research (see below for details).

Professor Keefe’s primary goal, since arriving at Hamline, has been to bring together academic and applied approaches to public health research and education and to develop a model for our undergraduate Public Health Sciences program that is rigorous and transformative, training students and opening up new avenues for research in the most important public health problems society faces today. Since so many of our public health needs are intrinsically linked to issues of access, equity, and community, educators must use a holistic approach in teaching students both the biological aspects and, importantly, social aspects of public health. Professor Keefe believes, and undergraduate public health education research demonstrates, the most effective way to teach such a holistic approach is through practical and innovative community-based pedagogy. Best practices in undergraduate public health education foreground collaboration with public health agencies as a proven effective way to connect students and faculty to real world local public health problems (see Gardner, Ronzion and Snelling 2018; Garnett 2017; Greece et al. 2018; Neri et al. 2014). To do so, Prof. Keefe has been identifying, initiating, and cultivating new collaborative relationships with 14+ local and, more recently, national organizations who share her vision for equity-based community engaged public health education: Minnesota Department of Health, Family Tree Clinic, Open Cities Clinic, International Institute of Minnesota, Urban Farm and Garden Alliance/GrowRx, Metro Area Agency on Aging, Physician Action Network, JustUsHealth, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Ramsey County Public Health, Hennepin County Public Health, Twin Cities Mobile Market, Wilder Foundation, New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute. Establishing relationships and fostering the resulting two-way exchange of knowledge are a critical piece of her teaching approach.

There are two things that define her pedagogical approach to teaching public health: centering social justice and the structural roots of health inequities, and giving students practical yet transformative learning experiences. She provides students opportunities to translate theoretical knowledge and classroom content to an applied experience that is not hypothetical, but rather makes meaningful impact on actual public health problems in our community. Her approach tightly integrates with national and local leaders while also building upon the institutional strengths and mission of Hamline and its position within the local community.


Professor Keefe's recent research experiences showcase her commitment to bringing together academic and applied approaches to public health research, education, and advocacy. She has spearheaded a series of community-engaged research opportunities featuring partnerships with the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Family Tree Clinic, the Wilder Foundation's Twin Cities Mobile Market, Hamline Elementary, Urban Farm and Garden Alliance, and the New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute. Her courses challenge students to critically examine experiences of access, equity, and justice using an interdisciplinary, multi-faceted, and community-based approach. Prof. Keefe’s courses engage students to conduct research, develop outreach, and publish their findings.

In 2017, the Public Health Senior Seminar course conducted research in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency examining the impact of Mercury in Skin Lightening Products in the Hmong community. Findings from this research highlighted generational and familial differences in beauty ideals, use is across generations but most common in elders, education surrounding mercury in skin lightening creams is minimal, and outreach must be consistent and multi-pronged. This research eventually culminated into publication in the Journal of Hmong Studies with six Public Health Sciences Seniors.

In 2018, the Health Equity course conducted community-engaged research with Family Tree Clinic, a local public health clinic specializing in sexual, reproductive, and LGBTQ+ health. This course was an advanced exploration of Health Equity that examined how patients experience health equity. Students were able to participate as active researchers and contribute to all aspects of the research process. Ultimately, the findings from this research outlined how centralizing health equity in a clinic's culture, policies, and practices leads to patients experiencing positive, affirming care. In 2019, this research was published in the Journal of Health Equity.

Most recently, Prof. Keefe has transformed the practice of community-engaged research at Hamline University by coordinating cross-departmental and interdisciplinary research in partnership with: Digital Media Arts, Environmental Studies, and Professional Writing. Students were tasked with conducting research and developing deliverables to their chosen community partner: Hamline University's Feed Your Brain and Food Resource Center, Hamline Elementary, and the Urban Farm and Garden Alliance. Students formed interdisciplinary teams associated with the three community partners and conducted weekly community engagement hours with their partners. Students conducted focus groups and community conversations. Students learned to analyze qualitative data and develop findings. This led to the dissemination of final deliverables appropriate and relevant for each community partner. Final products include a final focus group report, informational video promo, recipes, and an academic journal article for publication.

Spring 2020 Prof. Keefe presented at the National Conference on Health Communications, Media and Marketing with her Minnesota Department of Health collaborator; they highlighted the high impact outcomes of their university state agency collaboration on the mercury skin lightening in the Hmong community project. After that conference Professor Keefe was approached by Beatrie Aladin, Director Clinical Education & Digital Health Initiatives at the New York State Department of Health (NYS DOH) about a future collaboration using “TESTED,” a digital social media comic series on HIV. They decided to collaborate with Professor Keefe’s Spring 2020 Reproductive Justice Course as part of the next phase of the “TESTED” comic project. “TESTED” aims to engage, educate, and empower young adults regarding HIV/AIDS, through a graphic serial, and a mobile app by delivering HIV and other health information through compelling story and imagery while supporting those who are HIV Positive through their care journey. This digital social media comic series was developed in response to the known potential for electronic media to have a transformative impact on health care.

To read more about the the innovative pedagogical approach read this article from about the class: Students and Professors Look for Closure As Unprecedented Semester Ends | EdSurge News.

The following is a link to Dr. Keefe's research page: