Gemmae M. Fix, PhD


Fix, Gemmae.jpgUS Department of Veterans Affairs
Personal Statement

I am a passionate advocate of applied anthropology. The community of applied anthropologists continually impresses and inspires me; I want to learn from, share and promote their work. My introduction to applied anthropology occurred during graduate school. I did not envision myself following a traditional academic career path and often felt alone as the archetypal “lone anthropologist,” left to figure out how to be an applied anthropologist.  While working independently is an important anthropological skill, so is our ability to connect with others. My doctoral field site was a US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital, part of the US’s largest national healthcare system. After graduating, I was hired by the VA as a Research Health Scientist. Being a lone VA anthropologist drove me to connect with anthropologists who shared similar career goals and experiences. Thus, soon after starting my government position, I organized a small, disparate national network of other VA anthropologists. Under my leadership, this practice network has thrived for more than a decade. This network has grown to more than 100 members who provide mentoring, collaborate to achieve common goals, and make important contributions to scientific knowledge. Much of this work has been presented at national meetings, including regular presentations at the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) annual meeting, and in publications targeting anthropological audiences (e.g., Practicing Anthropology).  I have written about the VA anthropology practice network (Fix 2014) and the experiences of others conducting applied work (Fix and McElroy 2020; Rubinstein et al. 2020), as well as mentored students on how to apply anthropological skills in practice settings (Koenders 2020). From these experiences, I have learned about the challenges and opportunities unique to applied anthropologists. I am thus situated to continue advocating on behalf of applied anthropologists as a member of the SfAA Board of Directors. 

I feel a special connection to the SfAA. Because I work in an applied interdisciplinary setting, the SfAA provides an important connection to my disciplinary home. The SfAA annual meeting is an opportunity for members to re-connect with friends, learn what colleagues are doing, and feel connected to their disciplinary home.  My designation as an SfAA Fellow is a point of pride. I would be honored to work more closely with the organization and help align SfAA’s work with members’ needs.  At a time when the majority of us are working in diverse non-traditional settings, there is great opportunity to advance our work, mentor and promote each other, and inform the preparation of the next generation of anthropologists for the field and job market. If elected, I would use my anthropological skills as a listener, collaborator, and advocate to help the organization achieve these goals. The SfAA is well positioned to meet the changing needs of today’s applied anthropologists through innovative programming and resources. I would be honored to use my practice-based experiences to inform these efforts. 

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