Mercyhurst University

Paula Davis-Olwell, Ph.D.

Visiting Assistant Professor

Hirt 312D

(814) 824-2157

Paula Davis-Olwell is a demographer with expertise in public health nutrition and medical anthropology. Her research on infant feeding in Uganda developed an observational methodology for measuring mothers’ implementation of exclusive breastfeeding. She was on the faculty of Population Studies at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and she has collaborated with faculty at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana.

Prior to Mercyhurst Dr. Davis-Olwell taught in Health Care Administration at Mary Baldwin College, where she taught courses in health policy, medical anthropology and health care ethics. She has previously taught in Africana Studies at University of Pittsburgh and at Brown University. Dr. Davis-Olwell recently completed an NIH funded fellowship in Complementary and Alternative Medicine in which she studied CAM therapies for depression, including yoga and energy healing. Her research and teaching address present-day public health issues—malnutrition, maternal mortality, mental health, population policy, infectious diseases, refugee health—through a lens of social studies of science and technology.


Demography and Population Studies
Food and Nutrition
Maternal and Child Health
Comparative Health Systems
Medical Anthropology
Qualitative Research Methods


Dr. Davis-Olwell’s current research addresses the process of setting and measuring the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specifically those related to child nutrition and maternal health. In addition, she is completing a systematic review of research on spirituality and depression, and planning new research on yoga as therapy for depression.


National Institutes of Health (NCCAM), Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, 2007-09, University of Virginia
Mellon Foundation, Postdoctoral Fellowship in Anthropological Demography, 1997-99, Brown University
Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society, Student Inductee, 1998, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health
Paul Harper Endowment Award, Best Doctoral Dissertation, 1998, Department of Population Dynamics, Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health


American Anthropological Association
Society for Social Studies of Science (4s)
Society for Medical Anthropology
African Studies Association


Dr. Davis-Olwell’s research has circulated as reports on projects initiated by global health agencies (USAID; Wellstart International; MEASURE/DHS) and has been published in journals and edited volumes dealing with population studies and reproductive health in Africa.