Helena Hansen, M.D., Ph.D.

New York University

Helena Hansen earned an MD and a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology as part of Yale University’s NIH funded Medical Scientist Training Program. During graduate school she completed fieldwork in Havana on Cuban AIDS policy, in urban Connecticut on harm reduction and needle exchange, and in Puerto Rico on faith healing in evangelical Christian addiction ministries founded and run by self-identified ex-addicts. Her work has been published in both clinical and social science journals ranging from the Journal of the American Medical Association and Medical Care, to Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, and Medical Anthropology.


After graduate school, she completed a clinical residency in psychiatry at NYU Medical Center/Bellevue Hospital, during which she also undertook a political-economic and ethnographic study of a new biomedical treatment for addiction; opiate maintenance therapy with buprenorphine. In this study she examines the social and political implications of clinicians’ efforts to establish addiction as a biomedical, rather than moral or social condition, as well as the ways that neurochemical treatments may be reinscribing hierarchies of ethnicity and race.


As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation fellow, she began work on a feature length visual documentary on race, class and addiction pharmaceuticals, which is now in post-production. She is currently a joint-appointed assistant professor of anthropology and psychiatry at New York University.