Dr. Padilla, Professor, is a medical anthropologist with training and experience in public health both domestically and internationally. Most of his work is located at the juncture of anthropology and the more applied concerns of public health. As an anthropologist trained in ethnographic methods, globalization, and critical medical anthropology, he has sought to bring structural and social inequalities into greater focus in public health, and to advocate for evidence-based policy reforms to address the health needs of marginalized populations.
His first book, Caribbean Pleasure Industry: Tourism, Sexuality and AIDS in the Dominican Republic (University of Chicago Press, 2007), provides a structural analysis of patterns in the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Caribbean, drawing on experience-near ethnography with male sex workers who work in the tourism industry in two Dominican cities. For this book, Dr. Padilla received the Ruth Benedict Award for best solo-authored book on sexuality in the field of anthropology in 2008. Subsequently, he carried this work forward with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), using innovative mixed-method studies to translate ethnographic interpretation into intervention and policy recommendations for HIV/AIDS prevention. These findings have been published in multiple peer reviewed publications.
Having conducted multiple studies relating to gender, sexuality, and HIV/AIDS, Dr. Padilla’s research has more recently turned to considerations of climate change, disasters, and the health care system in Puerto Rico. He teaches and mentors students on: medical anthropology, gender/sexuality studies, ethnographic and mixed-method research, visual methods, and global health.
Since 2006, Dr. Padilla’s research has been continuously funded through NIH, and his work has also been funded through foundations such as the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. These projects also have incorporated multiple student researchers, many of whom have published with him over the years. Some of his recent projects include:
- 2010-2014: “Economic Crisis, Residential Instability, and Changing Sexuality Geographies of Detroit Youth.” (Ford Foundation Grant under the Youth Sexuality, Health, and Rights in the United States initiative). PI: Mark Padilla. This project used a structural theoretical framework on sexuality in times of political-economic crisis to understand the vulnerability of marginalized groups in Detroit, Michigan. It focused on collaborations with three communities: Latino youth in Southwest Detroit; young African-American women involved in sex work; and transgender women.
- 2011-2013: “Injection Practices and HIV risk behavior among transgendered persons in Puerto Rico” (NIDA Grant #1R21DA032288-01). PI: Mark Padilla (Co-PI: Sheilla Rodríguez Madera). Entitled “TRANSforma”, this project used both ethnographic methods and a quantitative survey to examine the social context of lay hormone and silicone injection practices that are common among male-to-female transgender persons in Puerto Rico.
- 2014-2016: “Physicians and Health Related Services for Male to Female Transgender Persons.” (NIDA Grant 1R21MH102025-01A1). PI: Mark Padilla (Co-PI: Sheilla Rodríguez Madera). This project investigated the attitudes and practices of Puerto Rican physicians toward transgender women, investigating the manifestations of stigma and inequality in these interactions and the consequences of the lack of access to gender affirming care in this setting.
- 2013-2018: “Migration, Tourism, and the HIV/drug-use Syndemic in the Dominican Republic.” (NIDA Grant 1 R01 DA031581-01A1). PI: Mark Padilla. The “Syndemics Project” used the medical anthropological notion of “syndemics” to address the political, economic, and cultural conditions of commercial sex workers who serve a tourist clientele in Santo Domingo and Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic.
- 2018-2020: “A Multi-Level Health Systems Study of Collapse and Resilience in Puerto’s Response to Hurricane Maria.” (National Institute on Aging, #1R21AG063453-01). Role: Co-PI (with Nelson Varas-Diaz and Sheilla Rodriguez-Madera). This study (“the AFTER project”) examined using ethnographic methods the impact of hurricane Maria on the health care system in Puerto Rico, incorporating multilevel institutional ethnography with patients, providers/administrators, and policy makers.
- 2020-2024: “Physician Migration and Its Effects on Puerto Rico’s Health Care System” (National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, #1R01MD014188-01A1. Role: Co-Principal Investigator (with Nelson Varas-Diaz and Sheilla Rodriguez-Madera).
- 2022-2027: Disasters, solar energy, and chronic disease management in aging Puerto Ricans” 1R01AG072613-01A1. Role: Co-Principal Investigator (with Nelson Varas-Diaz and Sheilla Rodriguez-Madera).
In recent years, Dr. Padilla has incorporated visual methods into his research, including PhotoVoice and award-winning documentary films. Some recent projects can be viewed at:
“Collapse” (documentary film). (www.collapsepr.com)
“Particular Friendships” (documentary film). (https://youtu.be/X4BdtsNVsp4)
“Greetings Covidians” PhotoVoice project. (www.greetingscovidians.net)
Dr. Padilla directs the Research Network for Health and Society (REACH) at FIU, which aims to provide opportunities for linkage, training, and collaboration across the social sciences, health sciences, and humanities at FIU and allied institutions. REACH is housed administratively within the Kimberly Green Latin American and Caribbean Center (LACC). For more information, see: https://gss.fiu.edu/research/reach/
Selected Publications2007 Padilla, Mark. (2007). Caribbean Pleasure Industry: Tourism, Sexuality, and AIDS in the Dominican Republic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.2007 Padilla, Mark, Jennifer Hirsch, Robert Sember, Miguel Muñoz-Laboy, and Richard Parker (eds.). Love and Globalization: Transformations of Intimacy in the Contemporary World. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
2011 Padilla, Mark, Guilamo-Ramos, Godbole, R. "A Syndemic Analysis of Alcohol Use and Sexual Risk Behavior among Tourism Employees in Sosúa, Dominican Republic." Qualitative Health Research. doi: 10.1177/1049732311419865.
2011 Padilla, Mark, Armando Matiz-Reyes, Maureen Connolly, Shaw Natsui, Adrian Puello, and Helena Chapman. "Examining the Policy Climate for HIV Prevention in the Caribbean Tourism Sector: A Qualitative Study of Policy Makers in the Dominican Republic." Health Policy and Planning. doi:10.1093/heapol/czr021.
2010 Keene, D. and Padilla, M. Race, Class and the Stigma of Place: Moving to "Opportunity" in Eastern Iowa. Health and Place 16(6): 1216-1223.
2010 Padilla, Mark, Guilamo-Ramos, V., Bouris, A., and Matiz-Reyes, A. "HIV/AIDS and Tourism in the Caribbean: An Ecological Systems Perspective." American Journal of Public Health. 100(1):70-77.
2009 Padilla, Mark and Castellanos, D. "Touristic Borderlands: Ethnographic Reflections on Dominican Social Geographies." In Aggleton, P., Haour-Knipe, M., and Thomas, F. (eds.), Dangerous Liaisons?: Mobility, Sexuality and AIDS, pp. 91-107. New York: Routledge.
2008 Padilla, Mark, Daniel Castellanos, Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, Armando Matiz Reyes, Leonardo E. Sanchez Marte, Martha Arredondo Soriano. 2008. "Stigma, Social Inequality, and HIV Risk Disclosure among Dominican Male Sex Workers." Social Science and Medicine. 67:3, pp. 380-388.
2008 Padilla, Mark. "The Embodiment of Tourism among Bisexually-behaving Dominican Male Sex Workers." Archives of Sexual Behavior. 37:5: 783-793.
2007 Padilla, Mark. Vásquez del Aguila, E. & Parker, R. "Globalization, structural violence, and LGBT health: A cross-cultural perspective." In Ilan Meyer and Mary Northridge (eds.), The Health of Sexual Minorities: Public Health Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Populations, pp. 209-241. New York: Springer.