Michael J. Montoya, Ph.D.

Michael Montoya
University of California, Irvine
Department of Anthropology
“We need to learn that, as my community partners have taught me, every challenge is connected to every other.  That for healthy cells, for healthy organs and healthy bodies, context matters most; that our social ecologies determine our well-being.”

Michael J. Montoya, Ph.D., is a professor of anthropology, Chicano/Latino Studies, public health and nursing science at the University of California, Irvine.  He also is faculty for The Program in Medical Education for the Latin Community (PRIME-LC), in the School of Medicine.  He is the director of the Community Knowledge Project, which is an experimental space for communities of all kinds to learn and engage in action together.  His award winning research examines the ways life-ways become embodied in individuals and groups. Michael has written about the social causes of chronic diseases and the problems of scientific approaches that exclude the voices of those most impacted by them.  His recent book, Making the Mexican Diabetic: Race, Science, and the Genetics of Inequality (2011) explores diabetes sciences as only one among many ways to explain who gets diabetes and why. 
Michael is a passionate advocate of community making in all its forms and currently learns with people involved in neighborhood renewal efforts in Southern California.  Michael believes that community knowledge is the missing ingredient in almost all formal problem-solving approaches. His work seeks to characterize the ways community knowledge can make academic questions more relevant and research more robust. Equally important, Michael believes that making community is a birthright and that health and wellbeing require it.

Montoya's work explores the ways humans are simultaneously social and biological beings. His research examines the influence of social conditions on chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and the problems of reductionistic biomedical research that excludes the conditions of living for human groups.

Montoya is interested in exploring the boundaries of biomedical and social sciences in order to find a critically integrated approach to solving health disparities among Chicano/Latino communities. This emerging research agenda has been funded by the NIH National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities and entails joining with like-minded collaborators from the life and social sciences as well as others with stakes in health outcomes and social equality. By dividing the labor between research into the lived conditions of bodies in certain contexts and research into the pathophysiological and biological impact of those life conditions, Montoya hopes to demonstrate that a unified approach to health research offers better conceptual and predictive possibilities than conventional disciplinary research alone.