Kerry Skiffington ’78

Certified clinical hypnotherapist

Kerry Skiffington ’78My mother was a hospital bacteriologist, so I grew up with a scientific understanding of medicine. I also learned to respect other cultures and was always curious about how shamanism worked.

When I came to Wheaton, I hoped to be an anthropologist who studies Native Americans, but I planned to get there through writing. It was the era of Native American nationalism and the Second Battle of Wounded Knee. I thought I would major in English and minor in anthropology.

However, my anthropology advisor, William Bestor, inspired me. He encouraged me to blossom with my own way of being and eventually convinced me to major in anthropology. He now teaches in Oregon and remains one of the most supportive friends I’ve ever had.

In the 1970s and ’80s, sociologists were suggesting that our medical institutions keep people ill by following a model that pulls people out of the river once they are drowning rather than keeping them healthy on the shore—reactive, heroic life-saving rather than prevention. I wanted to do something about that. So I went into medical anthropology, received my Ph.D. in world medical models and processes at Oxford University, and eventually became an alternative health care provider.

I have a private practice in hypnotherapy in a wonderful small town in Vermont. I’m certified in both the United Kingdom and the U.S. and as a HypnoBirthing instructor. In my practice, I treat everything from phobias and depression to allergies and chronic pain. I’m also a freelance writer, the author of Bristol, Vermont: Historically Speaking, which is an ethnographic history of my little town.

Keith Nordstrom photo

Anthropology majors map out their varied routes into health care

Seven alumnae/i to spoke on the connection between an anthropology degree and a career in health care at the Health Care Without Borders alumnae/i panel in the spring of 2012.

The Quarterly caught up with five of the panelists to learn more about their creative paths to careers in health care: