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Dr Erica Borgstrom

Profile summary

  • Central Academic Staff
  • Lecturer (End of Life Care)
  • Faculty of Wellbeing, Education & Language Studies
  • School of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care
  • Health and Social Care
  • erica.borgstrom

Professional biography

I'm a medical anthropologist currently employed at the Open University as a lecturer. My teaching and research focuses on death and dying, with a particular emphasis on end-of-life care. 

Previously I was a  research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  There I held the Mildred Blaxter postdoctoral fellowship from the Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness. I have also worked at the University of Cambridge within the Cambridge Palliative and End of Life Care Group. In 2014, I was awarded a PhD from the University of Cambridge. My PhD research explored end-of-life care from policy, to practice, to everyday experiences.  ​

Research interests

I'm a medical anthropologist interested in experiences of life-limiting illness and end-of-life care. For the past six years I have researched how end-of-life care policy in England is shaping healthcare practice and how this relates (or not) to people's experiences of care and everyday life. Most of my research is based on in-depth ethnography and highlights the importance of relations and interactions in understanding life, care, and death.

Teaching interests

At the Open University, I work on modules K260 (Death and Dying) and K101 (An introduction to health and social care). As with the teaching I have done at other institutions, my aim is to help foster critical thinking about health care topics through the use of social theory and empirical examples. Previously, I have taught medical anthropology, medical sociology, and social research methods at both undergraudate and postgraduate level. 

We are frequently looking for PhD students to work within death studies and end-of-life care at the Open University - contact me if interested in our latest studentships or about future projects. 

External collaborations

I am membership secretary for the Association for the Study of Death and Society. Together with Julie Ellis I co-convene the British Sociological Association Social Aspects of Death, Dying and Bereavement (DDB) study group. We host our annual sysmposium in November/December each year. 

I also play an active role in the American Anthropological Association's Dying and Bereavement special interest group, which is part of the Society for Medical Anthropology. 


Learning in the Fourth Age: the role of physical activity interventions for people living in long term facilities (2019-12-01)
Borgstrom, Erica; Deepak Gopinath, Manik and Vseteckova, Jitka
International Journal of Education and Ageing ((In Press))
Experience-based design, co-design and experience-based co-design in palliative and end-of-life care (2019-03-31)
Borgstrom, Erica and Barclay, Stephen
BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, 9(1) (pp. 60-66)
Practices, Issues and Possibilities at the interface between Geriatrics and Palliative Care: An Exploratory study (InGaP) (2019-02-28)
Borgstrom, E.; Schiff, R.; Khan, S. A.; Hindley, E.; Thayabaran, D.; Savage, E.; Gough, N. and Holti, R.
Age and Ageing, 48(Supplement) (i27-i30)
“We don’t want to go and be idle ducks”: family practices at the end of life (2019)
Borgstrom, Erica; Ellis, Julie and Woodthorpe, Kate
Sociology ((Early Access))
Barriers and facilitators to adherence to group exercise in institutionalized older people living with dementia: a systematic review (2018-11-09)
Vseteckova, Jitka; Deepak Gopinath, Manik; Borgstrom, Erica; Holland, Caroline; Draper, Jan; Pappas, Yannis; McKeown, Eamonn; Dadova, Klara and Gray, Steve
European Review of Aging and Physical Activity, 15, Article 11
What the social sciences have to offer palliative care (2018-05)
Borgstrom, Erica; Lemos Dekker, Natashe and Hoare, Sarah
European Journal of Palliative Care, 25(3) (pp. 109-111)
Barriers and facilitators to adherence to walking group exercise in older people living with dementia in the community: a systematic review protocol (2018)
Vseteckova, Jitka; Deepak-Gopinath, Manik; Dadova, Klara; Borgstrom, Erica; Ryan, Gemma; Gracia, Rosaria and Holland, Caroline
PROSPERO: International prospective register of systematic reviews, Article CRD42018114173
Introduction: Researching Death, Dying and Bereavement (2017-05)
Borgstrom, Erica and Ellis, Julie
Mortality, 22(2) (pp. 93-104)
Social Death (2017)
Borgstrom, Erica
QJM: An International Journal of Medicine, 110(1) (pp. 5-7)
Images of hospices on social media: The #notdingy campaign (2016-12-13)
Borgstrom, Erica
Medicine Anthropology Theory, 3(3) (pp. 105-111)
Learning to care: medical students' reported value and evaluation of palliative care teaching involving meeting patients and reflective writing (2016-11-25)
Borgstrom, Erica; Morris, Rachel; Wood, Diana; Cohn, Simon and Barclay, Stephen
BMC Medical Education, 16, Article 306
Applying social theory to understand health-related behaviours (2016)
Holman, Daniel and Borgstrom, Erica
Medical Humanities, 42(2) (pp. 143-145)
Planning for an (un)certain future: Choice within English end-of-life care (2015-09)
Borgstrom, Erica
Current Sociology, 63(5) (pp. 700-713)
Choice and compassion at the end of life: A critical analysis of recent English policy discourse (2015-07-31)
Borgstrom, Erica and Walter, Tony
Social Science & Medicine, 136-137 (pp. 95-105)
Social death in end-of-life care policy (2015)
Borgstrom, Erica
Contemporary Social Science: Journal of the Academy of Social Sciences, 10(3) (pp. 272-283)
Constructing denial as a disease object: accounts by medical students meeting dying patients (2013-03-28)
Borgstrom, Erica; Barclay, Stephen and Cohn, Simon
Sociology of Health and Illness, 35(3) (pp. 391-404)
Medical Professionalism: Conflicting Values for Tomorrow's Doctors (2010-12)
Borgstrom, Erica; Cohn, Simon and Barclay, Stephen
Journal of General Internal Medicine, 25(12) (pp. 1330-1336)
Using an ethnographic approach to study end-of-life care: reflections from research encounters in England (2018-06-27)
Borgstrom, Erica
In: Garnett, Emma; Reynolds, Joanna and Milton, Sarah eds. Ethnographies and Health: Reflections on Empirical and Methodological Entanglements (pp. 67-83)
ISBN : 978-3-319-89395-2 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan
National End-of-Life Care Policy in the English Context: The Problem and Solution to Death and Dying (2016-02-12)
Borgstrom, Erica
In: Foster, Liam and Woodthorpe, Kate eds. Death and Social Policy in Challenging Times (pp. 35-52)
ISBN : 978-1-137-48489-5 | Publisher : Palgrave Macmillan
Advance care planning: between tools and relational end-of-life care? (2015)
Borgstrom, Erica
BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care; 5; 216-217
What’s in a name? From pathways to plans in end of life care (2013)
Borgstrom, Erica
British Medical Journal; 347


OU student wins Care Apprentice Award

Heather always wanted to be a mental health nurse, having worked as a carer for a number of years. When she was given the chance by her employer to study for an Open University course in Health Care Practise, she grabbed the opportunity. Earlier this year, Heather was awarded the Care Apprentice Award at the National Care Awards, as Carers Week begins, she talks about her journey with The OU.

10th June 2019
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