Rochester, Minnesota




Ashok Kumbamu, Ph.D., is a medical sociologist and health services researcher who focuses on exploring the significance of caring, character and practical wisdom in promoting human flourishing in health care. He is dedicated to addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion issues to create fair and equitable clinical and learning environments. Dr. Kumbamu uses social theory and qualitative research methods to examine the complex interplay among social structures, institutional settings, cultural practices and individual experiences in health care delivery. His commitment to social justice drives him to contribute to a more compassionate, sustainable and equitable health care system that is responsive to the needs of marginalized communities.

Focus areas

  • Promoting human flourishing in the health care system through caring, character and practical wisdom. Dr. Kumbamu's research centers on understanding and evaluating various aspects related to caring, character, practical wisdom and human flourishing in clinical and learning environments. As a principal investigator, he is leading a research project that aims to understand the dialectical dynamics in caring at various levels across six U.S. medical schools. He also co-leads other projects at Mayo Clinic to investigate factors that affect interns' transition from medical school to internship and the attributes of exemplary program directors. Dr. Kumbamu also is an active member of the Kern National Network (KNN) integrated framework group, where he collaborates with other researchers to advance the tenets of the caring, character, practical wisdom and human flourishing framework in the health care system.

    Dr. Kumbamu's research delves into how sociological factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender and other identities influence one's perceptions and understandings of professionalism in medical education. Additionally, he conducted a similar inquiry at Mayo Clinic to examine the changing dynamics of professionalism, trust and social responsibility in biomedical research. As a result of this research, Dr. Kumbamu developed a graduate course, Science Beyond the Laboratory, that emphasizes scientists' role in civic engagement, ethics, and professionalism in science production and translation.

  • Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the health care system: Dr. Kumbamu places great importance on addressing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) issues in health care to promote health and education equities. He believes that DEIB should be a foundational aspect of clinical research and educational programs.

    As a social scientist, Dr. Kumbamu investigates the effects of biases, stigmas and stereotypes on relationships among health care staff and between patients and clinicians, as well as their implications for overall health outcomes. For example, he identified and characterized trainees' experiences of discrimination and inclusion in the hematology-oncology fellowship program to inform graduate medical education policies and practices. Additionally, he collaborated with a multidisciplinary team to develop a virtual reality curriculum for the Department of Nursing to address racism and discrimination and evaluated its impact on nurse leaders.

    Dr. Kumbamu leads several community-engaged research projects aimed at understanding and evaluating community health needs and designing interventions to promote better outcomes and access to health care for marginalized communities. For instance, he has studied the underutilization of public home health services by African American families. He has explored the barriers and facilitators for healthy eating and physical activity in a community school with an alternative learning environment. He also has co-led research efforts to design and test culturally tailored mobile health (mHealth) lifestyle interventions for African American populations to promote cardiovascular health and wellness.

  • Innovative methodologies and methods in research on health care delivery and medical education. Dr. Kumbamu is an expert in qualitative research methodologies, including ethnography, video reflexive ethnography, grounded theory, phenomenology, narrative analysis and community-based participatory action research. He has extensive experience in designing, implementing and evaluating research projects utilizing these methodologies and data collection techniques such as in-depth interviews, focus groups and observations. Dr. Kumbamu applies these methods to investigate the implications of the rapidly changing health care landscape on sociocultural, professional, ethical and technological aspects. He examines how these changes affect clinical and learning environments. In addition, Dr. Kumbamu has a strong record of curriculum development. He has been teaching a graduate-level course on qualitative research design, methods and analysis since 2012.

Significance to patient care

Dr. Kumbamu's studies are significant in addressing specific challenges and providing tailored interventions to improve patient outcomes and satisfaction. The study on cancer patients' financial health aims to help manage treatment costs, reduce financial stress and improve overall well-being. By understanding patients' preferences and values, the study on atrial fibrillation education can help health care providers develop tailored education programs that promote a better understanding of the condition. The study on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in medical oncology can inform strategies to improve communication and understanding between patients and health care providers. The study on decision aids for familial hypercholesterolemia and intubation timing in sepsis can promote shared decision-making and patient-centered care, respectively. The study on refining the cardiovascular mHealth intervention can potentially improve its efficacy and acceptability, leading to better patient outcomes.

Professional highlights

  • Associate editor, Health Communication, 2022-present.
  • Adjunct assistant professor, Robert and Patricia Kern Institute for the Transformation of Medical Education and Kern National Network for Caring and Character in Medicine, Administration, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2022-present.
  • Principal investigator, Cultivating a Caring Culture to Enhance the Capacity To Care in Clinical Learning Environments, Kern National Network for Caring and Character in Medicine, 2023-2024.
  • Co-investigator, Bridging Theory and Practice Toward Human Flourishing in the Health Professions: A Research Agenda to Inform Evidence-Based Applications, Kern National Network for Caring and Character in Medicine, 2023-2024.
  • Kern Foundation Award to pursue the Master of Arts (MA) Character Education distance learning program, Department of Education and Social Justice, University of Birmingham, UK, 2021-2024.
  • Isaac Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship, Faculty of Graduate Studies & Research, University of Alberta, Canada, 2007-2009.
  • International Development Research Centre Doctoral Research Award, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Ontario, Government of Canada, 2006.
  • F.S. Chia Ph.D. Scholarship, Faculty of Graduate Studies & Research, University of Alberta, Canada, 2004-2006.
  • The Netherlands Fellowship Programs Award, Netherlands Organization for International Cooperation in Higher Education (Nuffic), Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1999-2000.


Academic Rank

  1. Assistant Professor of Biomedical Ethics


  1. Post Doctoral Research - Public Health University of Alberta
  2. PhD - Sociology of knowledge production and translation, genetically modified organisms, ecology, global ethnography University of Alberta
  3. MA - International Development Studies International Institute of Social Studies
  4. BA - Psychology, Sociology & Philosophy Nizam College

Clinical Studies

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