‘A warm heart’: UC Berkeley anthropology researcher Sam Dubal dies at 33

Sam Dubal

Campus anthropology researcher and University of Washington anthropology assistant professor Sam Dubal was reported missing Oct. 12 and is now presumed dead.

Among his family, colleagues and friends, Dubal is remembered for his warmth, generosity and modesty.

“Sam was incredibly kind, generous, loving, who gave tremendously to so many people in many different ways. He was determined and committed to changing the world for the better,” said his sister, Veena Dubal.

Sam Dubal went missing after going on a solo camping trip Friday, Oct. 9 at Mount Rainier National Park. After he didn’t return for class the following Monday, Dubal was reported missing.

After two weeks of searches by National Park Service rangers, Mountain Rescue volunteers, Pierce County Explorer Search and Rescue volunteers and other professionals, the search was called off and Dubal was presumed dead.

“He was the kind of scholar and public intellectual we really need in the world right now,” said University of Washington anthropology and global health professor James Pfeiffer. “We felt extremely lucky that he had decided to come work with us and be part of our faculty.”

According to UCSF anthropology professor and adviser on Dubal’s dissertation committee Vincanne Adams, Dubal was a radical thinker interested in recontextualizing how medicine was done by paying attention to structural and social conditions as starting points.

According to his sister Dena Dubal, it was while practicing medicine as a physician in surgical residency that Sam Dubal realized the health of vulnerable populations was “rooted” in structural injustices.

During his time in the joint medical anthropology program, Dubal went on to do fieldwork in Uganda concerning the Lord’s Resistance Army, a militant Ugandan group infamous for war crimes. This work would later lead to him writing a book that critiques the concept of humanity.

At the start of this year, Dubal had taken on an anthropology assistant professor role at the University of Washington, where he taught a class on the anthropology of soccer, a great interest of his.

In honor of Dubal’s legacy, Dena Dubal organized a GoFundMe to establish the Sam Dubal Fellowship at both UC Berkeley and University of Washington. The fellowship aims to support training individuals and projects that advance toward an ethical world.

“Sam had a fierce mind, a well-cultivated soul, and a warm heart. And yet was somehow so humble,” Dena Dubal said in an email. “For me, just being with him was the best – we never really talked about science, medicine, or too much intellectual. We could just ‘be.’ ”

Contact Blake Evans at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Blake_J_Evans.