I feel light years ahead of medical students who did not come from a similar program like medicine, health, and society, because to be a good doctor it takes more than just understanding science. Vanderbilt is at the forefront of this type of patient-centered care—of not just treating the disease but treating the patient too.
~David Amsalem, BA’10, MD’15
With other majors—biology, neuroscience, chemistry—the focus is tunnel vision. Medicine, health, and society is ripping off those blinders and looking at every aspect of medicine. I have friends who work in health care technology or in finance, and the reason they are doing so well is because of the diversity of courses in medicine, health, and society and the quality of the professors who engage students and challenge them think critically about a bigger picture.
~Michael Cross, BA ’12, MA ’13
The major in Medicine, Health, and Society investigates the cultural, economic, demographic and biological factors that impact health. Drawing on courses in the medical sciences, humanities, and social sciences, this innovative interdisciplinary field of study transcends the traditional biomedical approach to understanding health and illness. Through work in and out of the classroom, MHS students learn to think critically about complex social issues that impact health and develop effective strategies for targeting health care crises. The curriculum is designed to train students to meet emerging challenges in our healthcare system as well as changes in medical education. The center is dedicated to training the next generation of national and international health leaders—from doctors and nurses to economists and policy makers. MHS majors craft a plan of study that includes core MHS classes, electives that meets their particular interests, and an area of concentration. Concentration areas include:
MHS Announces NEW Concentration Areas
A. Global health: emphasizes social and political determinants of global health disparities, history of global public health concepts and practices, relationship between culture and health, various health systems. Eligible courses
B. Health policies and economies: emphasizes the economic, legal, and political dimensions of health. Eligible courses
C. Health behaviors and health sciences: emphasizes biological and social foundations of health. Eligible courses
D. Race, inequality and health: emphasizes how social structures of inequality shape current and historical health disparities. Eligible courses
E. Medicine, humanities and the arts: emphasizes critical inquiry of our most basic ideas about health and medicine. Eligible courses
F. Critical Health Studies: available for motivated students whose interests and career goals are not reflected in the concentrations above. Students choosing this concentration must have the approval of their adviser and the director of undergraduate studies for a specific program of study.
Frequently Asked Questions
- When should I declare a MHS major and meet with a MHS advisor?
- How do I declare a major/minor in Medicine, Health, and Society?
- What course(s) would I take as an undergraduate interested in majoring in MHS?
- What if an MHS-approved class I want/need to take is full?
- How do MHS-approved courses satisfy AXLE requirements?
- Are there first-year seminars and other special programs in MHS?
- What are some special features of the MHS undergraduate program?
- Can students do independent study and research in your area?
- What kinds of careers do students with a major in MHS enter?
1. When should I declare a MHS major and meet with a MHS advisor?
Freshmen should work with their pre-advisors and ask them to help choose courses that satisfy AXLE requirements and count for MHS credit. Once you are a sophomore and declare your major, you will be assigned an MHS advisor who can help you plan your course schedule.
2. How do I declare a major/minor in Medicine, Health, and Society?
Complete the declaration of major or minor form and student information form. Take your paperwork to Nadia Connelly in 300 CC Calhoun Hall (3rd floor). An advisor will be assigned. A signed declaration of major or minor must also be turned in to the A&S Registrar’s office in 311 Kirkland Hall. Your assigned advisor will contact you to set up a follow-up appointment.
3. What course(s) would I take as an undergraduate interested in majoring in MHS?
Because the MHS major draws from a variety of academic fields, students interested in an MHS major can take any course from the approved MHS course list. For a list of current courses offered, click here.
4. What if an MHS-approved class I want/need to take is full?
The answer to this question largely depends on your class standing and major. Seniors majoring in MHS who need a particular course to satisfy MHS major requirements should discuss the situation with their academic advisor as soon as possible AND talk with the professor teaching the class. Seniors minoring in MHS, seniors majoring in another discipline, and juniors majoring in MHS should also discuss the issue with their academic advisor, but may need to wait until the following semester or academic year to take the desired course. All other students who are unable to take a particular MHS course due to maximum enrollment have additional options – for example, waiting to take the course next semester or taking other MHS-approved courses with space available.
One option available to all students is to speak directly with the professor of the course. Some faculty have formal waiting lists, while others have a less formal procedure of noting interest and trying to keep a place open for students who need a given course. It is always worthwhile to discuss your situation with the professor teaching the course. If you are an MHS major, especially an upper class major, this often counts in your favor and wins you a place in a closed course.
5. How do MHS-approved courses satisfy AXLE requirements?
Many MHS approved courses satisfy AXLE requirements. Here is a list of these courses and which AXLE requirements they fulfill.
6. Are there first-year seminars and other special programs in MHS?
MHS is offering a first year seminar each fall (MHS 115F). Other first year seminars may count for elective credit in the MHS program with approval of Director. For other special programs, check the schedule of courses each semester.
7. What are some special features of the MHS undergraduate program?
MHS students are active members of Vanderbilt’s numerous health-related service organizations and pre-health professional societies. Students in MHS may earn academic credit for internships and service learning projects, which combine practical training with academic research. Under faculty supervision, students gain experience in a broad range of public and private health-related agencies. MHS works closely with students to secure internship and service learning placements. We collaborate with Vanderbilt’s Office of Active Citizenship and Service (OACS) to develop local, national and international service opportunities for students.
MHS study-abroad programs are available in Copenhagen and Cape Town South Africa. Through these programs students get more hands-on exposure to clinical medicine than they ordinarily would as undergraduates in the U.S. Denmark’s International Study (DIS) Program has a Medical Practice and Policy track, which is an ideal fit for MHS. Students attending the University of Cape Town participate in community-based research. The flexibility of the MHS curriculum allows most interested students to meet graduation requirements, complete prerequisites for application to professional school, and still have time to spend a semester abroad.
The Honors Program in Medicine, Health and Society offers qualified majors the opportunity to conduct individual research projects in collaboration with faculty members. This research culminates in the writing and presentation of a senior thesis. Students who complete the program successfully will receive Honors or Highest Honors in Medicine, Health and Society. The program should substantially aid those intending to attend graduate or professional school.
Medicine, Health and Society offers students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in just five years of study through Vanderbilt’s 4+1 BA/MA program. The MHS Master’s degree in the Social Foundations of Health emphasizes health disparities, interdisciplinary faculty/student collaboration, critical thinking, research skills, and social contexts of health through a topically and methodologically broad curriculum. The program is aimed at students who want to gain research experience, enhance their interdisciplinary training, and generally strengthen their applications before entering medical or professional school. Students begin graduate level courses in the second semester of their senior year.
Please see our Events schedule for lectures, seminars and special events sponsored by the Center for Medicine, Health and Society.
8. Can students do independent study and research in your area?
Yes. MHS 296 (Independent Study) is a program of reading and/or research in one area of MHS studies to be selected in consultation with an adviser. A student’s application for independent study is subject to the approval of the Director or Assistant Director of the MHS program.
- MHS 296 (Independent Study)is designed for students who wish to conduct research or a directed course of reading under the supervision of a faculty member. The research may include an analysis of primary sources, an analysis of secondary sources, clinical research or laboratory research. (Keep in mind that even in the case of clinical or laboratory research, the student’s work must focus on the social and/or cultural dimensions of health and/or health care.)
- MHS 297 and 298 (Honors Research and Thesis) is designed for students who wish to develop and test their own hypotheses. Students must apply to the honors program. Those who are admitted propose, research, and write a thesis that contributes to an existing scholarly literature in the chosen field of study.
9. What kinds of careers do students with a major in MHS enter?
MHS graduates go on to do many things. Some seek a higher degree in a professional or academic field. MHS prepares students for professional training in medicine, nursing, law, management, and public health, and for graduate study in a variety of disciplines, such as anthropology, economics, history, literature, philosophy/ethics, or sociology. Since health is such a critical social issue, other students with an MHS degree find that their undergraduate experience offers useful preparation for a variety of careers, including administration, business, journalism, education, government, and social work, as well as the health occupations.