The interdisciplinary undergraduate program draws on a variety of fields in the social sciences and humanities to study health and health care in their social and cultural contexts. MHS-related disciplines include anthropology, economics, history, literature, psychology, sociology, philosophy/ethics, and religious studies. The program will be of particular interest to students preparing for careers in a health-related profession but will also have much to offer any student open to examining an important part of the human experience from multiple perspectives and developing a critical understanding of contemporary society.
MHS gives a look into the world, and a hope that someday I can change it.
~Disha Kumar, MHS ’07
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the academic study of Medicine, Health, and Society (MHS)?
- What does the MHS undergraduate major involve? What does the MHS minor involve?
- 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?
- Is there a graduate program in MHS at Vanderbilt?
1. What is the academic study of Medicine, Health, and Society (MHS)?
The interdisciplinary academic programs draw on a variety of fields in the social sciences and humanities to study health, health care systems, and health policies in their social and cultural contexts. MHS-related disciplines include anthropology, economics, history, literature, psychology, sociology, philosophy/ethics, and religious studies. The program will be of particular interest to undergraduate students preparing for careers in a health-related profession but it also offer much to students interested in examining an important part of the human experience and a contemporary society. The program may also interest graduate students interested in receiving a M.A. degree. Together the undergraduate and graduate programs are offered by the Center for Medicine, Health and Society (MHS) in Vanderbilt’s College of Arts & Science.
2. What does the MHS undergraduate major involve? What does the MHS minor involve?
The Center for Medicine, Health, and Society offers a major consisting of a minimum of 36 hours of course work. MHS also offers a minor consisting of a minimum of 18 hours of course work. The MHS Honors Program offers undergraduate students a more intensive concentration with the broad field of medicine, health and society.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. What are some special features of the MHS undergraduate program?
There are two key features of The Center for Medicine, Health, and Society that build upon the uniqueness and interdisciplinary foci of the Center. These features include our “Speakers Series” and a series of talks referred to as “Casual Conversations.”
- Speakers Series Each academic year MHS invites faculty members from other colleges and universities as well as health professionals from the larger community to speak about issues related to medicine, health, and society.
- Casual Conversations The Center for Medicine, Health, and Society also invites advanced undergraduate students, recent college graduates, and graduate-level students to come speak to our undergraduate students about preparing for careers in public health; applying to law school, graduate school, nursing school, and medical school; and utilizing the B.A. in MHS for those students who do not intended to pursue graduate-level education. Some of these speakers have also presented their own research designs and findings, providing MHS students with concrete examples of the pertinence of an MHS degree in scholarly research.
Please see our Events schedule for lectures, seminars and special events sponsored by the Center for Medicine, Health and Society.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. Is there a graduate program in MHS at Vanderbilt?
There are several courses of graduate study students may wish to pursue. Medicine, Health, and Society offers both a 4+1 combined B.A./M.A. program and an interdisciplinary M.A. in MHS studies, which would ordinarily be combined with a professional degree or Ph.D.
- The 4+1 Combined B.A./M.A. Program This is a highly competitive program open by invitation only to students who have attained junior standing and shown academic excellence and achievement. This program is available to current Vanderbilt undergraduate students majoring in MHS. For details about this program, please consult page A75 of the Undergraduate Catalog
- Graduate Study in Medicine, Health, and SocietyVanderbilt offers an interdisciplinary Master of Arts and a graduate certificate for other graduate students interested in studying health, health systems and health policies in their social and cultural contexts. It is available to graduate and professional students from the six participating Vanderbilt schools (A&S, Divinity, Law, Medicine, Nursing, and Peabody). External candidates are also considered for admission, as are Vanderbilt undergraduates applying through the 4+1 program in the College of Arts and Sciences.MHS draws on a variety of fields in the social sciences and humanities–anthropology, economics, history, literature, psychology, sociology, philosophy/ethics, and religious studies. It should be of particular interest to students preparing for careers in a health-related profession, and those interested in examining an important part of human experience in contemporary society.It is expected that students who can devote themselves to the MHS program full time will complete their studies in three terms (i.e., two semesters and one summer or three semesters). However, the length of the program will be flexible to accommodate the needs of different constituencies.