David Amsalem, BA’10, MD’15
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.
Michael Cross, BA ’12, MA ’13
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.
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. MHS students learn to think critically about complex social issues that impact health, healthcare, and health policy.
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:
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
- How and when do I declare a major/minor in Medicine, Health, and Society?
- How can I learn about MHS events, curriculum updates, new opportunities, etc.?
- What course(s) would I take as an undergraduate interested in majoring in MHS?
- Can I major in MHS and complete AXLE requirements and medical school prerequisites?
- What are some special features of the MHS undergraduate program?
- Can students do independent study, research, and internships in MHS?
- What kinds of careers do students with a major in MHS enter?
- What if I declared my major before the new curriculum?
- How can I keep in touch with MHS after I graduate?
1. How and when do I declare a major/minor in Medicine, Health, and Society?
Vanderbilt students may declare a major after their freshmen year. To declare your major or minor in MHS, complete the Declaration of Major or Minor Form and the student information form. Take your paperwork to Lisa Hawkins in 300 Calhoun Hall (3rd floor). Ms. Hawkins will assign an adviser and get the adviser’s signature. Next, students should take the signed declaration of major or minor form to the A&S Registrar’s office in 350 Buttrick Hall.
Freshman should work with their pre-advisers and choose courses that satisfy AXLE requirements and count for MHS credit. MHS offers a first year seminar (MHS 115F/1111) and Commons Seminar (MHS 99/1001) each year. We also suggest that students thinking about majoring in MHS get on the MHS student listserv.
Once you declare a major in MHS, you will be assigned an MHS adviser who can help you plan your course schedule. MHS hosts registration pizza parties every fall and spring. Students may attend a pizza party or meet individually with their MHS adviser to discuss course registration. To ensure that the Registrar’s office processes your major declaration before registration, be sure to declare your major before the last day to withdraw from classes that semester.
2. How can I learn about MHS events, curriculum updates, new opportunities, etc.?
Through the MHS student listserv! MHS majors and minors are automatically added to the listserv.
3. What course(s) would I take as an undergraduate interested in majoring in MHS?
MHS majors choose from courses in MHS and other departments including neuroscience, biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, political science, history, philosophy, and economics. Recently offered courses include: Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, Global Public Health, U.S. Public Health Ethics and Policy, Global Health and Social Justice, Men’s Health Research, Community Health Research, Medicine and Literature, War and Body, Narrative Medicine, Death and Dying in America, Masculinity and Men’s Health, Medical Humanities, Perspectives on Trauma, American Medicine and the World, Chinese Society and Medicine, HIV/AIDS in the Global Community, Health Social Movements, Fundamental Issues in Medicine, Health, and Society. MHS approved courses are listed in the Undergraduate Catalog. For a list of current courses offered, click here.
4. Can I major in MHS and complete AXLE requirements and medical school prerequisites?
Yes, many MHS approved courses satisfy AXLE requirements for application to medical, nursing, public health, and other healthcare professional schools. In addition to credit for courses in sociology, psychology, and statistics often required by these schools, MHS offers credit for up to 12 hours from the following list of biomedical courses: BSCI 110a–110b, Introduction to Biological Sciences; BSCI 220/2520, Biochemistry; CHEM 220a–220b/2221-2222 or 218a–218b/2211-2212,Organic Chemistry; NURS 210a–210b/3101-3102, Anatomy and Physiology; NURS 231a/1601, Introduction to Nutrition, and 231b/1602, Nutrition and Health.
Because MHS is an interdisciplinary major, students are able to simultaneously complete their major and AXLE requirements. A list of MHS courses and which AXLE requirements they fulfill is available on the MHS website under the Forms and Resources tab.
5. What are some special features of the MHS undergraduate program?
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. MHS study-abroad programs are available in Copenhagen, Aix-en-Provence, and Cape Town. However, because MHS is an interdisciplinary major, students can typically earn credit toward the MHS major through most of Vanderbilt’s study abroad programs.
Through the MHS Honors Program, qualified majors 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. Students apply to the honors program in spring semester junior year.
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.
6. Can students do independent study, research, and internships in MHS?
Yes. Students may earn MHS credit for independent study, research, internships and service learning projects. MHS 296/3850 (Independent Study) is a program of reading and/or research to be selected in consultation with an adviser. Internships and service learning combine practical training with academic research. Under faculty supervision, students gain experience in a broad range of public and private health-related agencies. Students interested in an independent study, service learning, or internship, should discuss the project with their MHS adviser during the registration period. Forms and project descriptions are due before the first day of class to Lisa Hawkins in Calhoun 300. Students getting internship credit must also schedule a meeting with Dean Yollette Jones and get her approval.
- MHS 296/3850 (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 healthcare.) Students are required to submit a research product as part of their independent study. The content of the product should be negotiated with the faculty supervisor. A typical assignment is a research paper including 5 written pages per 1 credit hour. To enroll in MHS 296/3850, complete the Independent/Directed study form including the project description, your signature, and the signature of the faculty supervisor to Lisa Hawkins in Calhoun 300. We will get the signature of the Director or DUGS of MHS.
- MHS 293 a,b/3880-3881 (Internship) is for students who wish to earn credit for an internship under the supervision of a faculty member. The MHS Student Advisory Board maintains a list of MHS-related internships. Students must enroll in both MHS 3880 and MHS 3881 concurrently. MHS 3880 is a Pass/Fail course; it counts toward graduation hours but does not count toward hours in the MHS major. Students earn credit in MHS 3881 for reading and research conducted in relationship to their community service; MHS 3881 is graded and counts towards hours in the MHS major. To earn internship credit, first contact your MHS adviser or the DUS of MHS to confirm that the project is appropriate. Next, complete the Internship Application and Independent/Directed study form. Turn both forms in to Lisa Hawkins in Calhoun 300. You need not have the signature of the Director or DUS of MHS when you submit your forms to MHS. The DUS and/or Director of MHS will review your application and sign off on the forms if it is approved.
- MHS 294 a,b/3830-3831 (Service Learning) Under faculty supervision, students design a program of community service associated with a set of learning objectives. Complete the Independent/Directed study form including the project description, your signature, and the signature of the faculty supervisor and take the paperwork to Lisa Hawkins in Calhoun 300. We will get the signature of the Director or DUS of MHS. Students must enroll in both MHS 3830 and MHS 3831 concurrently. MHS 3830 is a Pass/Fail course; it counts toward graduation hours but does not count toward hours in the MHS major. Students earn credit in MHS 3831 for reading and research conducted in relationship to their community service; MHS 3831 is graded and counts towards hours in the MHS major.
7. 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. While the distribution changes from year to year, about half of our students go to medical or nursing school and a quarter go to on to public health school, law school or other graduate school. Others go on to careers in hospital administration, healthcare consulting, nonprofits, research, and government.
Vanderbilt offers numerous health-related career resources. The Center for Student Professional Development advises students interested in non-clinical healthcare careers. Cathy Weisbrodt is the head of the health cluster at the Center for Professional Development. Students pursuing a career in medicine should start with the Health Professions Advisory Office (HPAO) and be sure to get on the HPAO listserv. Other health professions resources at Vanderbilt include:
Internships and service are good hands-on way to learn about different health-related careers. The MHS Student Advisory Board maintains a list of MHS-related internships. Students interesting in MHS-related service should start with Vanderbilt’s Office of Active Citizenship (OACS) list of Health, Wellness and Medical Service opportunities. Students can also learn about service and internship opportunities through the MHS student listserv.
8. What if I declared my major before the new curriculum?
Students who declared their major or minor in MHS before fall 2014 may choose to complete the old curriculum requirements or change to the new requirements. Please look for information about changing to the new curriculum on the MHS student listserv. If you have questions, please contact your MHS adviser or the Assistant Director of MHS, Dr. JuLeigh Petty, at JuLeigh.Petty@Vanderbilt.edu .
9. How can I keep in touch with MHS after I graduate?
Join the MHS Alumni Association! Please subscribe at: https://list.vanderbilt.edu and search for MHS-ALUMNI in the Subscriber’s Corner. Stay tuned for alumni events, news, and professional networking opportunities.