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Frequently Asked Questions

I’m thinking about declaring a MHS major/minor but I want to talk to an advisor first. Who can I talk to?

You may reach out to the Director of Advising, Courtney Peterson, at She will be happy to schedule a Zoom session with you.


How and when do I declare a major/minor in Medicine, Health, and Society?

Students may declare a major or minor in MHS, after their first year, using the Declaration of Major form. Please fill out the form and email it to You will be assigned an adviser and the adviser’s signature will be provided. You will then be instructed to email the signed form to your school’s Academic Services office for processing. For more information, click here.

First-year students 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 1111) and Commons Seminar (MHS 1001) each year.

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 advising parties every fall and spring. Students may attend an advising 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.


How do I change my MHS concentration?

To change your concentration, you will need to fill out the major declaration form. One line needs to list your current concentration with the “drop” box checked off, and the second line needs list your new concentration with the “add” box checked off. Then send the form to your MHS advisor, who will need to sign both lines to indicate their approval. Your advisor will review your degree audit to make sure the change keeps you on track for graduation. You will then need to email the signed form over to your school’s Academic Services office so they can update your degree audit accordingly.


I see that there are open spots in an MHS class that I want to take. Why am I still on the waitlist?

Many MHS classes have reserves. Classes may be open only to MHS majors/minors or there may be reserves for cohorts of students from each grade level. 


Can I petition for a course not listed under the MHS approved courses to count for MHS credit?

Juniors and seniors may petition for a non-approved course to count for MHS credit using the course variance request form Students may have a maximum of two variances during their undergraduate careers.


My degree audit looked fine last semester, but now there are errors. What can I do?

YES sometimes reallocates classes for students. In order to correct errors, please fill out the Audit Change Request form This will be sent to your advisor for approval. Once approved, your advisor will send the information to Arts and Sciences Variances. Please allow a few days for the University to process the changes.


I am enrolled in a disciplinary course/have taken a disciplinary course, but it isn’t showing up in my degree audit.

If you have already completed your elective and concentration requirements before enrolling in a disciplinary course, it may not be reflected in your degree audit. The same can be true when you have taken a disciplinary course. YES frequently substitutes newer courses for older ones.   In order to correct errors, please fill out the Audit Change Request form This will be sent to your advisor for approval. Once approved, your advisor will send the information to Arts and Sciences Variances. Please allow a few days for the University to process the changes.


Can students do independent studies and internships in MHS?

Yes. Students may earn MHS credit for independent study, internships, and service learning projects. MHS 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. Please visit the following page for more information:


Can I take an MHS class pass/fail?

The University states that you may not take any course pass/fail that counts for your major/minor or AXLE.  Even if you are not using the class to fulfill your major requirements, you cannot take it pass/fail.


I want to take a course over the summer at an institution in my hometown. Is this allowed? How do I get MHS credit for it?

All external courses must first be approved by the University’s External Education Unit. You can learn more about that process here Once approved for credit at Vanderbilt, you may use the course variance request form to petition the course to count for MHS credit. If the course is approved as MHS 2050 (MHS No Equivalent) it will automatically count as an elective.


What are some special features of the MHS undergraduate program?

The flexibility of the MHS curriculum allows 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 the spring semester of their 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.


What kind of careers do students with a degree in Medicine, Health, and Society 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 another graduate school. Others go on to careers in hospital administration, healthcare consulting, nonprofits, research, and government.

Vanderbilt offers numerous health-related career resources. The Career Center advises students interested in non-clinical healthcare careers. 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: Vanderbilt Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Health Society (AED) and Vanderbilt Pre-Nursing Society.

Internships and service are good hands-on way to learn about different health-related careers. Students interested 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.


How can I learn about MHS events, curriculum updates, and new opportunities?

All MHS majors and minors are added to the MHS student listserv. The department sends out a weekly newsletter with updates and opportunities for students. Students who have not declared a major or minor in MHS can check the website, Facebook, and Twitter for news and updates.