Health, Medicine, and Society

The Health, Medicine, and Society (HMS) program seeks to integrate coursework relevant to the field of medicine from across many disciplines.  It is meant to serve students interested in a wide range of career paths, from medical provider (physician, nurse, physician assistant, midwife) to health care administrator, from public health to healthcare policy.  The program is built upon the conviction that questions about health and healthcare can only be meaningfully addressed by integrating different disciplinary perspectives.   Thus, it provides a framework for navigating a wide range of classes ensuring both breadth of exposure and depth of perspective.  Students will devise a personal course of study within the structure laid out below.  Due to the integrative and interdisciplinary nature of the program, all HMS students are strongly encouraged to consider making HMS a second major, expanding and enhancing a primary field of study.  

The program is structured around five broad areas: 

  • Natural Science covers basic biology and chemistry.  Such disciplines provide an important foundation for our understanding of health, and our development of possible medical interventions and public health programs.
  • Medical Humanities brings the interpretive and conceptual resources of philosophy, literature, religious studies and history to bear on our understanding of health and healthcare.  They place illness within the broader context of lived experience, and help us to understand its ethical and existential import.
  • Policy and Management recognizes the complex legal, political, and economic context that defines how we respond to health challenges.  Courses in this area provide important skills for developing and analyzing health policy, and for managing complex healthcare organizations. 
  • Person and Society draws on the rich traditions of medical anthropology, sociology and psychology.  Such fields help us to understand the complex social and personal forces that shape health and disease, and our responses to them.
  • Global Health acknowledges the challenges and possibilities for tackling health problems on the global stage.  Courses here aim to provide practical skills for working across cultures, and conceptual resources for understanding issues of deeply routed cultural significance.

In addition to this interdisciplinary focus, the HMS program is committed to healthcare as a form of service.  The completion of an HMS degree requires a practical internship or service project as the foundation of the major capstone.

The flexible, interdisciplinary nature of the program requires careful planning with an advisor.  Students interested in the program are strongly encouraged to take the foundational seminar (HMS 100) at the first available opportunity, typically in the first year of studies.