Geneseo will be offering a new interdisciplinary sociomedical sciences minor to students in fall 2016. The minor focuses on educating students who wish to pursue careers in healthcare and the relationship between the natural and social sciences. Assistant professor of anthropology Melanie Medeiros spearheaded the development of this minor, along with two fellow members of the minor’s program committee: associate professor of sociology Elaine Cleeton and professor of sociology Anne Eisenberg.
Cleeton explained that the minor’s goal is to help students bolster both their understanding of the topics and also prepare them for further academic and professional work.
“We’re building this program to incorporate courses from the natural and the social sciences that focus on health care and that recognize the work that many of our students already do by majoring in the natural sciences and minoring in social sciences,” she said. “I know that when students are thinking about health careers, they are better prepared when they combine both the natural and the social sciences. Also, graduate programs look kindly on students who bring some experience from both sides.”
According to Cleeton, sociology plays an important role in medicine when examining topics such as the strengths and weaknesses of emerging modern medicine, provisions of healthcare, human experience of illness and disease and international comparisons of medical care.
Courses for the minor include those in anthropology, sociology, political science, economics, biology, Spanish, geography, business management and history, as well as directed study.
“We wanted there to be an applied element of the course work; here’s the academic side and here’s what it’s like in real life,” Eisenberg said.
According to Eisenberg, this required directed study component can be filled through an ethnography class, a research class or some sort of internship.
Eisenberg added that the partnering institutions for directed study will depend on what the students’ interests are.
“If [students are] interested in public health, then we’ll find a public health agency that will let the student study a particular program,” she said. “If they’re interested in administration, research or social services, we’ll first identify what they want to do—what interests them—and then we’ll find the agency to partner with.”
Cleeton explained that the sociomedical sciences minor is useful for students who may have aspirations to work in Medicaid and Medicare programs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or those who wish to become nurses, doctors or involved in health administration.
According to Eisenberg, the minor took less than a year to be approved. The process for approval includes the submission of the minor’s written description to the Dean of Curriculum and Academic Services and College Senate, as well as discussions with department chairs whose departments are included in the minor.
Eisenberg added that she attempted to bring such a program to Geneseo about 10-12 years ago, but was unsuccessful due to timing issues and the administration’s concern. “The minor needed to reflect the values of a liberal arts college and not have too much of an ‘applied or professional studies’ feel to it,” she said.
Senior anthropology major Alexandra Peraino said that she is interested in pursuing public health and medical anthropology in the future. She added that she believes that this minor will prepare students for the public health field, “especially if a student isn’t science or biology-oriented … but more into policy or just different forms of health,” she said.
Eisenberg expressed her hopes for the future of addressing public health issues.
“I think the more students who understand how different systems interact to affect individual health standing—as well as community health standing—the better the possibilities are in the future for addressing public health issues,” she said. “Having people in the communities who know what kinds of policy and programs are needed for educating people about how to live healthier lives.”