The Human Side of Medicine: Policy, Philosophy, and More!

by Sara Kowalski, Class of 2017, Humanities Fellow

With our distinguished University of Rochester Medical Center right next door, it is easy to get excited about the cutting-edge research in medicine, genetics, biomedical engineering, and more being developed here at Rochester. But no less important is the social side of medicine: public health and its numerous related fields. Public health cannot exist without the medical sciences, and the medical sciences cannot exist without public health—which is why it’s best to be well-rounded and educated in both!

Here is an introduction to just some of the opportunities awaiting you, should you discover a passion for studying, analyzing, and developing medical and biological research and policy from a humanities or social science perspective.

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Bioethics program
Since the beginning of medicine itself, the practice has been plagued by questions of morality and ethics. This is truer today than ever. As we continue to develop new drugs and technologies, we breed new problems, dilemmas, and burning questions. The public health program offers a BA in bioethics, as well as a minor and a cluster. Bioethics satisfies your humanities requirement.

For more on bioethics, check out this other blog post about the Humanities Center’s Bioethics Bootcamp series!

Epidemiology program
Did you know can study epidemiology at Rochester? This program will give you the tools to analyze data and made conclusions to help solve real public health issues, understand the methodologies for studying the development and prevention of diseases, and the framework necessary to evaluate the health of a population. A major and minor are available, as well as a cluster in “epidemiology and statistics” which is actually a natural science cluster, whereas the major and minor would satisfy your social science requirement.

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Health, behavior, and society program

This program is a popular one of public health studies, which will help you understand the complex network of factors that contributes to the health of a society. Factors span disciplines from culture studies to psychology and beyond. A major and minor are available, as well as clusters in “heath, environment, and sustainability” and “medicine in context.”

Health policy program

Give yourself the skills and knowledge to make the world a safer, healthier for us all to live in by studying health policy. This program will immerse you in the policies of the US state and federal governments as well as the policies of private insurers and health care providers. You’ll analyze population health, environmental health, mental health, long-term care, and so much more! This is truly a cross-disciplinary program, and you’ll be diving into subjects such as economics, law, history, etc. A major, minor, and cluster are available. Any of these would satisfy your social science requirement.

Master’s in public health 3-2 program

Earn a master’s in public health in just five years by participating in the 3-2 program! This means earning a BA and MA at the same time over the course of five years. For the first three years you will be considered an undergraduate and for the last two a graduate student. You apply at the crossing-point, the spring of your junior year.

This opportunity is offered through the Department of Public Health at the School of Medicine and Dentistry at the Medical Center, and you will be receiving a first-rate education. You will gain real-world experience in your field and graduate faster than if you participated in a traditional master’s program after your bachelor’s.

Society of Undergraduate Public Health Students (SUPHS)

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Those who study public health know that the power is in the people! That is why public health students of all fields join together in the vibrant organization: SUPHS. This group functions as a resource for public health students as well as a community. Peers help each other plan their post-graduate studies through panels with faculty, alumni, and current students. They also spread awareness of on-going research and internship opportunities. As an added endeavor, they raise awareness of public health issues on campus. After all, that’s what they care all about! An example of this is their week of events every April to support National Public Health week.

SUPHS is very involved on campus, coordinating programs with the Career and Internship Center, the Health Promotions Office and the UR Student Health Advisory Committee, both of which stem from the University Health Services.

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SUPHS also reaches off-campus by organizing trips to the medical center for their Public Health Grand Rounds discussions. And SUPHS reaches out to the greater Rochester community by working participating in a day of service with Foodlink. It is an incredible group to be a part of, and the members work hard together, becoming close friends in the process! Check out SUPHS on Facebook.

About the author


URAdmissions features guest bloggers (both students and staff) who write about specialized programs, events, and opportunities at Rochester.


Leave a comment
  • A great article and this image particularly took my eye – the slogan on the cardboard sign “let your stress ooze away” is so pertinent to the core of many public health issues these days, and particularly those affecting teenagers and adolescents. The society we live in at present adds so much more stress to those that already exist as a normal part of growing up and changing direction for young people. Recognizing stress and then talking about it goes a long way to dealing with it. The students in this image seem to have a good handle on this and their professionalism and caring attitude will help many young people in the future deal with the silent killer.

    ~Harmony (alumnae)

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