New USM Minors Examine Health and Well-being from Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Published 3:36 pm Monday, July 19, 2021

After experiencing a global pandemic; as we prioritize the need of rethinking health, well-being, illness, and medical care, areas of study at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) can help us broaden perspectives and gain insight into the humanistic and social aspects of life.

The School of Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development (ISPD) at USM is launching two new minors to introduce students to different approaches in the study of health, well-being, and medicine, including: Health and Medical Humanities and Social Science and Medicine. The minors will be available beginning in Fall 2021.

“In recent years, medical schools have increasingly come to recognize the value of the humanities and social sciences. But in 2021, having lived through a global pandemic, we all are in a position to appreciate interdisciplinary perspectives about health, illness, and medicine,” said Dr. Ann Marie Kinnell, director of ISPD.

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“The new minors leverage USM’s cross-disciplinary potential, given the number of faculty members whose creative activity, research, and teaching already takes an interdisciplinary approach to health and medicine,” she added.

Such cross-disciplinary minors are now in place at several institutions across the nation, including Vanderbilt University, Furman University, Northern Kentucky University, Rochester Institute of Technology, Indiana University, East Tennessee State University, Marquette University, and University of Miami.

At the undergraduate level, the minors will allow all students to gain insight into their own and others’ experiences of illness, disabilities, and medical treatment; pre-professional health, nursing, and public health students will prepare for their careers and strengthen their applications for medical school and other graduate programs; students majoring in humanities and social science fields will develop interdisciplinary skills for careers involving writing, non-profit fundraising, and communication, and development in the government and non-profit sectors.

Health and Medical Humanities


The new Health and Medical Humanities minor explores health, illness, and medical care through a social and cultural lens by studying English, history, philosophy, sociology, and the arts.

“This new minor is strong preparation for those interested in healthcare professions, but also will interest all students who want to understand humanistic ideas about health and embodiment, and reflect on the ways that medicine intervenes in our embodied lives,” said Dr. Emily Stanback, coordinator of the Health and Medical Humanities minor and associate professor of English.

Some of the course offerings will have students:

  • Discuss bioethical questions in contemporary medicine;
  • Examine literature about disability, mental illness, and death, and learn the history of medical practices and ethics;
  • Address systemic issues in healthcare and how race, class, disability, gender, and sexuality can impact medical access and care;
  • Understand the elements of effective communication between medical professionals and patients and how narrative shapes doctor-patient relationships; and
  • Study the arts in therapeutic settings and how creative expression can contribute to individual and collective well-being.

The minor includes 18 hours of required and elective courses. Interested students are encouraged to contact program coordinator Dr. Stanback.

Learn more about the Health and Medical Humanities minor.

Social Science and Medicine


The new Social Science and Medicine minor allows students to dive deeper into the complex social aspects of medicine and how it impacts healthcare and those receiving it.

“Students pursuing this minor will learn to identify and analyze the social, behavioral, and cultural factors that influence how people from diverse backgrounds perceive and experience health and illness,” said Dr. Mehdi Barati, coordinator of the Social Science and Medicine minor and assistant professor of economics. “They will be given the opportunity to examine health and illness from an integrated, social science perspective.”

Some of the course offerings will have students:

  • Understand the cultural implications of healthcare experiences;
  • Become equipped to enter and navigate the healthcare system;
  • Understand the social context of health in our society; and
  • Understand how economic and social forces affect health outcomes.

The minor includes 18 hours of required and elective courses. Interested students are encouraged to contact program coordinator Dr. Barati.

Learn more about the Social Science and Medicine minor.