The HSOC program examines health and medicine in social context.
Our program equips students with a set of interdisciplinary skills, tools, and perspectives that prepare them for a diverse range of careers. Our graduates go on to become leaders in public health, medicine, law, dentistry, nursing, health policy, international health, healthcare consulting, history of medicine, scientific research, education, and a variety of other arenas.
Students in the HSOC major become familiar with the foundations of three core health-related disciplines: medical anthropology, history of science/technology/medicine, and medical sociology. Methods, ideas, and courses from other disciplines and fields—including epidemiology, political science, business/economics, law, environmental studies, nursing, english, and bioethics (among others!)—supplement these core disciplines and provide majors with the variety of skills necessary to grasp the forces that have shaped our contemporary health landscapes, institutions, policies, and experiences.
Graduates of our program are well-rounded thinkers, scholars, and citizens with a passion for improving healthcare.
Whether they choose to work at an individual level at the patient's bedside, at the community level through non-profits and community health organizations, at the institutional level in hospitals, medical offices, laboratories, consulting agencies or clinics, at the structural and systemic levels through policy and law, or at the level of society and culture through the study, production, and dissemination of healthcare knowledge, media, and ideas, HSOC graduates are well-prepared to make their mark on the world.
Students learn from world-class faculty from across the University of Pennsylvania.
HSOC majors learn from leaders in the field. From experts on Medieval alchemy to Global Health to modern American Health Policy and everything in between, the faculty that teach in the Health & Societies major bring cutting-edge work and real-world experiences into their classrooms. There students benefit from access to world-class lectures and small discussion-based seminars. Learn more about our core and associated faculty, and check out our course listings.
Breadth, flexibility, and room to chart your own course.
For an even broader view of what HSOC has to offer, check out the courses listed on our concentration pages. HSOC students are invited to choose from seven unique concentrations:
- Bioethics and Society
- Disease and Culture
- Global Health
- Healthcare Markets and Finance
- Health Policy and Law
- Public Health
- Race, Gender, and Health
Within each concentration, students can select courses from a variety of departments throughout the School of Arts & Sciences as well as from across the University. HSOC majors are permitted to take up to three courses in Penn Law, Perelman School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, Wharton, Annenberg, and the School of Social Policy and Practice. Beyond these pre-curated lists of concentration courses, students are invited to make their own path through our petition process. The majority of HSOC majors choose to petition a course at some point during their time in our program.
What Our Students Say
- "I can't stress how important my Health and Societies major was during my interviews. In fact most of the medical school applications, both the primary and supplemental, in one way or another explored the applicant's understanding of the societal impact and social determinants on health and disease."
- "HSOC classes such as Social Determinants of Health opened my eyes to the numerous systemic issues that affect the health of a person outside of just the medical sphere."
- "I came to Penn knowing that I wanted to go into the field of healthcare. HSOC helped me see the humanities side of health and showed me opportunities to improve people's health beyond a clinical setting. It also intrduced me to so many like-minded individuals who ave been my closest friends throughout my time at Penn."
- "The HSOC major has challenged me to question my assumptions about society, take a broader view of health, and pushed me to consider the ethics of the decisions I make every day."
- "The HSOC major has been an enormous part of my academic journey, as I started Penn as a pre-med student. Through my HSOC courses, I realized that the impact I wanted to have in healthcare at a system level would not be possible as a doctor, at which point I pivoted to the Healthcare Markets & Finance concentration in HSOC to gain a better healthcare business background."
- "I believe that HSOC has provided me with the necessary tools to become an empathic physician who will keep people at the center of the care I provide."
- "I credit HSOC with providing me with a multifaceted understanding of healthcare. It has been invaluable in shaping my goals of becoming an Ob/Gyn who aims to bridge the gap in health disparities in women's health, particularly among minority populations."
- "The HSOC program has equipped me with the necessary skills to understand an danalyze complex health issues and implement evidence-based interventions. The multidisciplinary training in the program has strengthened my passion for global health and prepared me to make meaningful contributions to the field."
For Prospective Students
- Explore the website to learn more about us and our students.
- Reach out to the Associate Director with questions. Any and all appointments with faculty must be arranged prior to visiting campus and depend on faculty schedules and availability.
- If you wish to visit classes, the recommended courses for visitors are listed on the College’s “Courses for Visitors” page. Prospective students should check with the course instructor to make sure that the day they plan to visit is good for seeing the class in action, and that there is no field trip or exam on that day.