What do HSOC students do?

Classes in the HSOC major offer students the chance to explore ideas, issues, controversies, themes, and concepts from the health fields through a perspective rooted in the social sciences and humanities. On this page you can explore some of the recent work created by HSOC students in their classes. For more insight into what you can do with an HSOC major, please check out what our fabulous alumni are up to.


Spring 2023

HSOC 3210: Health in Philly, Past & Present with Andi Johnson.

  • Students in this interactive course conducted two collaborative research projects requested by Philadelphia community health organizations. The first project was a public-facing lit review, in the form of a podcast, or Black Women’s Health Alliance, the second was an interview-based qualitative study of Puentes de Salud’s medical resident training program. 

HSOC/STSC 4114: Sport Science, Medicine & Technology [an HSOC capstone course] with Andi Johnson.

  • Rafael Alvarez ('23) asked how the immigration stories of Latinx immigrants to the U.S. have been impacted by participation in sports. Drawing on an autobiography, interviews in newspaper and magazine articles, a documentary, Twitter posts, and athlete bios on their websites or sponsor websites, Rafael analyzed the immigration and athletic narratives of five individuals and three groups. He concluded that the impact of sports participation on Latinx immigration changes over the lifespan of the athlete: "The journey of a Latinx immigrant athlete begins as they seek an outlet for the troubles they face as an immigrant youth in the U.S. As they continue their involvement in sports, some may find sports to be a mechanism for social mobility, while others' athletic journeys come to a premature end, due to the institutional barriers faced by Latinx immigrants. Finally, they will use the social power they gain due to their status as an athlete to advocate for change on behalf of other immigrant athletes." “From Inclusion to Empowerment” speaks to medical sociologists interested in health disparities in the U.S., especially those interested in mental health and disparities across racial/ethnic identities, as well as to sociologists of immigration or sports.

  • Guthrie Buehler ('24). Guthrie researched the problem of discriminatory route names in rock climbing. Guthrie analyzed climbing media from the 1950s through the present, including materials from The American Alpine Club, the Mountain Project, the Access Fund, a 1940 Yosemite National Park guidebook, the 2014 documentary Valley Uprising, obituaries, and other climbing websites and magazines. Guthrie emphasized "the voices of climbers who have most closely felt the impact of discriminatory naming practices" and also "arguments given by first ascensionists and opponents of renaming efforts." Building on and responding to the work of other scholars who have written about the history of "wilderness," parks, and settler colonialism in the U.S. as well as the history and sociology of climbing, Guthrie demonstrated that "the challenges the rock climbing community has faced in renaming or removing discriminatory route names demonstrate the difficulties in dismantling systems dominated by settler colonialism and patriarchy." “Climbing’s Unspoken Crux” is both convincing and disturbing.
  • Jamie Lee ('23). Jamie Lee’s interests in consumer marketing and health fueled her capstone research investigating the messages and values communicated through the marketing of “athleisure” in the U.S. Synthesizing quantitative market share data with an original discourse analysis of the text and images circulated by the marketing campaigns of three sportswear companies -- Lululemon, Nike, and Sporty + Rich – Jamie showed that these companies successfully market athleisure items as symbols of “persistent self-management” and wealth.Furthermore, Jamie showed that this marketing strategy isn’t new. Drawing on historical scholarship about clothing industries in the U.S., Jamie suggested that today’s “athleisure” trend has roots that go as far back as the Depression and span from South Florida to California. “A Veneer of Athleticism” is a fun, provocative paper that speaks to anyone interested in the history and sociology of "healthism."

HSOC 4242: The History & Future of Genetic Medicine [an HSOC capstone] with Rebecca Mueller.

  • Sarah Wang ('23). Sarah's paper, Surrogacy and Negotiated Motherhood: Investigating the Link Between Gestational and Genetic Motherhood, looked at everything from Facebook conversations to contracts between intended parents and gestational carriers to understand and analyze surrogacy. 

        ABSTRACT: Surrogacy, a process in which a surrogate or a gestational carrier (GC) carries and gives birth to a child on behalf of an intended parent (IP), has been the subject of increasing media attention in recent years. Highly publicized celebrity surrogacy arrangements and numerous high profile child custody cases related to surrogacy have prompted interesting questions about the ethics of surrogacy, the meaning of motherhood, and the regulations (or lack thereof) governing surrogacy. While policies in the U.S. have started to decouple gestational and genetic motherhood, discourse represented by surrogacy contracts and the lived experiences of the stakeholders involved reveal that traditional cultural ideas surrounding motherhood have been preserved — gestational and genetic motherhood remain inextricably connected. This paper focuses on the experiences of IPs, GCs, and other stakeholders to investigate how surrogacy is negotiated and how this process has and has not changed the meaning of motherhood.


Fall 2022

HSOC 0480: Health & Societies with Andi Johnson.

  • Emily Chu ('25). In her paper titled "Picking at the Perspectives: An Analysis of the Efficacy of Isotretinoin," Emily explores how the popular acne treatment, Accutane (or Isotretinoin), "works" from a cultural and social perspective. Through a careful and thoughtful analysis, she concludes that patients and physicians define the treatment's success very differently. 
  • Brinn Gammer ('24). To answer the questions of “What works?” and “For whom?” in the foundational course HSOC 0480, College junior Brinn Gammer described some contexts and legacies of IUD birth control for her final paper. Contrasting the liberating versus subjugating purposes of birth control since the early 1950s, Gammer examined the example of forced birth control in Greenland during the mid- to late-20th century. After promoting rapid modernization in the Greenland and facing subsequent population growth, Danish authorities ordered a mass family planning campaign that resulted in the birth control and sterilization of almost half of Greenland’s native population. Drawing upon course sources, Gammer discussed the difference between efficacy and effectiveness in the context of marginalized populations. She concluded that what interventions work and who they work for depends on the institutions that hold power.
  • Eric Ryu ('26). Eric wrote a short paper on the social construction of health data titled, "Hidden Malpractice: The Underrepresentation of Medical Error in U.S. Mortality Data." 

HSOC 1411: American Health Policy with Andi Johnson. 

HSOC 3327: Birth Culture & Medical Technology with Jessica Martucci. In this upper-level seminar, students conducted oral history interviews with two women who had given birth at least 20 years apart about their experiences with pregnancy, childbirth, and the post-partum period.

  • Aislinn Sullivan ('23) curated her interviews into this fun and interesting podcast (Oral History Project (1).mp3
  • Melissa Nong ('24) chose to combine photographs that her interviewees shared with her and transcribed excerpts from her interviews into an online digital exhibit that explores their experiences.
  • Audrey Singer ('23) created a 3D digital diorama using Tinkercad to represent her stories visually. She writes: 
    "For my oral history project, I interviewed two women who I know from New Orleans, who had very different life stories and birth experiences. As I was interviewing both Jenny and Laurie, there was such distinct imagery that was essential to their stories. For my presentation, I felt a need to create a visual project so that viewers could get a glimpse into the moments that represented the experience to Jenny and Laurie, and I wanted viewers to be able to imagine the moments I couldn’t share on screen. I built a 3D diorama depicting the hospital rooms of Jenny and Laurie, 18 years apart. On the left, Jenny is in her delivery room in 2002, and on the right is Laurie in 1984. For Jenny, I was able to represent the influence of exposure to medicine by showing the fertility graph her father drew when he wanted her to start thinking about having kids. I was able to show the support systems Laurie built in the absence of her mother by having her sister-in-law and the baby nurse in the room. I was able to contrast the experiences of working moms vs. stay at home moms with the looming presence of Jenny’s career taking up so much space in her delivery room, and Laurie’s boss in the corner telling her to go home early and start getting ready for her baby. Each element of the diorama has a note with a brief explanation of what it represents, and the accompanying podcast walks through all of the details."