Faculty vote to create new Health Studies minor

Photo by Jo Tabacek

Starting in fall 2020, Lewis & Clark students will have the opportunity to enroll in a new Health Studies minor. The curriculum committee, which voted unanimously in favor of the minor, formerly introduced the initiative to the faculty on Feb. 3. A majority of the faculty voted to approve the minor at the April 7 faculty meeting.

This new offering will be headed by Professor of Psychology Jerusha Detweiler-Bedell. It will incorporate courses from a variety of academic departments, connect students with Portland-based internships and build international connections in health-related fields.  

The minor will include a statistics requirement, as well as a foundational requirement fulfilled by either Detweiler-Bedell’s Health Psychology course (PSY 375) or a new Introduction to Public Health course. The third requirement will be a health studies internship capstone, a curricular opportunity for students to get hands-on experience in health-oriented fields.

“In departments (at LC), there’s not one person who is the ‘health’ person, but many of us teach something that’s health-related,” Detweiler-Bedell said.

There will be three categories of electives with multidisciplinary course offerings, most of which are already regularly offered at LC by professors specializing in various health-related topics. The three categories are mechanisms of wellness and disease, psychological and narrative representations of wellness and disease, and global and cultural approaches to wellness and disease. 

Electives will be comprised of courses from the Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, English, Rhetoric and Media Studies, Economics, Sociology and Anthropology and Religious Studies departments, ranging from Perspectives in Nutrition (CHEM 105) to Medicine, Healing, & Culture (SOAN 255). Students will also be able to apply credits from overseas study, with the possibility of expanded overseas opportunities focusing on public health in locations like Mexico, Ecuador, Ireland and South Africa.

The Health Studies minor is one element of an initiative to promote health studies at LC, and will become a part of the Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) plan, an effort to attract and retain students at LC.  After SEM called for proposals in 2018, it became clear that there was a high demand for initiatives to support students interested in going into health-related fields, including health-related internships, volunteer work and advanced advising for students interested in going down healthcare paths.

Many health-related programs already exist at LC, including the Pre-Health Professionals Club and pre-health advising from Professor of Chemistry Julio C. de Paula and Associate Director of the Career Center Adonica De Vault. The aim of the health studies initiative is to combine the resources already offered into a coherent pathway for students.  

“It has been done, and done very well, but in pockets,” Detweiler-Bedell said. “We built on strengths that we already have, but with the goal of better coordinating them.” 

Coordination of health-centered offerings is planned to occur within a health studies center, a curricular and co-curricular home for students, faculty and other community members interested in health. The center will be a source for alumni connections, internships, advising, graduate and research application guidance and speaker series.

“This would be not only a name but a place on campus … a place that students could come, a place where faculty could gather …  a place to exchange ideas and capitalize on the ways a liberal arts education prepares you for being an important part of the world of healthcare,” Detweiler-Bedell said.  

In addition to putting together the minor and a vision for the center, Detweiler-Bedell networked with alumni who have gone on to health-related fields and used their input to help shape the minor. Alumni were enthusiastic about the initiative’s potential.

Tess Gilbert ’08, who works in epidemiologic and health services research, expressed that she would have been involved in the department if it had existed during her time at LC. 

 “Being able to minor in Health Studies and take classes like epidemiology, which isn’t commonly taught at the undergraduate level, will set students up well for future careers and schooling,” Gilbert said via email. “It will help future health care workers have more well-rounded perspectives of ‘health’ and ‘health care.’” 

Detweiler-Bedell clarified that the minor is not only oriented towards students looking to fulfill pre-med requirements.

 “This is more a minor for students who are looking at health from an … interdisciplinary perspective,” Detweiler-Bedell said.

This article was originally published on Feb. 21. It was updated on April 7 after the minor was approved.

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