Frequently Asked Questions

View our Frequently Asked Questions about the HSSP program


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The husband-wife team of neuroscientists Sacha Nelson and Gina Turrigiano are unlocking the secrets of the brain.


The HSSP program, which draws on a considerable range and depth of expertise in the College of Arts and Sciences and The Heller School for Social Policy and Management, is designed to:

  • Expand students' understanding of the biological, behavioral, social and environmental factors that promote health or cause illness.

  • Introduce students to the political, economic, legal, public-health, and organizational dimensions of health care systems in the United States and throughout the world.

  • Provide HSSP majors with “hands-on experience”’ in either an internship (in a health-care delivery, public health or advocacy organization), a laboratory (studying the biological basis of health, behavior or disease), or a field-based research project (investigating aspects of health or illness in a social context).

  • Provide HSSP majors  with the opportunity to integrate their academic coursework and supervised fieldwork or laboratory experiences across a number of health-related disciplines through a team-taught, capstone seminar.



Knowledge:  The HSSP program emphasizes knowledge and awareness of health from the perspectives of science, society and policy in both US and global contexts. Students completing the major will achieve significant competency in  understanding:    

  • The nature of disease and illness from a basic scientific perspective.  

  • The social and cultural contributions to health and illness.

  • The impact of health care system in diverse social and cultural settings.

  • How public policies in health and health care are developed, implemented, and evaluated.    

 Core Skills:  Students completing a major in HSSP will also acquire important core analytic thinking and quantitative reasoning skills including the ability to:      

  • Synthesize information and perspectives from different disciplines, especially but not exclusively about health and health care.

  • Critically think about and evaluate health care system organization and delivery.

  • Provide a first hand experience with a health-related organization; this teaches students how to function in and evaluate a “real world” situation beyond the classroom.

  • Critically evaluate health issues with epidemiology, basic biostatistics, and quantitative reasoning.

  • Research health‐oriented problems and analyze and communicate findings in both written and oral presentations.

 Social Justice:  The HSSP curriculum provides the tools for those committed to the Brandeis ideal of learning in service of social justice.  The HSSP graduate will come away with a strong understanding of:   

  • The social determinants of health and disease and health disparities and the impacts of social inequality on health.

  • Issues related to access of health care and health reform options.   

  • Social and cultural differences as they pertain to health.

  • Selected major bioethical issues.