The HSSP Bachelor's Degree: Preparation for Your Future
Through the Health: Science, Society, and Policy (HSSP) program, you will explore wellness, disease and treatment through a multidisciplinary lens.
Whether you earn a bachelor of arts (BA), a bachelor of science (BS) or a minor, you will be exposed not only to the biological underpinnings of human health but also to the complex interplay of behavioral, socioeconomic, political and environmental factors that affect it. You will learn about health care systems and public health policy development and implementation. And you will gain real-world experience through a required internship or independent research project. If you’re planning to go into the health professions, HSSP can serve as a pre-med option.
By undertaking this broad, interdisciplinary study of health, you’ll prepare yourself for a variety of professional opportunities. Our graduates pursue careers in such varied fields as medicine, dentistry, nursing, social work, genetic counseling, biomedical research, law, public health and public policy, health advocacy and health administration and law.
Why HSSP at Brandeis?
There are few programs like HSSP in the country. Launched in 2003, ours draws on three major strengths at Brandeis: life sciences, social sciences and the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. The diversity of faculty interests — from the sociology of disability to epigenetics to health law — reflects this interdisciplinary approach.
A core requirement for major and minors is the course Introduction to Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Population Health, content rarely offered to undergraduates. Our hands-on experience requirement equips you with invaluable exposure to a real-world context. You’ll find Brandeis’ signature emphasis on social justice is reflected in our program as you explore the social determinants of health and health disparities as well as bioethical questions.
Academics and Research & Teaching
HSSP is one of the most popular majors at Brandeis. Each year we graduate approximately 100 students. As an HSSP major or minor, you'll enjoy an intellectually and experientially diverse range of learning opportunities focused on health, health care and health policy.
A great strength of the HSSP program is that it is interdisciplinary, which means that you can draw on the expertise of world-class faculty throughout Brandeis as well as choose from well over 100 health-related courses at Brandeis and over 100 health-related courses while Studying Abroad, as well as an array of hands-on-experience which enables students to gain firsthand experience in a health care setting or with a health organization.
As an HSSP major or minor, you'll enjoy an intellectually and experientially diverse range of learning opportunities. Our courses are clustered into three broad focal areas:
Focal Area A: Biological Dimensions of Health & Illness
Focal Area B: Social & Behavioral Dimensions of Health & Illness
Focal Area C: Health Care Policy & Practice
BA candidates and minors may choose from over a dozen electives to hone their research and data analysis skills.
Students pair their HSSP major or minor with course work in anthropology, biology, psychology, sociology, and an array of others.
Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the program, our faculty has a diverse range of interests. HSSP science faculty members engage in research ranging from neuroscience to genetics to infectious disease. Sociologists, anthropologists and psychologists conduct research on aging, medicalization, managing illness and impacts of stress on disease. Heller School policy faculty members are deeply involved in current health reform, development of new drug policies and evaluating quality of medical care.
Students take advantage of peer teaching assistant opportunities. Teaching assistants work closely with the professor to get an inside view of how courses are created and conducted.
If you are motivated to delve deep into a topic and analyze a body of material from the field in a creative and original way, you may consider writing an independent research project or senior honors thesis. Such work can be a highly rewarding experience that requires commitment and perseverance.
Our faculty hail from the life sciences, social sciences and policy realms, and their research reflects this diversity:
Our chair, biologist James R. Morris. is a lead author of the college-level textbook "Biology: How Life Works."
Our associate chair, health policy expert Darren Zinner is frequently published in prestigious journals, such as JAMA, NEJM and Academic Medicine, and is the inventor on two medical device patents.
Sarah Curi, our Undergraduate Advising Head (UAH) and Study Abroad Liaison (SAL), is a practicing health care attorney in addition to teaching and advising at Brandeis. Her areas of expertise include American health law and policy, public health and biomedical ethics.
Mayada Saadoun, our internship instructor, is an expert on public health practices in the Middle East. She is currently examining predictors of post-deployment and long-term opioid use among U.S. Army soldiers.
Sociologist Sara Shostak is the author of "Exposed Science: Genes, the Environment, and the Politics of Population Health," which won the Robert K. Merton Book Award from the American Sociological Association's Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology.
Medical anthropologist Anita Hannig recently launched a multi-year ethnographic research project on medical aid-in-dying in the United States.
Internships and Study Abroad
As an HSSP major, you will be required to complete a hands-on experience (HOE) related to medicine or a life science, a social science or public health, or policy.
To do this, you have many options to choose from, including certain approved internship seminars offered by Brandeis, independent research, a senior thesis, the Justice Brandeis Semester or a health-related study abroad experience.
We encourage both majors and minors to study abroad. Each year about one-third of our students do — many of them with the intention of learning about health and health care in settings such as Denmark, Botswana, India and Chile.
With written pre-approval from the study abroad liaison, it is possible to earn credit for such work. Some study abroad programs fulfill the HOE requirement.
Graduate Study, Careers and Alumni
Students who are considering pursuing a future master's degree at Brandeis may discover their chosen path through one of these two five-year HSSP/Heller degree programs:
Both programs enable HSSP BA and BS students to complete a duel undergraduate and master's degree within five years.
Some HSSP alumni go on to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree in a health-related field while others, often inspired by their HSSP HOE internship, pursue careers in a wide variety of fields including medicine, public health and public policy, education and advocacy. One recent graduate was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to engage in community health research in India.
Recent alumni have gone on to become public health analysts, clinical research coordinators and teachers.