The Medical Sociology Minor

The Medical Sociology minor is a little-known gem in the sociology department. As a neuroscience major (BBB) with interests in the health field, this minor really appealed to me when I discovered it. I didn’t know about it until I took Intro to Sociology (SOCI001) during my freshman spring. I took the class to fulfill two general education requirements: Society Sector and Cultural Diversity in the US. Then, one day in class, I stumbled upon the minor and the rest is history.

Conveniently, that class was the first of six requirements for the minor. The two other required classes are Intro to Sociological Research (SOCI100) and Medical Sociology (SOCI175). I took the latter during my sophomore spring with Jason Schnittker. Medical Sociology introduced me to the basics of healthcare availability and health status on a societal level through the lens of different factors (e.g. socioeconomic status, education, race, gender, age). While I really enjoyed that class, I was kind of dreading Intro to Sociological Research. To me, it sounded a little dry; but it turned out to be the furthest thing from that. I took the class last semester (junior spring) with Melissa Wilde. Prof. Wilde was incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about the different sociological research methods we were studying, so much so that I started looking forward to going to class every day. This class taught me how influential the professor’s charisma and care for their field could be for the class’s quality. The three other classes required for the major had a lot more flexibility. There’s a methods course, a substantive course, and a final class in a related discipline. My methods course was Population and Society (SOCI007). This class looked at different populations across the world and examined how and why population sizes differed. My substantive course was Mental Illness (SOCI277), also taught by Jason Schnittker. This class was what drew me to the minor in the first place. We discussed different psychiatric illnesses, vulnerabilities that lead to them, and biases surrounding them.

Finally, as a BBB major, I had already taken many classes that could count as my “related course.” I chose Drugs, Brain, and the Mind (BIBB270) taught by Michael Kane. This class looked at different recreational and therapeutic drugs and examined how they affect neuronal circuitry, neurotransmitter levels, and behavior. Not only was the class great, but so was the professor. Prof. Kane was both knowledgeable and relatable. After taking his class, he became my major advisor and I will hopefully be taking another class with him in my last semester at Penn.

- Grace M.