A fellowship and workshop focused on global health research will be introduced this year for undergraduates, although it will be at least a year before Yale College can offer a health studies major, Associate Dean of Sciences William Segraves said.
Segraves confirmed late last week that the Health Studies Advisory Committee and the office of International Education and Fellowship Programs will offer funding to five or six students who wish to conduct health-related research overseas this summer. He said the fellowship, which has been a long-time goal of the committee, has been in development since September of this year.
The fellowship will be complemented by a non-credit “Global Health Research Workshop” for Yale undergraduates, taught by assistant professor of epidemiology and public health Kaveh Khoshnood. IEFP Director Barbara Rowe said many students have expressed interest in conducting health-related research abroad and the workshop will provide the mechanism for designing projects that are both “feasible and sensitive to the host culture.”
Khoshnood said his goal for the workshop is to prepare students academically for their abroad experiences. The course will be structured as a set of six two-hour sessions, discussing techniques to design a project in a “resource-limited country,” data collection and analysis, and the ethical issues involved in conducting research, he said. While Yale is adept at helping students coordinate the funding and logistical aspects of independent international research, Khoshnood said, he thinks the University has not directed enough attention in the past to proper discussion of the ethical and academic issues that come up during research abroad.
“There are a whole host of ethical guidelines that students should be aware of before they get on the plane,” he said. “[Teaching students about these issues] is something we need to do as a school, as a University.”
The 15 students admitted to the workshop will also develop proposals for their summer projects, he said.
Khoshnood said he has seen growing interest in health studies for the past two years. The number of undergraduates taking his graduate course, “Public Health Issues in HIV/AIDS,” increased from two students to 14 last spring, he said.
Segraves said the structure and requirements of the health studies major have not been determined yet, but potential new courses are slowly being identified. He said a new health-related seminar will be offered this spring, in addition to professor Elizabeth Bradley’s political science course, “Health Care in the United States.” Another three or four new courses will be added next year, Segraves said.
“Before we call something a major, we need to make sure we have everything we need in place to make it a robust and successful major,” he said. “It’s not something that happens overnight.”
Rob Nelb ’08, who has been actively campaigning for the health studies major and was recently appointed to the Health Studies Advisory Committee, said he thinks any new resources to help students pursue this field are useful. He said many other universities already offer majors in public health and Yale needs to step up and maintain its leadership in undergraduate education.
Nelb is a staff columnist for the News.
“It’s important to have a major because health studies really is a discipline all to itself and also because interdisciplinary perspective is so important to helping leaders prepare for tomorrow’s health challenges,” he said.
But some students, like Yang Ding ’08, said they think a health studies major could become a default pre-medical major. As a pre-med student, she said, she would not have selected the major because she thinks it would not have given her as much freedom to explore fields outside of the health field as an undergraduate.
Michelle Gosselin ’07, who is also pre-med, said she agrees that the major sounds pre-professional, which seems at odds with the liberal arts focus of Yale’s other majors.
Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said the health studies major will provide an interdisciplinary study of human health throughout the world and will include courses in health economics, medical anthropology, health psychology, public policy and human biology.
Segraves said money donated to the development of a health studies major through the Yale Tomorrow campaign will sustain the growth of the field for undergraduates.