Sociomedical Sciences PhD

The Sociomedical Sciences PhD program is interdisciplinary, with study divided between the Mailman School of Public Health and one of several departments in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Anthropology, History, Psychology, or Sociology ). The PhD is designed for individuals who wish to combine training in history or in a social or behavioral science discipline with research on questions significant to public health and medicine. We train students to advance knowledge in their discipline of choice while also answering questions central to public health. 

This includes applying social science theory and methods to the study of social factors related to health status and healthcare needs, exploring the social structure of healthcare delivery systems, and analyzing the relation between these systems and the populations they are designed to serve.

Fellowships are awarded to incoming students in recognition of academic achievement and in expectation of scholarly success. Research experience is considered an important aspect of the training of graduate students, and most graduate fellowships and graduate research assistantships involve some form of research apprenticeship. (See Approved Dissertation Sponsors.)

Student Profiles

Chris Alley

Claire Edington

Allison Goldberg Siri Suh

Chris Alley

Chris' dissertation, provisionally entitled "Dengue Fever and Trash Collection in Brazil: Politics of Responsibility in Favelas of Rio de Janeiro," integrates methods and theory of public health and medical anthropology in an ethnographic investigation of overlapping domains of dengue fever control and social activism.  Developing a concept of 'public health citizenship,' Chris studies how new dengue prevention policies in Rio promote civil-state trash collection partnerships between government public health entities and socially marginalized waste pickers who struggle for recognition and autonomy in Rio's informal economy of recyclable materials. 

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Claire Edington

Claire's dissertation, "Beyond the Asylum: Colonial Psychiatry in French Indochina, 1890-1954," is the first book length study of the history of psychiatry in Vietnam. It looks beyond the asylum to consider how psychiatry in French Indochina expanded the reach of the late colonial state while working to redefine the relationship between the state and its subjects. The project examines the movements of patients in and out of psychiatric care as a way to better understand how notions of normality and abnormality were produced in negotiations between experts and families and between colonial bureaucrats and colonial subjects. It aims to reorient the colonial history of medicine and public health away from the focus on expert discourses and medical institutions and towards their entanglements with other kinds of colonial projects and indigenous forms of knowledge.

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Allison Goldberg

Allison has 7 years of experience in the field of international health. She is interested in research that focuses on the role of macro-level politics and policy on public health outcomes and improving the demand for, and delivery of, health services. Her dissertation research explores the impact of social networks on childhood immunization uptake in northern Nigeria. This research involved collecting GPS and survey data from mothers about their immunization decisions and community leaders about their perceptions of childhood immunizations in 22 rural neighborhoods. She has worked at ICAP at Columbia since 2008 on projects related to HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, and health systems strengthening throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Allison is now at Abt Associates Inc. as an Associate/Human Resources for Health Specialist in the International Health Division.

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Siri Suh

Having recently worked in family planning and maternal health programs in Senegal, Siri Suh's research interests continue to center on reproductive health in sub-Saharan Africa. Ms. Suh wishes to investigate the silence surrounding unsafe abortion in this region. She is also looking at the role of religion, social constructions of gender and sexuality, politicized national and international reproductive health agendas, organized medicine, and the law in perpetuating this silence. She is particularly interested in how health professionals negotiate decisions to provide clandestine abortions within this context.

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Alumni Profiles

Philip Alberti

Shao-Hua Liu

Marian Moser Jones Rebecca Jordan-Young

Philip Alberti

As AAMC Senior Director, Health Equity Research and Policy, Philip M. Alberti, PhD, supports the efforts of academic medical centers to build an evidence-base for effective programs, protocols, and partnerships aimed at ameliorating inequalities in health and healthcare through research. Dr. Alberti is responsible for working with AAMC's constituents to elevate the status of community-partnered and health equity-related research efforts, identifying emerging funding sources and policy implications for such projects, and disseminating findings to achieve the broadest possible impact. Prior to joining the AAMC in 2012, Dr. Alberti led research, evaluation, and planning efforts for a Bureau within the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (NYC DOHMH) that works to promote health equity between disadvantaged and advantaged neighborhoods. Dr. Alberti holds a PhD degree in Sociomedical Sciences and was a National Institute of Mental Health Fellow in the Psychiatric Epidemiology Training program.

Marian Moser Jones

Marian Moser Jones studies the sociohistorical evolution of the American public-private welfare state and the institutionalization of benevolence. Jones' first book, The American Red Cross, from Clara Barton to the New Deal, is slated to be published in early 2013 by Johns Hopkins University Press. An Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland School of Public Health in the Department of Family Science, Jones currently teaches courses on the human services and Maternal and Child Health, with a focus on their broad sociohistorical context. She has previously served as a Stetten Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Institutes of Health and an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's Science, Technology and Society Program. Jones received her PhD and MPH degrees in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University, and her AB from Harvard College.

Shao-Hua Liu

Shao-Hua Liu is Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan. Her book Passage to Manhood: Youth Migration, Heroin, and AIDS in Southwest China (2011) was published by Stanford University Press and included in the Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute of Columbia University series. The book addresses the intersection of global modernity, heroin use, and HIV/AIDS as they are embodied in a new rite-of-passage among young men in the Sichuan province of southwestern China. Liu's research uses diseases, such as AIDS and leprosy, and crises, like drug use, as the vantage point from which to analyze the nature and trajectory of contemporary social change and health reform in China. Recently, she has been exploring the relationship of food and the environment in Taiwan.

Rebecca Jordan-Young

Rebecca Jordan-Young is Associate Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Barnard College, Columbia University. She is the author of Brain Storm: The flaws in the science of sex differences (Harvard, 2010), a widely-acclaimed book that takes on the science behind the idea that hormones "sex" the human brain. Internationally recognized for her work in critical science studies, Dr. Jordan-Young has lectured at more than 40 universities in nine countries. From 1987 through 2004, she worked on HIV/AIDS prevention, running street outreach programs for injectors and street-based sex workers, and conducting social epidemiology research. Her current projects include "gender verification" of elite female athletes, representation of steroid hormones in science education, and development of "best practice" guidelines for research on sex/gender in domains including neuroimaging and clinical medicine.

 

Careers

Our PhD graduates find faculty positions in leading research and teaching institutions, both in the United States and around the globe; assume senior positions in research and policy, and program development at public health agencies; and apply their research and critical thinking skills working with community-based organizations and in the private sector.

See job titles of selected graduates.

Careers

Anthropology
- Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Pomona College, California
- Associate Professor, Dept. of Sociology and Dept. of Anthropology, Purdue
- Assistant Professor of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, UMASS Amherst
- Assistant Professor, Department of Global Health, George Washington School of Public Health and Health Services

Sociology
- Deputy Director of Research, Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging & Longevity, Hunter College, City University of New York
- Research Scientist, The Fenway Institute
- Assistant Professor of Sociology, Winston-Salem State University

History
- Assistant Professor, Family Science Department, School of Public Health, University of Maryland
- Associate Professor, Center for Health Promotion and Prevention Research, University of Texas School of Public Health
- Associate Professor, Drexel University, School of Public Health

Political Science
- Assistant Professor of Global Health Policy, UNC Chapel Hill
- Assistant Professor of Gerontology, McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, University of Massachusetts Boston

Psychology
- Senior Director, Health Equity Research and Policy, American Association of Medical Colleges