Sociology | SOCIAL PROBLEMS AND POLICIES
S101 | 10672 | Noy


-ABOVE CLASS OPEN TO UNDERGRADUATES ONLY

TOPIC: MEDICINE IN AMERICA: PHYSICIANS, PATIENTS AND THEIR PROBLEMS

The United States currently faces a strange medical paradox: while
the profession of medicine has at its disposal powerful technology
and the most generous financial support ever provided by the public
sector, it is severely criticized for its failure to cure society’s
ills (e.g., cancer, heart disease and AIDS) and for its
unresponsiveness to people’s needs (e.g., issues of cost and
access).

This course explores basic questions on a wide range of topics
dealing with the providers of care, the recipients of care and the
larger context in which both face problems of health, illness and
disease. What is "sickness?" Who is most likely to fall ill? Whom
does the physician act as a "gatekeeper" to for medical care? How do
individuals seek care and to what extent are they coerced into care?
How are these decisions shaped by the society in which we live
including past and contemporary societies? What is the history of
the contemporary medical profession in the United States? What
are "alternative" medical systems (e.g., acupuncture, chiropractic,
homeopathy) and why do people use options outside "mainstream"
modern medicine? Despite the primary focus on the United States,
this course will draw upon comparisons to other countries as well.

The goal of this course is to introduce you to the sociological
perspective which examines how health, illness and healing are
shaped by social factors – demographics, culture, community,
organizations. We will ask how these factors shape the medical
problems that people face and the solutions society and the medical
system offer. In doing so, we explore not just the importance of
social context but how it interacts with genetics, biology,
individuals’ psychology or any other factors, recognizing that
society and individuals are very complex. This course will provide
you with yet another unique lens with which to view physicians,
patients and their problems.