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Healthcare and Medical Humanities

Why do people in some communities in the U.S. live, on average, 20-25 years longer than people in other communities? Around Richmond, why do the residents of Gilpin Court near the Medical College of Virginia at VCU live, on average, 20 years shorter than the residents of Westover Hills and neighborhoods around UR? Why does Virginia have some counties with the longest life expectancy and some counties with the lowest life expectancy in the U.S.? And what do these disparities say about the impacts of medical access and the social, economic, and environmental determinants of health? These are the main questions that guide this SSIR program.

Explore health policy in Healthcare Studies 200: what makes us sick, what keeps us healthy, and what it would take to give good health the upper hand for all U.S. residents.

Inside the Classroom

Students in the classroom learn why and how over the last century, clean drinking water, modern sanitation, and good nutrition—along with the development of highly effective vaccines, antibiotics and medical treatments of all kinds—have increased average life expectancy by a remarkable 35 or more years. However, in recent decades, disparities in overall health and life expectancy have increased dramatically in the U.S. Extraordinary improvements in environmental health and biomedicine have become increasingly concentrated in wealthier communities, while poorer communities have experienced striking declines in overall health and life expectancy. As this class explores, these disparities have economic underpinnings, significant personal implications, and major political consequences (as the 2016 election illustrated). 

Outside the Classroom

Connect what you learn in class through various experiential learning opportunities outside the classroom. Students attend lectures by public and global health leaders, meet Richmond alumni working in the medical, health policy and public health fields, connect with UR’s medical and health policy student organizations, and attend programs and events.

Students will take two community trips to: (1) Shenandoah National Park in August just before UR starts for hiking, camping, and eco/nature therapy and (2) Bar Harbor Island, Maine over fall break to learn more about environmental health and biomedical research.

Research and Capstone Project

During the spring semester, students work in groups with their classmates to create a capstone project and present it to the University community on a health policy or public health issue.

View the 2019–20 capstone project about COVID-19

Past capstone project topics have included:

  • Comparing U.S. health care with health care systems around the world
  • Mental health needs of college students
  • Sex education and reproductive health
  • Sexual assault prevention & treatment
  • “Hot spotting” the needs of very sick, high cost patients
  • The importance of clean water, air and affordable nutritious food
  • “Nature deficit disorder” and the positive health effects of being outdoors
  • School-based public health and health care services for children
  • The Affordable Care Act and the politics of health policy reform
  • Racial, economic and gender health disparities and access to medical care
  • Being “Pre-Med” and different paths to careers in medicine and health care

About HCS 200

HCS 200 fulfills a requirement for both the major and minor in Healthcare Studies. There is no prerequisite for this course.

Course Fast Facts

Rick Mayes, Ph.D., 

Fall course:
HCS 200: The Medical Humanities (1 unit)

Spring course:
IDST 290: Healthcare Studies Seminar (.5 unit)

Group travel:
Shenandoah National Park (pre-semester in August)
Bar Harbor Island, Maine (Fall Break)

Years Offered: 2018–19, 2019–20, 2020–21, 2021–22