UC San Diego Offers New Major in Global Health
Undergraduates at UC San Diego will now be able to pursue a bachelor of arts in global health – an increasingly popular new field of study and urgent social concern.
Tom Csordas, chair of the anthropology department, is the program’s director. The Global Health Program is truly interdisciplinary, he said, bringing together coursework and faculty from the UC San Diego divisions of Social Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Arts and Humanities, the School of Medicine, the Rady School of Management, and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
The word “global,” he said, refers both to geography – encompassing health concerns around the planet, at home and abroad – and also to the program’s holistic approach.
“The program balances pragmatic real-world experience with theoretical, analytic and critical skills. We aim to offer students a comprehensive introduction to the ‘hard’ and ‘flexible’ sciences that together make up the emerging field of global health,” Csordas said. “Our curriculum spans the continuum of approaches to health: medical social sciences, biological sciences, health policy and planning, epidemiology, global social processes and medical humanities.”
An important component of the bachelor’s degree, as it is with the minor, is a global health field experience comprised of 100 hours of work at a research, service or clinical site. In the case of the B.A., that fieldwork also culminates in a capstone seminar and a senior thesis, which students will present to the university community at the program’s annual Horizons of Global Health conference.
Csordas pointed out that the program is highly student-centered and closely articulated with both the university’s Global Health Initiative and with three (of four) research themes outlined in UC San Diego’s Strategic Plan: Enriching Human Life and Society, Understanding and Protecting the Planet, and Understanding Cultures and Addressing Disparities in Society.
Campus partners of the program also include the International Center, the Academic Internship Program, the Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies, the Center on Global Justice and the Blum Cross-Border Initiative.
Students are excited about the program, Csordas believes, because it affords them so many different avenues following graduation. The Global Health Program is intended, he said, to pave the way for work in health sciences, research and teaching, service-providing organizations, government or non-governmental agencies, health policy, environmental health, or law. It is also excellent preparation, he said, for advanced study in medical or graduate school.
Junior Michelle Bulterys recently upped her global health minor to a major and is now double-majoring along with sociocultural anthropology.
“It’s an incredible program,” said Bulterys, who serves on the program’s Student Advisory Committee. She cited in particular the opportunity to take classes you might “not even know about” in a more traditionally single-discipline major.
This past summer, Bulterys spent two months in South Africa doing anthropological research with a global health focus. She home-stayed with a family in the village of Hamakuya, which still struggles with the consequences of Apartheid, she said, and studied “both traditional healing practices and care-seeking behavior in a bio-Western facility.” The data her group collected were turned over to local health authorities.
Before coming to San Diego for university, Bulterys went to schools in China and Zambia (where her parents’ medical work took the family). Bulterys plans to pursue a career in medical anthropology and epidemiology. She expects she’ll seek to return abroad soon after graduating but may stay in the U.S. for a while.
“Global health has no boundaries,” Bulterys said. “It’s about interacting with the whole world.”
To learn more, visit the program website or write to Program Advisor Brittany Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 858-534-7967. You can also find and follow the Global Health Program on Facebook and on Twitter.