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Course Descriptions

Readings in Medicine and Society

HON 3301H, 03912

Dr. Helen K. Valier

In this course, we consider the social and cultural meanings of medicine, health, wellness, disease, and disability from a variety of perspectives including historical, sociological, anthropological, and clinical. We focus primarily on medicine as it is practiced and consumed in the U.S., but do so with an eye to the international and cross-cultural context of American medicine. In addition to such "macro" level analysis, we also seek to explore the local phenomenon of Houston as a "hospital city," home as it is to the largest medical center in the world.

The class is maintained by Dr. Valier, but many of the lectures given on the course are delivered by expert speakers invited from across the UH system and beyond.

Disease in Antiquity

ANTH 3364

Dr. Rebecca Storey

This course will investigate disease from an anthropological and historical perspective mostly in past human populations. The focus will be on certain infectious diseases and how they have influenced human history. While the focus is on the past, lessons for today and the future will be an important point of discussion in lectures. The goal will be to arrive at a biocultural understanding, which focuses on how these diseases influence human health and culture, and how humans influence infectious diseases through their cultural practices and beliefs.

ANTH 3364: Disease in Antiquity 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: concurrent enrollment or completion of ENGL 1303. Effects of disease and health on past populations. Includes the origin of syphilis and the impact of new diseases on Native Americans.

Medical Anthropology

ANTH 4331

Dr. Susan Rasmussen

This is an intermediate to advanced-level, undergraduate course in medical anthropology. The established allopathic professional medicine of "western" (i.e. Euroamerican) traditions has been called "biomedicine," but many alternative traditions exist today, among diverse ethnic and cultural groups. Thus there are variations in health, illness, and healing knowledge, beliefs and practices across and within societies, and these knowledge systems, beliefs, practices change over time. This course examines the social construction and cross-cultural elaboration of health, illness, and curing, including healing practitioners. Also examined are anthropological approaches and issues pertaining to wellness, illness, healing, and health-care. Topics examined include the history of medical anthropology; its theoretical and methodological foundations; the body; issues in illness classification, for example, humoral/thermal and counteractive medical systems; illness narratives in patients' perspectives and doctor-patient relationships; medical pluralism; possession, mediumship, and shamanism; health, illness, and healing in ethnic and socio-economic stratification; and medical technology, specifically, reproductive health and gender-related issues.

Dr. Janis Hutchinson

The growing awareness of the role of culture in health led to the development of medical anthropology as a discipline. Medical anthropology is the comparative and holistic study of culture and its influence on disease and health care. Class discussions will focus on the influence of biology, culture and nature on disease patterns. Disease and health care are common to all societies, but the types of diseases that afflict a given people, and how they perceive and treat their afflictions are variable. In this course we will investigate the relationship between health status and culture by examining aspects of human culture which set limitations on the health of a society and affect people's ability to accept various types of health care. The purpose of the course is to examine the interrelationships between disease and culture, and to examine the role of adaptation in the disease process.

ANTH 4331: Medical Anthropology
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: ANTH 2302 or consent of instructor. Relationship between health and culture including aspects of human culture that affect acceptance of health care and adaptation to disease.

Anthropology of the Life Cycle

ANTH 4337

Dr. Susan Rasmussen

This course emphasizes the human experience of aging, exploring the meaning of growing older in different cultures and societies. In cross-cultural and historical perspective, "aging," "aged," and other related terms and concepts must be placed in quotation marks, for despite their biological basis, all aspects of the life course or cycle are interpreted and elaborated in contrasting ways in different times and places, and are subject to cross-cutting influences such as gender, class, religion, economics, and kinship. The course aims to critically address and describe (and evaluate and challenge) public policy relating to age, as well, in terms of anthropological insights into the cultural construction of aging. Topics include aging and ritual; intergenerational relationships, ageism, the developmental cycle of domestic groups; and transitions from childbearing to post-childbearing status in female aging. Also examined are issues in the ethnographic representation of aging and the aging anthropologist.

ANTH 4337: Anthropology of the Life Cycle 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: ANTH 2302 or consent of the instructor. Cross-cultural analysis of the life cycle, including household cycle, health, gender issues, and aging.

Anthropology of HIV

ANTH 4384

Dr. Janis Hutchinson

In this course we will examine the HIV/AIDS pandemic from biological, social, cultural, historical, policy, and economic perspectives. The purpose of the course is to make students aware of the contexts in which HIV/AIDS has occurred/is occurring and the human consequences of the disease, both for individuals and groups, and for established structures. In the course we will cover a variety of topics including: what AIDS is, what causes it, prevention, impact on individuals, families and globally. Special emphasis will be given to exploring socio-cultural responses to the pandemic and to the long and short-term consequences of the pandemic.

ANTH 4384: Anthropology of HIV 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisites: ANTH 2301 or 2302 or consent of instructor. Overview of AIDS as both a biological and sociocultural phenomenon. What is AIDS, what causes it, who gets it, and how to control it.

eHealth and Telemedicine

COMM 3302

Dr. Shawn McCombs

This course is designed to help you explore, understand, and appreciate how health information is communicated and disseminated through a variety of technologies and various channels of communication delivery. Students will participate in an examination and analysis of selected health Internet resources, Television programming, kiosks, and other related technology-based materials. In addition to investigating select websites (such as NIH and CDC, a representative sample from non-profit health-driven organizations such as the Alzheimer's Association, Women's Health Fund, and American Cancer Society), students will become familiar with informal online support group facilitators and liaisons, and will have the opportunity to observe and report about how individuals manage key health crises.

COMM 3302: E-Health and Telemedicine 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: COMM 3353 or consent of instructor. Examination of how health information is communicated and disseminated through various technologies and delivery channels such as health internet sites, television programming, kiosks, and other elated technology-based materials.

Health Literacy

COMM 3303

Dr. Zhiwen Xiao

This course is designed to introduce you to health literacy, a public health issue, and a variety of educational strategies designed to help improve the health of the individuals and communities. Students will examine definitions and implications of literacy; will become familiar with national and international statistics on literacy; will learn to use and analyze REALM, TOFHLA; will explore methods and findings of studies linking literacy and health outcomes; will explore approaches to adult education and learning, and methods of materials development and evaluation; and will examine approaches to social marketing and media advocacy for health.

By the conclusion of the course, you should appreciate the nature and consequences of literacy for health. You will gain a critical eye in the evaluation of health communications and develop skills in the simplification and development of participatory health education materials.

COMM 3303: Health Literacy Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: COMM 3300 or consent of instructor. The role of diverse communication skills and knowledge in making appropriate heath decisions.

Health Campaign Principles and Tailored Messages

COMM 3340

Dr. Zhiwen Xiao

This course is designed to introduce you to scholarship about health communication campaigns. We will review theories about human information processing, social marketing, social modeling, persuasion, message design and individual differences related to message selection. We will also conduct an historical overview of studies of campaign effects, and engage in a detailed examination of specific techniques for modern campaigns.

By the conclusion of the course, you should increase your understanding of the role of the mass media in contemporary public health campaigns, understand and explain the health campaign planning process, and have experience in designing, promoting, and evaluating health communication campaigns.

COMM 3340: Health Campaign Principles and Tailored Messages 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisites: COMM 3300 or consent of instructor. Selected health campaign exemplars and mass customization of multi media messages to identified segments.

Health Communications 

COMM 4333, 04698

Dr. Jim Query

Have you, someone in your family, or one of your friends, expressed frustration with the U.S. health care system? Although many are quick to blame health care providers for many of the systemic ills, health care consumers share some of the responsibility. This course is designed to help you become better health care consumers and advocates. Different world views about "health" are examined. Poignant case studies are discussed focusing on physician-patient communication, support group communication, communication with and among the terminally ill, and mediated health communication.

COMM 4333: Health Communication
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor. Examination of the nature, contexts, theories, and selected research shaping health care consumers' understanding of health communication issues.

Technology in Western Culture

ENGI 3301H, 13807; HIST 3395H, 13529

Dr. Helen K. Valier

We shall study the technological bases of Northern European culture. We view the industrialization of Europe and America as a process that began in eighth century Europe and continued through and beyond the Industrial Revolution. But we also refer to Ancient, African, Arabic, and Oriental influences on Western technology. The approach is not strictly chronological. We shall, instead, follow certain themes (agriculture, energy, public health, etc.) chronologically, and see how they weave together.

ENGI 3301: Technology and Western Culture (formerly MECE 3301) 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: junior standing. Open to all students who meet the stated prerequisite. Focuses on technological foundations of northern European culture, eighth century through the industrialization of Europe and America. Reference to technological influences from earlier Mediterranean and oriental civilizations.

HIST 3395: Selected Topics in European History 
Cr. 3 per semester. (3-0). Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor. May be repeated for credit when topics vary.

Surviving Katrina & Rita in Houston

ENGL 3396, 31803

Dr. Carl R. Lindahl

Students taking this course will work with the database developed by the Surviving Katrina and Rita in Houston Project [SKRH], a research tool whose quality has attracted the attention of the Social Science Research Council's Katrina Task Force, which is sponsoring the project in its funding efforts. Students will begin by working with individual records to learn the organizing principles and content of the database. They will expand the database by adding to the transcriptions and keywords currently posted.

By midterm, each student will have chosen a research trajectory. Past projects have included research in housing issues, correlation of narrators' physical complaints with traumatic experiences, race and class in the shaping of Katrina narratives, and rumors, legends, and explanations regarding the levees and the assertion that they were intentionally blown. For more information, contact Dr. Lindahl at

ENGL 3396: Selected Topics in English 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisites: ENGL 1304 or equivalent and approval of department chair. Topics vary depending on field of interest of instructor. May be repeated for credit when topics vary.

Literature and Medicine

ENGL 4371,31807

Dr. William Monroe

In this colloquium, we will read and discuss various kinds of stories, poems, plays, and films. Readings will include selections from twentieth-century writers such as A. Conan Doyle, Willa Cather, Raymond Carver, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Walker Percy, Robert Coles, and Richard Selzer. We will also read selected poems and plays and view several dealing with "illness," broadly construed.

ENGL 4371: Literature and Medicine 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: ENGL 1304 or equivalent. Literature by and about physicians and patients: experiences of illness, aging, death, reconciliation, recovery, healing, pregnancy. Emphasis on ethical questions.

Disease, Health, and Medicine in American History

HIST 3303H, 18120

James A. Schafer, Jr.

In this course, we survey the history of American medicine from the colonial period through the twentieth century. The course is organized roughly by chronology, though the following ten themes will be analyzed across time: patterns of health, disease, and death, otherwise known as demography; major movements in medical theory and practice, whether at the bedside or the benchside; the structure of the medical marketplace, or the system of economic exchange between healers and patients, between health product vendors and American consumers; shared patient experiences of health, illness, and patient-practitioner relations; the causes and effects of epidemic disease and the evolution of public health responses; the growing role of medical institutions in medical education and patient care; the factors that affect the development and implementation of medical technology; professionalization, or the growing power and organization of the medical profession; the construction of disease, or the broader social context and cultural representation of health and illness; and finally the evolution of health care policy in the United States. This course therefore emphasizes broad developments in American medicine over time. Specific examples will be used to demonstrate and explain these developments.

HIST 3303: Disease, Health, and Medicine in American History 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor. The history of health care delivery in America, and how disease patterns are related to changes in society. The rise of modern medicine from the seventeenth century to the present; the relationship between the medical profession and society, and ethical issues in medicine.

Science, Technology, and Empire

HIST 4395H , 33442

Dr. Helen K. Valier

Today's global economy and a multicultural society are often cited as unique and distinguishing features of contemporary life. But in fact, these attributes were equally characteristic of ‘modern times' a century, or even centuries ago. The Age of Empire had its own superpowers, its own global economic systems and multinational corporations, its own concerns with social and environmental problems. Then, as now, science and technology enabled this globalization, and was seen as both the cause and the cure of globalization's ills. In this course, we will explore European colonialism as it spread across four continents, focusing on science and technology as providing both the means and justification for the building of Empires.

HIST 4395: Selected Topics in European History 
Cr. 3 per semester. (3-0). Prerequisite: junior standing or consent of instructor. May be repeated for credit when topics vary. 

Human Factors, Ergonomics, and Safety

INDE 4337

Dr. Lawrence J.H. Shulze

This course is designed to expose upper level undergraduate students to the concepts of systems design and analysis with respect to human capabilities and limitations. Knowledge and familiarity with human capabilities and limitations is essential in order to design, evaluate, redesign, and/or modify operational systems to ensure that the system will function at or close to its optimum level. Topics presented within this course include: System design and development, operator error, information processing, information display methodologies, communication, controls, environmental influences on operator behavior and performance, workplace and workstation design, accommodation of work areas to persons with limited abilities, hand tools, and vehicular transportation.

INDE 4337: Human Factors and Ergonomics 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: INDE 4331. Measurement and evaluation of human-machine systems; techniques and procedures for developing and applying principles of human factors engineering to system design.

Experiencing the Future of Health

ITEC 4397H,13091

Dr. Clifford Dacso, Dr. Helen Valier, and Dr. Courtney Moon

This seminar course introduces students to emerging trends in medicine and health from a multidisciplinary perspective and practices critical examination of health-related issues. A series of lectures given by industry and academic experts on a broad range of current topics and visions for the future, including the most important social, cultural, political, ethical, and economic transformations affecting health and their implications for the U.S. and the world, will provide the basis for discussion in this highly interactive class. This is an Honors class in the College of Technology, but registration is not limited to students enrolled in the Technology or The Honors College; however, sophomore or higher standing is required.

The Fellowship in Sustainable Health at The Methodist Hospital is endowed by the Finger family to provide a high-quality learning environment for undergraduate and graduate students in a wide variety of topic areas. Although the primary research focus of the program is health, past Finger Fellows have been assigned projects in the areas of medical and visual anthropology, medical economics, medical device design, biomedical engineering, and sophisticated computer programming. 

The Fellowship is competitive and intellectually challenging, so we are looking for students with a prior record of achievement, strong work ethic, ability to work independently, and an abiding curiosity for new knowledge. Upon selection, Fellows will be assigned a problem to solve that is intimately related to ongoing work. This is a paid, three-month Fellowship for the summer of 2007. Students from all majors and disciplines are eligible to apply, and research conducted during the term of these fellowships can be used to fulfill the internship/externship requirement of the minor in Medicine & Society. We will accept applications for summer 2007 beginning in January. Please contact Amy Harris ( for more information and for application instructions.

ITEC 4397: Selected Topics in Information Systems Technology (formerly OCTE 4397)
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: approval of department chair. May be repeated for credit when topics vary.

Medical Ethics 

Philosophy 3354

Dr. William Nelson

This course is meant to be a mid-level introduction to medical ethics.

About 2/3 of the course is devoted to "micro level" issues, and the remaining 1/3 to "macro level" issues. The former include issues about the value of life, and whether death is always (or ever?) a harm; issues about patient autonomy and medical paternalism; doctor-patient communication, truth telling privacy, and confidentiality; and issues about decision-making, including decisions by proxies.

The last 1/3 of the course concerns access to health care, including some topics in the economics of medicine and insurance. It will of course look at the outcome of the health care reform debates. 

PHIL 3354: Medical Ethics 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: three semester hours in philosophy or consent of instructor. Moral problems in the practice of medicine and in the design of health care systems.

Health Psychology

PSYC 2335

Dr. Mary J. Naus

Health Psychology introduces students to the theories and research studies investigating the interrelationship between the mind and the body in determining quality of life outcomes across the life span.  Topics include health behaviors (e.g., diet, exercise, condom use, medical compliance), health compromising behaviors (e.g, smoking, alcoholism), stress and coping, patient-provider relations, living with chronic illnesses (e.g., heart disease, cancer, AIDs), pain management, terminal illness and death, spirituality, social support, and cultural factors that impact quality of life across the life span.  In addition to textbook assignments, a book of readings provides students with the opportunity to read and discuss journal articles which have been selected to compliment the textbook and enhance the class discussions. The class includes lectures, discussions, evaluations of questionnaires used in health and quality of life assessment, and writing assignments to help students to learn to effectively read and critique journal articles.  Students with interests in psychology, medicine, nursing, social work, exercise and nutrition, and theology help to make class discussions multidisciplinary, reflecting the various points of view included in health psychology and behavioral medicine.

PSYC 2335: Introduction to Health Psychology 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: PSYC 1300. Interaction of psychosocial and physical factors in health and illness with emphasis on relevant research, health care delivery and health policy.

Drug Use, Addictions, and Recovery

SOC 3382

Dr. Russell L. Curtis, Jr.

In this course, students will master the information on historical, socioeconomic, racial, and gender patterns of drug and alcohol use, distributions of these substances, the characteristics of persons who use and distribute, the legal and illegal profiles of use and sale, and how each of these components have changed over time. Students will know how drug and alcohol use and sale are linked with institutional structures and ongoing, "legitimate" processes.

SOC 3382: Sociology of Drug Use and Recovery
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: SOC 1300 or consent of instructor. Institutional processes shaping the definitions of and responses to substance abuse. Gender, racial, and economic influences on substance usage and recovery.

Spirituality And Aging

SOCW 3397

Dr. Andrew Achenbaum

This elective course examines the significance of spirituality over the life course with attention to the theoretical connections among spirituality, religion, and vital aging as well as clinical implications for practice with clients. The class is designed to familiarize students with western and eastern spiritual exercises, life review, and autobiographies as ways to expose older people to possibilities for inner reflections and social connections that traditional religious institutions do not always afford. Upon completion of this course, students will be able to distinguish between spirituality and religion with and across cultural boundaries; trace the importance of spirituality over the life span; demonstrate spiritually sensitive approaches in a manner consistent with the NASW Code of Ethics; Use spiritual exercises as a way to integrate personal and professional dimensions of self, express ways in which spirituality may be influenced by one's gender, class, race, ethnicity, age, and sexual/affectional preference; and describe ways to introduce spirituality into social work practice.

SOCW 3397: Selected Topics 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisites: SOC 3318, junior standing and consent of instructor. May be repeated when topics vary.

ANTH 3350: Women and Health: Anthropological Perspectives 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: ANTH 2302 or consent of instructor. Cultural foundations contributing to women's health status in industrial and developing societies.

ANTH 4352: Biomedical Anthropology 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: ANTH 2301 or consent of instructor. Interrelationships between disease and culture and the role of adaptation in the disease process.

ANTH 4394: Selected Topics in Anthropology 
Cr. 3. (3-0). May be repeated for credit when topics vary.

BIOE 1440: Frontiers in Biomedical Engineering
 Cr. 4. (3-3). Prerequisite: biomedical engineering major. Corequisites: MATH 1431 and CHEM 1331/1111. Basic chemical, molecular, and physiological principles; biomedical engineering sub-specialties including emerging technologies; labs will offer opportunities to apply lecture materials; includes off-campus tours.

COMM 3304: Multicultural Health Communication 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: COMM 3300 or consent of instructor. Diverse ethnic meaning systems and their influences on health behaviors.

COMM 3305: Communication and Catastrophic Illnesses 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: COMM 3300 or consent of instructor. Systematic inquiry into communication practices surrounding catastrophic illnesses such as cancer, Alzheimer's, and HIV/AIDS.

COMM 4397: Selected Topics in Communication 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisites: advanced standing in Communication and consent of instructor. Intensive study with reading and discussion in a selected area of communication. May be repeated for credit with approval of advisor when topics vary.

ENGL 4371: Literature and Medicine 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisite: ENGL 1304 or equivalent. Literature by and about physicians and patients: experiences of illness, aging, death, reconciliation, recovery, healing, pregnancy. Emphasis on ethical questions.

POLS 4363: Science, Technology, and Public Policy 
Cr. 3. (3-0). Prerequisites: POLS 1336 and 1337, or equivalent, or consent of instructor. Examines the political institutions and processes that involve scientific and technical policy issues; public participation and advisory groups; and risk assessment.