STS.005 | Fall 2005 | Undergraduate

Disease and Society in America


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1 hour / session

Recitations: 1 session / week, 1 hour / session


The balance between health and disease is a central feature of human life and society. Over the past 500 years there have been major changes in the prevalence and experience of diseases, from epidemics of smallpox and tuberculosis, to the chronic afflictions of obesity, heart disease, and mental illness. At the same time there has been enormous growth in the role of medicine in culture, economics, and politics. Health care is now a major sector of the American economy and it will certainly be a dominant political issue for the 21st century. This course will use a historical approach to explore the changing interactions between disease and society in America, examining: changing patterns of disease, the causes of morbidity and mortality, the evolution of medical theory and practice, the development of hospitals and the medical profession, the rise of the biomedical research industry, and the ethics of health care in America.


As a HASS-CI course, emphasis is placed on oral and written communication. The course thus requires:

  1. Active participation in both lectures and weekly recitation sections.
  2. A series of written assignments.

Recitation Sections

Each week’s readings must be read prior to recitation section. Active participation in the discussions is required. Each student will also co-lead one section. This will involve:

  1. Emailing the other members of the section in advance with a list of likely discussion topics.
  2. Providing a 5-10 minute summary of the readings.
  3. Leading the discussions (with help from the section leader).

Weekly Writing Exercises

There will be a short (200 words or less) writing assignment for each week. The assignments will develop specific reading and writing skills. They must be submitted prior to section each week.


Three papers are required, for a minimum of 20 pages total. As a HASS-CI class, one of these papers must be rewritten and resubmitted.


Each of the six requirements (section participation, weekly assignments, three papers, one rewrite) will be weighed equally.