Center for the Study of Health, Culture and Society (1993-2008)

The Center for the Study of Health, Culture and Society (CSHCS) was founded in 1993 and ran until it encountered financial troubles in 2008.  Founded by Randall Packard in History and Global Health, its purpose was to encourage interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to problems of public health importance. Since its inception, CSHCS sought to create a meeting ground for social and health scientists, humanists and health professionals interested in exploring the interplay of health, culture and society. The Center was physically located in the International Health Department of Rollins School of Public Health, but spanned many different departments and schools within the university.

Many of the most pressing challenges to public health can neither be understood nor effectively addressed in the absence of an integrated interdisciplinary perspective. CSHCS fostered new ways of understanding the complex interplay of economic, social, behavioral and biological dimensions of illness and health, through the integration of a wide range of disciplinary and professional perspectives.

CSHCS sought to fulfill its mission by training the next generation of scholars and practitioners whose task it was to address current and future health issues. This training took the form of graduate training fellowships, international research linkages, and the development of interdisciplinary courses. It first focused exclusively on graduate students, and later developed the Emory College undergraduate minor in Global Health, Culture and Society (now administered by the Program in Human Health).

The faculty most closely associated with CHCS were Randall Packard, Peter Brown, Howard Kushner, and Kate Winskell.

The graduate exchange fellowship program developed by CSHCS was very successful and unique in the country.  It provided a graduate stipend and tuition waiver for PhD students in the Arts and Sciences to take courses in RSPH for a year, and likewise RSPH graduate students to take courses in a wide variety of programs.  Admission to the fellowship program was very competitive since there were only two students from each school selected.  The CSHCS fellow participated in all of the center’s activities, especially the seminars with visiting speakers (who had given a public lecture the evening before).

Many of the PhD students came from the Anthropology Department and were able to use the fellowship year as the foundation for earning an MPH degree.  RSPH students proposed their own post-graduate course of study in departments such as Religion, Chemistry, Anthropology, Women’s Studies, History and Theatre.

Roughly 10 events were sponsored each academic year. Topics for seminars included:

  • The meaning of “community” in 21st century public health
  • Health and human rights
  • The role of narrative in medicine and public health
  • Emerging illnesses and communities of suffering
  • Ethics of AIDS research, prevention and control
  • Multidisciplinary approaches to the study of addiction
  • “Race,” racism and health
  • Community responses to environmental threats
  • Tuberculosis in Georgia
  • Malaria and economic development
  • Antimicrobial resistance and the pharmaceutical industry
  • Aging and public health
  • Religion, spirituality and population health

A number of these seminars were developed in cooperation with other interdisciplinary programs at Emory, like the Program in Science and Society.

A series of seminars funded by the Sawyer Foundation led to the publication of a volume entitled Emerging Illness and Society (2004, Johns Hopkins University Press).

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