Sociology Major

Global Studies Certificate: Health and Wellness 


Throughout my time at the University of Pittsburgh, I have taken courses that intersect between my sociology major and my Global Studies (health and wellness) certificate to become broadly educated in global, public, and community health, as well as developing a sociological lens through which to view issues both directly and indirectly concerning health and wellness around the world.


Coursework Descriptions

This course was the beginning of my trajectory in pursuing Global Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, as my worldview was broadened from my narrow view of Oakland to issues impacting people across states and nations around the world, transcending boundaries. Through this class, I learned not just about the theory, such as theories of global capitalism or neoliberalism, but also learned about issues such as hunger, environment, and water, and how these issues impact my life differently in relation to those unfairly bearing the effects of climate change, scraping by with minimal caloric intake, or even struggling to get their hands on clean water.

A moment from this class that still impacts me today was learning about fast fashion, the garment industry, and the disturbing 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh. I was enraged at how the blatant refusal of following safety compliances in building the factory led to comprised structural integrity that killed the 1,134 that day. Then, Professor Rouse asked our class to check our classmates’ clothing tags and see where our clothes were made. Upon seeing that my tag said “Bangladesh”, I was speechless. I could not believe that I was wearing one of my favorite sweaters, which I had not paid that much money for, without realizing for a second before this class, that somebody else had most likely risked their safety and life creating for little pay, with a life mired in the strangling clutches of poverty. I left Professor Rouse’s class that day forever changed, unable to forget the global implications of my life and my actions.

This course was really influential in developing my passion for global health. I chose to take this course to learn more about global health systems and learn about the health landscape of those who live in communities and countries completely different than my own, after being impacted by a very meaningful experience abroad building a latrine and hygiene station with the Pitt Global Public Health Brigades May of my freshman year.

Through this course, I learned about many fundamental concepts in global public health, such as key health indicators, determinants of health, the global burden of disease, and the impact that education, poverty, and culture has on health. What was most impactful for me, however, was learning about the significance of maternal health to the health of nations around the world. I learned that maternal mortality is a good reflective indicator of the health of a country, and that the health of the mother and the child are intimately tied together—that is, if you don’t have a healthy mom, you can’t have a healthy baby either. I was also really surprised to hear how high maternal mortality is for the US among developed nations despite having exorbitant health care expenses, and from this course, moved forward being motivated to explore social determinants of health that impact the health of mothers around the world.

This course taught me the core concepts that define the sociological approach to health, illness, and health care. We covered a broad variety of topics from social epidemiology, social stress, the socialization of physicians, the complex US health care system, ending with a thought for the future—what are the social implications of advanced health care technology? We also had several guest speakers come in for lectures, which supplemented and expanded on what we were learning in lectures. I was especially impacted by Michele Klein Fedyshin’s talk on “Hospice & Palliative Care: the Unmedicalization of Death and Dying”, which made me reflect on human mortality and learn more about barriers to quality care at the end of life. Christopher Bise’s talk on “The First Contact Practitioner: Changing the Delivery Paradigm for Musculoskeletal Care” was also extremely impactful. I was surprised to learn during this talk how injuries and diseases related to the musculoskeletal system and connective tissue make up a significant component of our disease landscape, and furthermore, how PT’s, not physicians, are the best suited to be the first contact practitioner for handling these issues due to their focus on musculoskeletal education. I was so impressed by learning about the significant role the PT’s play in fact, that I was almost moved to become a PT myself through this talk!

This course greatly deepened my understanding of public health and the social and behavioral sciences in ways that I believe will be very beneficial to my future career path. We began in this course by exploring the ecological perspective in health, then moved on to talking about factors that affect a population’s health from behavioral and psychological factors, to the social, political, and economic determinants of health. Equipped with this knowledge, we moved even deeper to examine how structural bias and social inequities and racism create barriers to achieving health equity. Finally, towards the end of the course, I had the opportunity to sharpen my qualitative research skills through participating in a focus group in class, as well as completing interview coding assignments. I also learned something I had never been exposed to before—how to design SMART objectives to evaluate health promotion programs and also identify appropriate stakeholders and build coalitions and partnerships. With every week, we not only learned through paper reading, class lectures and discussions, but also, we were assigned a weekly paper writing topic in which we had to apply the concept learned in class to a public health issue for a culture or country of our choice. I chose to explore exercise and healthy eating to decrease poor outcomes from unmanaged diabetes among adults (ages 40-50) in Polk County, Central Florida for the duration of the term.

This course was one of the most influential courses that I have taken as a part of my Global Studies certificate, and as a result of taking this course, I have been able to learn major concepts related to indigenous health systems, health, and belief systems as they relate to the body, as well as cultivate my skills within anthropological field work and other qualitative research. Through various class reading assignments, discussions, and speaker presentations, I learned about issues regarding the double burden of undernutrition and excess body weight in Ecuador, traditional medicinal plants, changing environmental concerns, and what equitable care for indigenous Latinas looks like. What was especially unique about this class was that my classmates and I had the opportunity to explore issues regarding intercultural health care in Ecuador and what barriers and challenges exist in integrating Western and Indigenous medicine by visiting and talking to health professionals from a variety of health care sites ranging from the Tena city hospital, to a market and pharmacy, to a traditional indigenous midwife center (AMUPAKIN), and the Chonta Punta health post (clinic). Furthermore, we were assigned groupwork in this class where my classmates and I had to develop research questions of interest, develop an interview guide, and interview two members in our surrounding community. My course experience culminated with a mini-ethnography that I wrote based off of my fieldnotes and interviews.


I did not know much about drugs—or history, for that matter when I first started this course. In fact, taking a history course was a step out of my comfort zone, as someone who did not really enjoy history previously. To my great surprise, this has ended up being one of my most favorite classes of my undergraduate experience.

Each week, we’ve taken a drug (chocolate, sugar, ginseng, and marijuana being some of my favorites) as a case study to explore questions of “what is a drug?” “who defines and regulates what is a drug?” and “what’s normal?”. In conjunction with lectures, we write a weekly thinkpiece in which we practice our close reading, analytical, and argumentative skills.

As a result of this course, I have a much greater understanding and appreciation for history, as well as a richer understanding of the global history of drugs. Dr. Nappi, our amazing instructor, has taught me that history is more than memorizing facts and dates and historical events. History is all about who’s telling the story, their agendas and motivations, and especially the EVIDENCE that is used to make the argument. Furthermore, I have been surprised to find great parallels between my major, sociology, and history. Often, the global history of drugs has been shaped by state institutions for their own purposes, and who wields the authority and power has been extremely significant in shaping the global landscape of drugs, past and present.

Other Relevant Courses

From the start of colonialization, race has had a profound influence on local and global socioeconomic relations, and as such, this course has been a great way to revisit topics that I have covered in my other Global Studies courses, relearning everything through the perspective of race. Racial relations are ones that have been touched upon or covered as units of several of my other courses, but what set this course apart was that the entirety of it was focused on race.

Each week, I learned something new in relation to race. In lectures, we learned about theoretical concepts of race and how many different racial schemas (or ways of categorizing race) exist within the US, and abroad in places like Ghana, China, France, and Germany, which we examined as case studies (I also had the chance to explore racial dynamics in South Korea as a case study in one of my weekly papers). We also learned about the legal implications of race, and how US immigration laws strictly shaped and controlled who could immigrate to the US.

In addition to class lectures, we had a weekly writing assignment in which each of us had to explore how our race impacted our childhood, migration story, heritage, social networks, neighborhood, appearance, and experiences at Pitt. I was especially surprised to learn about the privileges that came attached with being an Asian American. Because my dad had specific skills in the IT area and was coming to the US for a professional degree, our family was able to migrate here. Because I grew up in an Asian majority, wealthy neighborhood, I was shielded from the disastrous effects of racism and poverty for a long time. This greatly added to my potential of having positive life successes, from being able to access a strong education to having a supportive network of teachers and friends. Little did I know how much I was being privileged by my race, despite having been legally discriminated against as a minority group in US history, and still sometimes enduring ignorant racial slurs within the contemporary US landscape.

This class has truly affirmed my belief and understanding of what it means for race to be a social construct. I have learned that our legal, social, political, and economic systems advantage some races, while sidelining others, and this creates a glorified public image of some races, while dirtying “others”, making us unconsciously believe that some groups of people are unworthy of dignity or the resources to be a citizen, to have equal rights, to have equal access—to just be human.

Understanding how race privileges, but can also strip away advantages and resources is knowledge that will empower me to be a better physician in the future. I will forever carry on the lessons I have learned in this class to continuously deepen my understanding of complicated societal race relations and make sure race is not someone’s barrier to accessing health care.

To be honest, I started out taking this class because it would fulfill one of my general education requirements—I hadn’t chosen it with as much deliberation as I had with my other Global Studies classes. To my great surprise, this class has been a really important addition and added dimension of my understanding of the world. Dr. Arms and our TA’s have done a great job teaching us both the basic fundamentals of music, such as rhythm, amplitude, and timbre (sound texture), as well as music from all around the world within their respective musicultural contexts.

Before starting this class, I wasn’t even aware of the fact that I had assumed Western based musical principles as the foundation for creating music all across the world. Through this class, I have learned that so many different kinds of rich musicultural traditions exist, from Jeli music, to Irish Sean Nos, to Javanese gamelan music, none of which I had known about before taking this course.

My favorite part of this course thus far has been our Voyager playlist assignment, in which we are tasked with putting together a list of twenty songs that we feel encompasses all of the world’s music! I’ve found it so difficult each week to add songs to my list without unconsciously slipping into my biases of what I’m already familiar with and know well. Through this assignment however, I’ve done my best to balance privileged Western voices that are commonly heard with those that have been marginalized in history—from Australian indigenous ceremonial pieces to US Native American powwow celebration songs to unique fusion pieces to songs celebrating the Black Power and Black is Beautiful movements in the US.

Through my immigration course, which I am currently finishing up this term, I have discovered a newly developing interest and concern for issues surrounding the global migration crisis. Through meaningful weekly reading assignments, class discussions, lectures from Dr. Moss, current event presentations from classmates, and rich discussions with my classmates, I have had the opportunity to explore migration issues all over the world from Greece to Calais, France to Australia to even communities at home right here in the United States. This class has challenged me to rethink what it means to be a citizen and what should be the grounds for citizenship. I have especially been impacted by what undocumented Mexican migrants’ journey looks like when they migrate to the US. In trying to imagine what it must feel like to live constantly worrying about one’s legal status in the States, all the while, trying to take care of your children, or navigate social networks at school, or find employment, I have become so much more grateful for all of the privileges and blessings in my life, and have become so much more knowledgeable and sympathetic to the concerns of migrants, both at home and all around the world. But my journey in exploring the global migration crisis has just begun—this is an issue that I hope to continue exploring and learning about in my future!