The UA's "Care, Health, and Society" degree emphasizes skills needed across the helping professions, such as teaching, medicine, nursing, counseling, teaching and other fields that nurture clients' physical, emotional and social wellbeing. (Photo: Paul O'Mara)
The UA's "Care, Health, and Society" degree emphasizes skills needed across the helping professions, such as teaching, medicine, nursing, counseling, teaching and other fields that nurture clients' physical, emotional and social wellbeing. (Photo: Paul O'Mara)

New Major Prepares UA Students for Health Care Professions

In its first year, the UA's "Care, Health and Society" program attracted more than 100 students.
Nov. 4, 2014
Extra Info: 

Students who would like to learn more about the UA's "Care, Health, and Society" program should contact Heidi Hopkins, the program coordinator, at 520-621-3531 or hhopkins@email.arizona.edu

With a graying, aging U.S. population, passage of the Affordable Care Act and growing demands in the health care industry, the University of Arizona has launched a program to provide foundational academic and career-oriented knowledge and experiences to students intent on entering the helping professions.

The UA School of Sociology's "Care, Health and Society," which examines the nature of care and suffering in society, launched during the 2013-14 academic year and has enrolled about 135 students when projections indicated that about 30 students would take on the major in its first year. 

"It seems the appropriate major to offer at the time, and we have been pleasantly surprised at the great interest in the program," said Albert J. Bergesen, director of the School of Sociology. 

"The program offers a wide breadth of job possibilities for those interested in entering the health care and medical industries, or public service and nonprofit work," Bergesen said. "But it is also a very specific degree with great courses that are necessary in the areas of health. It's not a professional degree but is close to having that same quality." 

The major, a bachelor of science, provides a complete overview of the world of sociology, specifically related to health care and caring. Students are prepared for careers in disciplines that include medicine, nursing, pharmacology, teaching and physiology, providing them with the basic analytical, organizational and advocacy skills needed to thrive in work settings.

The suite of coursework required includes courses in chemistry, biology and nutrition, and students learn about advocacy, organizational dynamics within the field and basic ethical considerations when working with patients. Also, one major requirement of the program is a semester-long internship. Bergesen said the internship is structured to help students gain practical experience in an organization that may lead to future employment.

The School of Sociology also is in the process of moving advising for the Care, Health and Society program from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences to the school to enhance student services and support. Also, the school also hired a new faculty member: Terrance Hill, a University of Utah faculty member whose research is concerned with how social relationships and socioeconomic factors shape health and health-related behavior.

Because of the growing specialization of training for various health care professions, the UA degree program is dedicated to supporting a major objective of the Arizona Health Sciences Center, which is incorporating the helping professions' different practices.

Sarah Mason, a UA Honors College student, chose to study at the UA specifically because of the launch of the new major. 

"Once I found out about it, my decision was made," Mason said.

Mason is currently volunteering with medical social workers at the Arizona Cancer Center and has an interest in chronic illnesses. Ultimately, she would like to pursue graduate studies in social work and serve as a patient navigator. 

"Volunteering at the Cancer Center has given me a lot of experience that will definitely benefit me in my future career," Mason said. "And Care, Health and Society is such a well-rounded degree that I feel like I will be prepared for virtually any career in health care."

Another major, Angelica Buono, has completed an internship at CODAC Behavioral Health Services, which provides counseling to those dealing with mental illness and recovering from substance abuse.

"CHS is definitely a great major for anyone interested in a health care profession," said Buono, adding that she has especially appreciated learning how to work with patients. During her internship, Buono was able to shadow case managers, doctors and psychologists.

"Though my ultimate goal is to work with infants, this internship is great for gaining experience with all different types of the population as well as building up my resume."