The social sciences are essential to develop strategies and identify research and educational priorities to address health inequities and assess impact in the field of public health. I am honored to Chair the Department of Sociomedical Sciences (SMS), a prominent leader in the field of public health for the past five decades and well known for its integration of theoretical and applied research across the social and behavioral sciences. Respected for its seminal contributions to the public’s health from ethical and historical perspectives, and widely recognized for addressing social determinants of health—such as poverty, stigma and discrimination—and for its scholarly efforts related to gender, sexuality, and HIV—the department’s strongly rooted foundation in interdisciplinary social science is well placed to take on the public health challenges of the future.
To continue on our path, we must be visionary, understand how the world is rapidly changing, and foresee how the social sciences can grow and uniquely contribute to achieving equity in health. For example, in the coming decade, a clear priority area for growth is the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). SMS has the potential to lead such efforts given the relevance and methodological approaches integral to SMS (anthropology, psychology, sociology, history, ethics, and health promotion). A goal for our interdisciplinary initiatives is to address the syndemic nature of NCDs, including mental health and substance abuse, in both global and local settings, where social and economic contextual factors create and exacerbate the risk of disease progression.
Graduates from our outstanding master’s and doctoral programs are equipped to tackle complex public health issues across various career trajectories that span academia, industry, government, and nongovernmental community organizations. I am committed to the growth of our educational and training programs, which are essential for the invigoration and advancement of the intellectual fabric and conduct of social science research for which SMS is best known.
Kathleen J. Sikkema, PhD
Stephen Smith Professor and Chair
Department of Sociomedical Sciences