Courses I teach at Adelphi U. School of Nursing (2012-13):
Principles of Epidemiology (graduate). Epidemiology is the essential measuring tool in public health, providing a veritable toolbox of methods useful for describing health problems in populations and assessing how to reduce the impact of disease. This course, introduces the student to the role of epidemiology in public health, the ethics of research in public health, how health-related data are collected, and the methods by which epidemiologists draw inferences from observations on health and disease.
Health Policy (graduate). This course takes up a series of prominent policy problems arising in the protection of the public’s health, including health-care financing, the 2010 Affordable Care Act, mandatory immunization, prohibition or taxation of unhealthy activities (smoking, buying sugar-sweetened beverages, etc.), and environmental regulation.
Courses I taught at Hunter College, CUNY (1999-2012):
Principles of Epidemiology (undergraduate).
Principles of Biostatistics (graduate). Biostatistics consists of methods for making sense of biological data, and is therefore of great use in interpreting public-health data. This course for masters students in public health or environmental sciences offers an introduction to both the role of statistics in epidemiology and the specific statistical methods used for assessing the validity of epidemiologic findings. It covers probability, random variables, sampling variation, hypothesis formation and testing, and applications of statistical methods to real-world problems.
Principles of Epidemiology (graduate). Masters students in public health or environmental science take this course after the Principles of Biostatistics course (see above). It offers a broad introduction to methods in epidemiology, including surveillance systems, design of observational and quasi-experimental studies, effect measures, inference, and ethics.
Introduction to Public Health (graduate). Setting contemporary public health in historical perspective, this course surveys the development of public health as a profession. It introduces students to main themes in the field, including the tension between health as absence of disease and health as “wellness,” social determination of disease, behavioral aspects of health, the role of the environment, and germ theory. It also examines how public policy about health has become separate from policy about health care. Students are encouraged to examine the principles of public health practice, including environmental protection, health promotion, and risk communication, and to ask how they translate into practice.
History of Contagion Control (graduate). The desire to control the spread of infection served as one basis for the development of state power in general, as well as the foundation for the field of public health in particular. Although efforts to ward off contagious disease go back to antiquity, the first concerted initiatives to reshape society so as to reduce the impact of contagion began with quarantine in the time of the 14th-century Black Death. From there, this course traces the development of ideas about controlling contagion, and the larger sensibility about responding to epidemic disease, up to the present era.
Social Epidemiology (graduate). Since epidemiology developed expressly out of interests in reforming society so as to reduce the effects of disease, the title of this course is something of a misnomer. Today, though, with epidemiology often devoted to examining behavior and other individual factors in relation to health, it is helpful to think about the application of epidemiologic methods to disentangle some of the vexing social determinants of disease. This course examines methods for understanding the role of poverty, race and racial discrimination, wealth disparity, housing differentials, and other so-called structural factors in determining how disease occurs in the population.
Ethics in Public Health (undergraduate and graduate). Most discussions of ethics in regard to health are centered on the physicians’ cottage industry of “bioethics”—a mishmash of pragmatic guidelines to doctors’ conduct, protections for the physicians’ trade, and appeals to (western) ideals about the sanctity of the individual. This course tries to find a deeper and more thoroughly reasoned moral foundation for action in public health. Students are introduced to major movements in moral philosophy regarding justice, liberty, duty, rights, and the nature of ethics itself—including the ideas of Aristotle, Kant, Hume, Mill, Nietzsche, Rorty, Singer, Jonas, Habermas, and Nussbaum. Students are challenged to make sense of contemporary problems in public health by applying moral values derived from these main schools of thought.
The Imagined Epidemic (undergraduate honors students). Accounts of disastrous epidemics—and warnings about future ones—come to us from two sources: science and art. Scientific accounts, delivered by microbiologists, epidemiologists, policy analysts, and the like, appeal to hypothesis testing and careful observation and make claims to objective truth. Artistic accounts, delivered through painting and engraving, film, fiction, and drama, have sought deeper truths in depictions of human suffering and investigations of causes both real-world and metaphysical. This course examines both “truth streams,” investigating both the “scientific” and artistic accounts of important epidemics such as the Black Death, the Great Plague, cholera, Spanish Flu, and AIDS. Students read both scientific and literary accounts, including novels and plays, and view films (Nosferatu, Panic in the Streets, etc.). They are invited to examine the nature of narratives, see how the two sorts of accounts of epidemics fertilize one another, and determine whether there are really two separate accounts of epidemics or just two different forms of narrative.