What is Human Biology, Health and Society?

The Human Biology, Health, and Society (HBHS) major, only offered through the College of Human Ecology, helps students to view human health issues from a broad and multidisciplinary perspective.

The HBHS major may be a good fit for students who wish to pursue careers related to issues of human health and well-being.

Many health problems are complex in origin. For this reason, promoting health and reducing the risk of disease requires practitioners, researchers and policymakers who can consider the biological and physical aspects of health and illness,as well as their social, psychological, economic, cultural and political dimensions.

You will be required to develop a strong background in human biology so that you can understand the physiological and biochemical aspects of health issues. The program also will require you to use perspectives from the social sciences. 

With these skills, and with access to a wide array of courses related to human health and well-being, you will be prepared to explore a range of health issues through a variety of career paths. You also will have many opportunities to enhance your classroom learning by participating in special opportunities for experiential learning, including the Practicing Medicine program and study abroad, undergraduate research and field experience, or by joining the Health and Nutrition Society.

The undergraduate program in Human Biology, Health and Society will prepare you to explore and understand a range of human health and well-being issues. Following are a few examples:

  • What physiological and biochemical processes affect health and are necessary for resistance to disease?
  • What biological, social, cultural and environmental factors promote the normal growth of children?
  • How do biological processes explain normal and abnormal behavior?
  • How do diet and other lifestyle factors influence the risk of chronic disease?
  • What social, political, economic and cultural factors explain differences in access to health care in the United States? How can access to quality health care be improved?
  • How can communities, organizations and practitioners promote health in the U.S. and other countries?
  • What can be done to reduce disease and promote quality of life for older Americans?

The Human Biology, Health and Society major will open a world of possibilities when it’s time for you to pursue a career path. You probably will need to pursue advanced study to attain the experience and academic credentials to work in your chosen profession, but the HBHS major will put you on the right heading if you plan ahead. Following are some examples:

  • Medicine and dentistry: Resources at Cornell for those wishing to pursue admission to medical school or dental school are extensive. You will want to complete the pre-med requirements, which include the eight-credit organic chemistry sequence, two terms of physics and a year of college mathematics. For further information about course requirements and application processes, consult the college's pre-med advisers and the resources of the university's Health Careers Program office.
  • Exercise science and physical therapy: You should complete Human Anatomy and Physiology of both lecture (NS 3410) and lab (NS 3420) before taking any course at Ithaca College. Then you can complete the Applied Exercise Science Concentration at Ithaca College, which includes courses in exercise physiology, kinesiology, and biomechanics of human movement. Preparation for graduate school in physical therapy requires courses in physics, psychology and ethics.
  • Biomedical research, genomics and toxicology: Recommended courses include calculus, two terms of physics, and genetics. Other courses in advanced biology and chemistry should be selected based on your interest.
  • Policy and administration: It is recommended that you complete introductory courses in economics, government, sociology and management,as well as courses offered in the college's department of Policy Analysis and Management.
  • Community health: Recommended courses include introductory and advanced courses in human development, psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, communications and health policy.
  • Dietetics, nutrition counseling, clinical nutrition, community nutrition, and management: If you wish to pursue a career in managing food and nutrition services,or in providing nutrition advice to promote health and/or manage disease states,you should complete the academic requirements for The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.Faculty members in the Division of Nutrition's dietetics program can provide career advice and help you compile your applications to the post-baccalaureate supervised practice component (dietetic internship), which is the next step in pursuing a career as a registered dietitian (R.D.).
  • Global health: You can complete the Global Health Minor program by completing their requirements. Requirements include two core courses and three elective courses for a total of 15 credits. Additionally, you will be required to complete an eight-week international Experiential Learning Opportunity in a resource limited environment.

While working at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear doing research and shadowing Felipe Santos, MD a’02 Weill, I published two papers: Arachnoid cysts of the internal auditory canal: An under-appreciated entity and Verrucous carcinoma of the temporal bone. I had the incredible opportunity to present my second paper at the 2019 International Otopathology (Schuknecht) Society Conference which is dedicated to the study of the pathology of the temporal bone, including all conditions that affect hearing, balance, and the facial nerve. The conference happens every three years and highlights the important new otopathology findings.

It was amazing to meet so many physicians and researchers from all over the world and to gain experience with the process of writing, publishing, and then presenting my research. I felt I was able to connect all of this work to my undergraduate pursuit as the anatomy and physiology of the ear and temporal bone is so complex and hearing health is such an important part of human interaction in society.

Madeline Franck
HBHS Student, Class of 2021
felipe santos and madeline franck madeline franck presenting her paper at the conference