Program Description

Health Care & Policy (HCP) is a social science-based major that provides students in-depth training in health policy analysis and requires a strong foundation in natural sciences. Students learn to integrate analytical thinking, research and data analysis skills. HCP majors employ theories and methods from economics and demography to analyze health care and policy. Students apply theories designed to explain the development of government policies addressing health care. Students also learn how the private health care system interacts with the public sector to affect health.

HCP students are strongly encouraged to incorporate a significant experiential component into their course of study. The HCP requirements provide all students with a strong foundation in natural sciences while allowing some flexibility in course selection to pursue either: a standard track; or a science-intensive track that includes course suggested to prepare for medical school and other health professional graduate programs.

Educational and Career Objectives

The HCP major prepares students for leadership roles in careers in health policy analysis that require a strong foundation in the natural sciences. The HCP major also prepares students for careers that combine clinical health care with involvement in the broader health care system and public policy.

While the health care and policy sector is expected to grow overall, HCP students will help fill an important niche that is poised to grow even faster. The HCP major prepares students whose strong training in natural sciences will make them better health care administrators and policy makers. The HCP major will also prepare students for careers in the pharmaceutical industry, a rapidly growing part of the health care sector.

The HCP students who pursue medical degrees also fill an important niche. Many analysts point to the vital role physicians can play not just in clinical care but in leadership positions in the health care system and health policy. An article in the American Medical News points to the growing trend of combining clinical practice with administrative and leadership duties: “Physicians are viewed as more important than ever to closing the divide between clinicians and the administration as they try to create accountable care organizations, reduce readmissions, improve care and implement medical records.” Harvard health economist David Cutler has argued that although “the thought of ‘corporate medicine’ makes patients and providers panic,” the US health care system can evolve into a new model where “Doctors would be integral to making such health systems work instead of being dictated to by unaccountable corporations.”

However, Ackerly and colleagues caution that: “While the health care system is presently faced with a shortfall of physician-executives in roles such as hospital chief executive officers (CEOs), even more worrisome is the lack of an established pipeline of potential physician-leaders.” Many universities (including Cornell) are responding by launching joint MD-MBA programs. The proposed HCP major starts the pipeline earlier and provide undergraduate training for future physician-leaders.

Program Structure (see Curriculum)

The HCP requirements provide all students with a strong foundation in natural sciences while allowing some flexibility in course selections. To help guide students, the curriculum lists two recommended “tracks.” Students can choose between taking the standard track or the science-intensive track (pre-health).

The science-intensive track is recommended for students who intend to pursue a career in clinical health care: the course selections allow students to meet the HCP requirements and simultaneously take the natural science courses suggested to prepare for medical school and other pre-health professional graduate programs. (We advise students that completion of the science-intensive track does not guarantee admission into medical school or other health professional graduate programs.)

The remaining requirements in the curriculum (structural principles, curriculum concentration, and additional PAM credits) are the same for the standard and science-intensive tracks. Some students who begin in the science-intensive track will choose to transition to the standard track. The typical transition plan will allow these students to substitute CHEM 2070 for CHEM 1560. If they transition after completing organic chemistry (CHEM 3570), it will automatically count towards the general education requirement for an approved natural science course.