Our Sociology of Health & Medicine program for graduate students draws on our unique location in New Mexico to foster research that addresses the wide array of health care problems in the United States. New Mexico’s particular character presents distinct
opportunities with regard to how we think about – and address – the relationship between health,
illness, and social factors. A rural state, New Mexico struggles with poverty, health disparities
among its different communities, and the difficulties that accompany providing care to disperse,
often isolated, individuals, families and communities. New Mexico’s population is particularly
diverse with its large Latino and Native American communities that have long traditions of
indigenous, alternative healing practices. Additionally, Albuquerque, the urban center of this
rural state, possesses many of the health challenges of a diverse and stratified city, ripe for study
While the uniqueness of New Mexico as a place is central to our program, we are also unique in
our expertise in the study of scientific medicine as an object of sociological inquiry. We are
committed to questioning our culture’s basic assumptions around health and illness, interrogating
everything from definitions of disease to social scientific measures we used to identify health
problems. Our program prepares students to cultivate a critical orientation toward medical
knowledge, medical practice, and medical professionals through an engagement with the social
constructionist perspective. Indeed, the particular history and culture of New Mexico has long
challenged scientific medicine by exposing its limitations and offering alternative ways of
thinking about health and illness; we invite our students to continue this tradition.
We encourage our graduate students to make use of the unique laboratory that UNM provides to
explore the social context of physical and mental health by investigating health-related topics,
such as rural medicine, the social determinants of health, racial and ethnic health disparities
(especially as they relate to Latino and Native American communities), and the social
construction of disease.
Our mission is to educate graduate students to become critical and engaged scholars in the sociology of health and illness. Graduate students contribute to the advancement of sociological knowledge with an emphasis on the study of health broadly construed.
Our graduate students have access to faculty who approach the sociology of health and illness from multiple perspectives – social determinants of health, social construction, deviance – and methodological approaches – quantitative analyses, qualitative methods, historical methods, community-based participatory research, and mixed-methods. We are committed to working collaboratively with graduate students; there are numerous opportunities for students to get involved with faculty research. Students also participate in a monthly seminar in which we discuss ongoing research and developments in the field.
In addition to the broad training in methods and theory that graduate students receive in our
department, we offer an assortment of courses that cover the breadth of the Sociology of Health
& Illness field.
- Sociology of Health & Illness
- Sociology of Medical Practice
- Badness and Sickness
- Community-Based Interventions that Address Social Determinants of Health
- Knowledge and Power
- Medical Sociology and Health Policy
- Race, Ethnicity and Medicine
- Sociology of Madness
For specific details regarding our Masters and Ph.D program, see our department’s website,
Areas of Specialization
Our graduate students come from diverse backgrounds that shape their distinct intellectual
orientations. We encourage graduate students to develop research projects that reflect their own
specific interests. Our faculty’s research not only spans the core concerns of medical sociology,
but also remains in dialogue with other subfields of sociology.
The broad interests of our medical sociology faculty coalesce into four specific areas of
Health, Race and Ethnicity: Given the multicultural character of New Mexico, generally and UNM, specifically, our program is committed to examining the relationships between health, race and ethnicity with research that promotes social justice. We have a particular focus on Latino and Native American communities and the unique health problems and resiliencies within these communities. Faculty research in this area includes health and mental health consequences of exposure to highly stressful social environments and marginalization, historical trauma and resilience, community-based participatory research to understand and address the root causes of health disparities, mental health intervention research, mental health and well-being in refugee and immigrant communities, and critical examination, facilitation, and measurement of cultural competency among healthcare providers.
Sociology of the Mental Health: The skyrocketing rates of mental disorders in the U.S. have created a need for a critical sociological approach to studying mental health. Too
often mental health is approached as a problem of the brain. We recognize that mental health is socially patterned, and must be situated within a broader social context and the analysis of social relations. The sociology of mental health is a rich area of research at UNM, where faculty research addresses topics such as the mental health professions, mental health in Native American and refugees communities, and the social construction of mental disorders.
Health and Deviance: Unique among medical sociology programs, we offer our graduate students the opportunity to explore the intersection between health, crime, deviance, and social control. Starting with the basic premises that crime and violence are inherently unhealthy and that medicalization plays a key role in the social control of deviance, this area bridges the gap between criminology and medical sociology through close coordination with our criminology faculty. A focus of this area is the manner in which crime and violence serve as macro-stressors for communities that experience them. Another research emphasis is how disease definitions (especially mental disorders) and conceptualizations of “normal” health are related to the social control of deviance.
Power and Medical Knowledge: Drawing insights from the sociology of science, this area explores the dynamics between power and medical knowledge, primarily from a social constructionist perspective. It is committed to the notion that how we define and understand disease and illness is socially determined by the structure of medical research, medical professions, clinical practice, and popular media. Relevant faculty interests include the study of contested illnesses (i.e. fibromyalgia), medical expertise, the sociology of medical professions, the social construction of illness, and the increasing medicalization of social problems.
Sociology of medicine; Sociology of science, knowledge and technology (SKAT); Gender and feminist theory; Document/text analysis.
Social determinants of health/mental health; Community-based participatory research; Community-based mental health interventions; Native American, refugee, and immigrant populations; Mixed methods research; Cultural competency/humility
Sociology of health and mental health; Sociology of “race” and ethnicity; Sociology and demography of Native Americans
Crime, deviance, and social control; Sociology of health and mental health; Social Networks; Culture and health.
Sociology of knowledge; Sociology of medical professions; Sociology of mental health; History of medicine.
Barker, Kristin. 2008. “Electronic Support Groups, Patient-Consumers, and Medicalization: The Case of Contested Illness.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 49(1):20-36.
Barker, Kristin. 2005. The Fibromyalgia Story: Medical Authority and Women's Worlds of Pain. Temple University Press.
Goodkind, Jessica. 2012. “Feasibility, Acceptability, and Initial Findings from a Community-Based Cultural Mental Health Intervention for American Indian Youth and Their Families.” Journal of Community Psychology, 40(4): 381-405. (With M. LaNoue, C. Lee, L. Freeland and R. Freund)
Goodkind, Jessica. 2012. “‘We’re Still in a Struggle’: Diné Resilience, Survival, Historical Trauma, and Healing.” Qualitative Health Research, 22(8): 1019-1036. (With J.M. Hess, B. Gorman, and D.P. Parker)
Huyser, Kimberly R. 2010. “The Persistence of Racial Disadvantage: The Socioeconomic Attainments of Single-Race and Multi-Race Native Americans.” Population Research and Policy Review, 29(4):541-568. (With A. Sakamoto and I. Takei)
Huyser, Kimberly R. In progress. “The Reservation as a Protective Social Factor: An Analysis of Two American Indian Tribes.”
Soller, Brian. 2010. “Drug Intake Methods and Social Identity: The Use of Marijuana in Blunts among Southeast Asian Youth and Young Adults. Journal of Adolescent Research 25(6):783-806. (With Juliet P. Lee)
Soller, Brian. Forthcoming. “Structuring the Future: Social Networks, Anticipated Life Events, and Adolescent Sexual Behavior. Sociological Inquiry. (With Dana L. Haynie)
Whooley, Owen. 2010. “Diagnostic Ambivalence: Psychiatric Workarounds and the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” Sociology of Health & Illness, 32(3): 452-469.
Whooley, Owen. 2013. Knowledge in the Time of Cholera: The Struggle over American Medicine in the Nineteenth Century. University of Chicago Press.
Graduate students in medical sociology at UNM are afforded the opportunity to work with affiliated research centers. These include:
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy: The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center for Health Policy is a collaborative project between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of New Mexico. The purpose of the Center is to increase the diversity of those with formal training in the fields of economics, political science and sociology who engage in health services and health policy research. The Center offers competitive fellowships for graduate students in medical sociology.
UNM School of Medicine: Graduate students in medical sociology benefit the presence of UNM School of Medicine. The school is widely known for its Rural Medicine, Family Medicine and Primary Care Medicine programs. These programs are consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally, with the Rural Medicine program consistently being ranked in the top 5 nationally. Given its strengths, the UNM School of Medicine is unique among medical schools in its progressive commitment to a public health approach to medicine.
Center for Native American Health (CNAH): The UNM Center for Native American Health (CNAH) at the University of New Mexico's Health Sciences Center (UNMHSC) seeks to build and strengthen health alliances between Native American communities and the University, for the overall purpose of improving Native American health in New Mexico. CNAH has established strong networks with tribal communities, based on principles of consultation and collaboration in all aspects of public health policy, research and service provision.
Center for Rural & Community Behavioral Health (CRCBH): The mission of CRCBH is to address health care disparities through: health services research and evaluation; capacity building; training and workforce development; and increasing access to quality behavioral health services that are holistic, cost-effective and provided with respect to the unique cultures within the communities of New Mexico. CRCBH was established within the Department of Psychiatry at the University of New Mexico in 1993 to provide community-oriented services to underserved populations, engage in rural training and workforce development and strengthen the behavioral health services research capacity in New Mexico. CRCBH faculty and staff have expertise in the following areas: Native American mental health, rural mental health, family and community medicine, traumatic brain injury, child and
adolescent issues, co-occurring disorders, developmental disabilities, culturally-sensitive care, and severe and persistent mental illness.
The Health Disparities Education, Awareness, Research & Training (HDEART) Consortium: UNM is part of the HDEART consortium. This consortium brings together institutions of higher learning along with health care institutions to develop programs to to address the issue of health disparities in minority and medically underserved populations. The consortium now includes over thirty institutions across the Southwest and beyond.
New Mexico Center for Advancement of Research, Engagement and Science on Health Disparities (NM CARES HD) : NM CARES HD is a NIMHD-funded center at UNM, whose mission is to advance the scientific base of knowledge about interventions and solutions to health disparities in New Mexico with a focus on Southwestern indigenous Native American and Hispanic communities. The goals of NM CARES HD are to advance the science of interventions to eliminate health disparities among Southwestern Native American and Hispanic communities; to translate theory-based interventions aimed at eliminating health disparities; to apply community-based participatory research approaches to disparities intervention research; to coordinate UNM disparity-related research resources; to enhance investigators’ abilities to compete for National Institute of Health disparity-related research grants; and to build partnerships between UNM investigators and community collaborators residing in communities suffering health disparities.