Close-up of woman with a medical mask on.

A holistic approach to the health challenges of tomorrow

September 6, 2019

When you think about the phrase “health care,” it often evokes images of stethoscopes pressed to a chest, X-rays illuminating broken bones and blood draws in a crowded lab. Health industry professionals perform these tasks, but we oftentimes forget the less tangible, yet equally important functions of their jobs: discussing delicate topics such as death and dying, communicating with benevolence and addressing societal challenges such as population change and cannabis as they relate to health.

Whether you’re a physician, addiction counselor or public policy advocate, providing the best care possible means more than reviewing medical history and performing procedures – it’s effectively communicating and being prepared to face the disparate challenges of tomorrow.

Carving the path for future leaders

Acquiring these skills requires a holistic, interdisciplinary health education, one that goes beyond the clinic and into the wider world. The University of Colorado Denver’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences developed the Integrated Health Studies Track to tackle just this –  they saw a gap in existing health-related training and moved swiftly to fill it.

“Many institutions concentrate on health and wellness,” said Marjorie Levine-Clark, associate dean for diversity, outreach, and initiatives, professor of history and co-director of the health humanities minor. “But the problem is that it’s often strictly vocational, leaving a huge gap for students interested in combining science and health with fields like communication, sociology, humanities and more.”

Available to students now, the program has an exciting, career-relevant differentiator: individuals don’t just choose their major –  they customize it. With an ever-increasing desire for personalized learning in education, institutions nationwide are ferreting out options to satisfy it. By serving up unique, student-specific majors instead of delivering a traditional, linear experience, the Integrated Health Studies Track responds to the rising need for degree customization in higher education.

A custom-tailored experience

Students pair a general subject area such as health communication (their minor/certificate) with a narrower topic of interest such as aging and end of life (their topic/cluster) to make up their formal major. Chances are, Levine-Clark noted, no two students will choose the exact same combination of classes, so the flexibility of this made-to-measure degree allows students to develop a wide range of health-related skills.

“In this program, students receive a broad liberal arts and sciences education while also having the exciting opportunity to create their own major in a health-focused area that responds flexibly to workforce demands,” Levine-Clark said. “We want to develop broadly-educated citizens, not simply vocationally-oriented graduates.”

So, who’s the right fit for this program? It’s a wide horizon, Levine-Clark said. This particular pathway supports students seeking positions in areas including health education, social work, gerontology, health policy, occupational health and more. By marrying a minor/certificate with a topic/cluster, graduates are prepared for a wide variety of careers.

Forward-looking, broadly educated graduates

“It really is a progressive program,” Levine-Clark said. “Having a broad perspective of the economic, cultural and social aspects of health care is a competitive advantage that prepares graduates to hit the ground running no matter what specific health field they enter.”

The program requires two of the following introductory courses: introduction to health communication, introduction to health humanities, introduction to public health and/or medical sociology. A minimum of 15 credits in each of two major areas (the minor/certificate and topical cluster) is then required, in addition to a three-credit capstone course.

Interested in finding out more about this program? Email Marjorie Levine-Clark at