Animated by the enduring question, “What does health mean?” the Health Constellation invites students from a variety of disciplines—from the biological and social sciences to the humanities and the arts—to investigate how meanings of health circulate broadly through cultures, to help construct these meanings in creative ways, and to understand how these meanings impact people differently in different social positions, at different times, and in different locations. Ultimately, students will leave this Constellation with an understanding of what health means—as opposed to what it is—and why different meanings matter. Students will be introduced to textual analysis and other interpretive methods (such as rhetorical criticism), qualitative methods (such as interviewing or ethnography), and historical methods.

Health Constellation for Pre-Med Students & Advisors

One aim of the Health Constellation is to help pre-med and pre-health students develop into quality, well-rounded healthcare professionals. The Health Constellation provides an excellent way to meet and exceed many of the requirements for the MCAT and Med schools:

Key benefits of the Health Constellation for pre-Med students include:

COMMUNICATION ARTS 317: Rhetoric & Health is an intermediate-level humanities class that meets the UW writing pre-med requirement!

Introductory Sociology classes, including SOCIOLOGY 134, are required for the MCAT and many Med schools.

Pathway to Health and the Humanities Certificate

Constellations and the Health and the Humanities Certificate are two separate, but highly-related programs: the Health Constellation can be an on-ramp to the Health and the Humanities Certificate. Students who complete the Health Constellations earn 6 credits toward the total 15 credits needed to complete the certificate, including:

3 credits toward the HEALTH AND ILLNESS IN SOCIAL CONTEXT focus.

Jenell Johnson is a Mellon-Morgridge Professor of the Humanities and scholar whose work is recognized internationally for reshaping our understanding of science and medicine in the field of Rhetoric and Communications, as well as in Science and Technology Studies. Her research focuses on the circulation of scientific and medical information in the public sphere, with an emphasis on the social and political dimensions of nonexpert engagement with science, medicine, and technology. Much of her work has looked closely at issues related to how we understand the meaning of neuroscience, psychiatry, and mental disability. These interests are best illustrated in her first book American Lobotomy, which explores how representations of psychosurgery shaped the rise, fall, and "return" of lobotomy in US medicine, and the edited collection The Neuroscientific Turn, a collection of essays from humanists and scientists reflecting on the growth of the "neuro-disciplines." Johnson is the director of UW-Madison’s Disability Studies Initiative. She leads a double life as a cartoonist and has recently published a comic anthology entitled Graphic Reproduction

The Constellation: Connected Classes

COMMUNICATION ARTS 317: Rhetoric & Health The Health Constellation is anchored in Johnson's Rhetoric & Health class, which explores how the meaning of health is rhetorically constructed and deployed in a number of different social, political, and medical contexts.

+ BIOLOGY/BOTANY/ZOOLOGY 152: Introductory Biology 152 This foundational biology course addresses evolution and diversity of organisms and is one of the most in-demand options for fulfilling introductory biology requirements. 

+ SOCIOLOGY 134: How Race & Ethnicity Shape American Social Life explores the social structures that shape and are shaped by race, ethnicity, racism, and racial/ethnic inequalities.