Society

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Monica Griffin (Sociology; Sharpe Program – homepage)

Erica Holloman (VIMS graduate program – homepage)

Kelly Joyce (Sociology – homepage)

Monica Griffin, Director of the Sharpe Program, plans to develop a health communications project as part of the SOCL150W: Community Health Issues freshman seminar she teaches. A service-learning course in the Sharpe Program, the Community Health seminar will give students the chance to study the global relevance of public health issues and knowledge production, as they engage in community-based research projects and volunteerism with local agencies and community leaders. Using mercury as a case example of a public health threat by a global pollutant, students will be challenged to create a web-based, health communication for a larger public. The web project espouses several educational and community goals: translating natural science into public health knowledge; sharing information that fosters adequate knowledge for making informed behavior choices beyond assurance of the technical aspects of informed consent; developing creative mechanisms to support interactive, citizen-based leadership on the local level to address health matters of global concern.

Leshner: AAAS Must Engage Local Leaders by Communicating ‘Glocally’

Erica Holloman, VIMS Graduate Teaching Fellow Erica Holloman will offer lectures and discussion leadership focused on environmental risk assessment for environmental justice for the SOC150W: Community Health Issues course. Ms. Holloman’s contribution to the course is truly interdisciplinary: she will educate students about the biochemical process for detecting mercury contamination in water and fish, train them to use community-based participatory research methods for determining health disparities between racial populations, and introduce them to an active coalition in the East End community of Newport News, Virginia whose efforts are focused on multiple aspects of community health, including air pollution and human exposure to mercury pollution. Ms. Holloman will supervise the Community Health students’ study of socio-demographic and cultural variation in exposure to global pollutants as a means toward empowering the East End community to act on its own behalf for environmental justice.

INTR 450: Topics in College and Community Course (5-10 students): Erica Holloman will teach a new, community-based research section, “Human mercury exposure in Tidewater Virginia.” Ms. Holloman’s course will offer a truly interdisciplinary, research learning experience: she will educate students about the biochemical process for detecting mercury contamination in water and fish, train them to use community-based participatory research methods for determining health disparities between racial populations, and introduce them to both formal and informal community settings in which to learn and communicate about human exposure to mercury pollution.

Kelly Joyce is an associate professor in the sociology department at the College of William and Mary. Her work focuses on the sociology of science, technology, and medicine. Her book, Magnetic Appeal: MRI and the Myth of Transparency, was published in June, 2008 by Cornell University Press. Magnetic Appeal investigates the development of Magnetic Resonance Imaging [MRI] technology, its popular appeal and acceptance, and its current use in medical practice. Dr. Joyce’s current research studies the rise of autoimmune diseases in the United States, and investigates people’s experiences living with autoimmune illnesses such as Lupus, Crohn’s, and Lichen Planus.

Summer Session I 2008
SOCL362: Medical Sociology (30 students) is an existing course that was revised by Joyce to include a mercury pollution and human health module.  The module addresses how the global and local intersect to produce mercury emissions and hot spots. Students will learn how to critically examine the scientific evidence underlying current regulations and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the medical model for addressing environmental health issues. [Kelly Joyce will be on research leave during the 2008-2009 year.]

Fall 2008
SOCL440: Health Communication and Mercury Hazards. A new course that examines how to communicate health issues to diverse publics. Using mercury pollution as a case study, students will research and critically evaluate health concerns (e.g., fish contamination), policies, and existing public health materials. As public sociologists, participants will produce pamphlets, public service announcements, and other materials that can be used to heighten awareness about the sources and effects of exposure to hazards such as mercury, kepone, and other contaminants.

Look for this course in the future!

SOCL440: From Local to Global: Human Health and the Environment (30 students). This new course will investigate the biological, cultural, and political dimensions of an environmental health issue. Using mercury pollution as a case study, students will examine its sources and health effects, as well as evaluate relevant state, national and international regulatory policies. Comparative national analysis will illustrate the varied responses taken by different countries to this social problem. The course will also count towards the Environmental Studies major.