Patient Advocacy in the Context of Public Health and Social Justice
In 1980, Sarah Lawrence established the nation’s first master’s degree program in health advocacy. It has been a leader in defining this new field and the related field of patient advocacy, and in educating professionals to function successfully as patient advocates and policy advocates improving health and health care and ensuring access to an increasingly complex medical system. The program, usually completed over four semesters and one summer, leads to a Master of Arts (or a Master of Professional Studies for students who have a previous MA) degree and meets the educational requirements for challenging and rewarding careers in this emerging field. Opportunities for cross-registration between the health advocacy and human genetics programs can be explored by students interested in both curriculum areas.
Health advocacy graduates work in a field characterized by extraordinary breadth and opportunity. Advocacy careers span the spectrum from patient advocacy in case-based direct service to individuals, to community advocacy initiatives on behalf of geographic or disease-specific populations, to system-level policy-based advocacy activities.
Graduates function in direct care as patient advocates, ombudsmen, educators, health advisers and navigators, facilitating access to health care services, and assisting individuals to negotiate an increasingly complex and fragmented health care infrastructure.
As health policy advocates, graduates work in legislative and organizational areas. They advocate for patients and populations from positions in government agencies, non-profit organizations, grassroots and national health policy organizations, and the media. They are often agents of positive change in the health care system.
The field of Health Advocacy also encompasses careers not directly associated with the provision of clinical healthcare services, including initiatives to dismantle structural barriers to health that are caused by poverty, environmental destruction, illiteracy, and violence.
The interdisciplinary Health Advocacy Program (HAP) provides the flexible curriculum necessary to encompass the breadth of this fast-changing field. Besides teaching the theory and practice of advocacy itself, the program includes course work in physiology, history, law, economics, health policy and ethics, as well as using individual narratives to understand the experience of illness and disability. Three required fieldwork placements provide practice-based application of theoretical learning, giving students the opportunity to develop valuable professional connections in their chosen area of health advocacy or patient advocacy specialization. Fieldwork sites include hospitals; local, state, and federal government agencies and departments; community health centers; nonprofit advocacy groups; and public interest organizations.
An outstanding faculty is drawn from the College and throughout the New York area. Experts from the New York medical and academic community complement the program with guest lectures on current topics. Students are encouraged and enabled to take advantage of regional conferences and advocacy activities.
- 48 course credits (graduate seminars)
- 12 fieldwork credits (three 200 hour internships)
- Capstone project
The program may be taken on a part- or full-time basis. All courses meet once a week and are held on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The following courses are required for the degree:
- Models of Advocacy: Theory and Practice (2 semesters)
- Economics of Health
- Ethics and Advocacy
- Program Design and Evaluation
- Health Care Policy
- Health Law
- History of Health Care in the United States
- Illness and Disability Narratives
- Physiology and Disease
- Research Methods for Health Advocacy
- Fieldwork Pro Seminar
- Capstone Pro Seminar