The Department of Global Health and Social Medicine’s mission is to alleviate suffering and improve health and well-being through:
- rigorous, original scholarship examining health, disease, illness, and care in their social, biological, political, economic, historical, and cultural contexts;
- development and implementation of innovative strategies to close the gaps between knowledge and practice and to facilitate sustainable health care delivery of the highest quality, especially in low-resource settings;
- education at all levels to promote both new knowledge of and moral attention to the biosocial aspects of disease, social medicine-informed responses to the burden of disease, and the advancement of health equity and social justice; and
- prioritizing care for the poor as both our responsibility and ultimately beneficial to the well-being of all society.
The Department's work is achieved through a commitment to the following: first is the deliberate attention to equity in the Department’s research, teaching and focus; second is a focus on the re-socializing discipline the social sciences that help us understand the contexts in which poor health arises and through which it is perpetuated as a means of understanding historically deep processes that shape health and access to care; third is the elevation of care, including treatment of the sick, and of caregiving and accompaniment as urgent moral practices that are integral to medicine, health care delivery, and global health and well-being; fourth is the partnerships with what we have called “effector arms” that allow for ideas to be implemented in real world settings (“social medicine in action”); and fifth is the interdisciplinary nature of the work, which has shaped the learning and practice of our students—well before such concepts became de rigueur in some areas of academic medicine—and the practice of which has contributed to strengthening relationships across Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, and Harvard-affiliated hospitals. In addition, the DGHSM has demanded that medical social science scholarship meet the same academic standards as those in the discipline-focused departments in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. (Strategic Planning Committee, 2023)