Read more about courses that were developed by RCSS scholars and advisory board members.

Craig D. Blinderman and Robert Pollack
Thursday 4:10-6:00 PM

AMST UN 3931, Section 4

This seminar is designed to provide opportunities for readings and reflections on the experience of volunteer service work. Students will learn how to critically reflect on their experiences communicating with palliative care patients in the context of questions raised in the texts read in the seminar. Shared experiences and reflections on texts and interactions with patients will enhance the critical reflection of all students engaged in the course. Students will communicate remotely with a palliative care patient on a weekly basis and provide assistance and support, whether emotional or recreational, or by simply serving as a person consistently there for someone during chronic illness or at the end of life.  At the core of this framework is the patient; however, it is important to think about the impact this will have on the student as well. Students will develop skills necessary to critically reflect on the significance of emotional care as a medical practitioner, as well as form a deeper understanding of the role of palliative care and comfort care in a life cycle of care. At least one prior semester of volunteer work in a clinical setting relevant to the syllabus is recommended, but not required.

Please contact Hana Ghoneima ([email protected]) with any questions. View the Spring 2022 Syllabus.

The development of this course was led by former RCSS intern Tess Ceronsky (SEAS '17).


Samuel Roberts
Wednesday 10:10am - 12:00pm


There is a significant correlation between race and health in the United States.  People of color and those from underserved populations have higher mortality rates and a greater burden of chronic disease than their white counterparts.  Differences in health outcomes have been attributed to biological factors as race has been naturalized.  In this class we will explore the history of the idea of “race” in the context of changing biomedical knowledge formations.  We will then focus on the impact that social determinants like poverty, structural violence, racism and geography have on health.  Ultimately, this course will address the social implications of race on health both within the classroom and beyond. In addition to the seminar, there will also be a significant service component. Students will be expected to volunteer at a community organization for a minimum of 3 hours a week. This volunteer work will open an avenue for students to go beyond the walls of their classrooms while learning from and positively impacting their community.

This installment of the course will be partnering with the Alliance of Families for Justice, a non-profit organization that works to find resources and improve the lives of families of incarcerated people. We are in communication with the director, Soffiyah Elijah, and have been asked to come up with a New York State focused resource manual for these families. Our class will be structured around this project but will involve topics that will both provide a history of major related issues that can inform our thinking about the systems in place that allow the extent of the United States incarceration system and health disparities to exist at its current level.

For more information about the class, please contact Spring 2019 TAs, Samia Abedin ([email protected]) and Sara Castro ([email protected]).

The development of this course was led by former RCSS interns Ewoma Ogbaudu (CC '18) and Neci Whye (CC '18).

Marya Pollack and Robert Pollack
Wednesday 2:10pm - 4:00pm

EEEB W4321

This 4 point seminar on Human Identity is taught from the perspective of four different disciplines;  Law, Religion, Science, and Medicine. EEEB W4321 Human Nature fulfills requirements for majors in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Biology and in the new major of Medicine, Literature, and Society (MLS) offered by the Institute in Comparative Literature. It is also available for the major and concentration in Sustainable Development offered by the Earth Institute and cross-listed with the Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race. In addition, it counts as an elective for students in Biology, Engineering, and Bioethics.

The course focuses on human identity, beginning with the individual over the lifespan and progressing to communal and global viewpoints using a framework of perspectives from biology, genetics, medicine, public health, psychiatry, religion and the law. W4321 evolved from a Columbia College Core Capstone course INSM4321 in 2009 which developed initially from a Ford Foundation grant to the Center for the Study of Science and Religion for “A Difficult Dialogues Course: ‘Human Nature.’”

As a graduate level course, it is open to interested undergraduates and graduate students including those from the Medical Center campus.

Dennis Zhang

Through a collaboration between the RCSS and the Double Discovery Center (DDC), this discussion-focused course will be taught to underserved high schoolers in the NYC area. Through open dialogues on historical precedents and contemporary ethical dilemmas, the goal of this project is to foster an environment of critical thinking and self-reflection that will help youth navigate the dynamic, ever-shifting landscape of modern genetics.