Quinnipiac University

Professor explores stigmas attached to chronic illnesses

April 19, 2021

Headshot of Professor Alex Parkhouse

Professor Alex Parkhouse teaches his students that getting to the heart of our greatest health issues requires more than a purely medical approach.

His research on the stigmas attached to chronic illnesses, their impact on a patient's mental health and the overall connection to patients' health literacy provides a perfect example.

"We look at how certain variables work together to create an experience for an individual," Parkhouse said.

Parkhouse, a medical sociologist, teaches many health-based courses, including Sociology of Mental Health and the Sociology of Health and Illness. He familiarizes his students with the many social determinates of health, including income level, education, gender, race, food security, access to housing and workplace safety.

"Students should know the social model of health and what it means," he said. "When people are focused on just one aspect, they miss the bigger picture."

Parkhouse doesn't believe that students need a sociology background to see or contribute to that picture. In fact, he relies on the perspectives of students from a wide array of disciplines to diversify and enrich classroom discussions.

"I'm often learning as much from them as they are from me," Parkhouse noted.

Whatever industry they may work in and wherever their lives lead them, Parkhouse wants his students to understand how their social environments and socioeconomic positions have shaped their perspectives, experiences and health outcomes.

"When they start to see that, it's a powerful thing," Parkhouse said.

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