This fall semester, Brandeis named distinguished professor and researcher Dr. Peter Conrad the interim head of the sociology department. In the department’s efforts to secure a permanent department head, Conrad has gladly agreed to fill this interval position.
His nine prior years of experience as head of the department in the 1990s, as well as his 10-year run as head of the HSSP program in the 2000s, has given Conrad the expertise to efficiently carry out his role as temporary head.
Conrad has been a faculty member at Brandeis University for 35 years and has proven to be an impactful asset to the sociology community, both on and off campus. Conrad’s most recent award in 2004, the Leo G. Reeder Award, given annually for distinguished contributions to medical sociology, exhibits only the surface of his accomplishments.
Medical Sociology, as defined by Conrad, “takes the sociological approach to looking at health illness and medical care. It’s a way in which we use social tools to deal with various kinds of health related phenomenon.”
Within this branch of medical sociology, Conrad particularly focuses his research on the medicalization of society, and for over 30 years, the sociology of ADHD. In his most recent book, The Medicalization of Society (2007), Conrad discusses both the origins and consequences of the growth of medical power over human issues.
“More and more, a social condition is becoming defined as a medical condition; for instance, obesity and alcoholism,” Conrad explains. Conrad researches the factors related to illness and disease, such as inequality in race and gender. He stresses the interconnection between health and sociological factors and admits that these interconnections are what draw students into the sociology programs.
“There are several reasons as to why students should study sociology,” the fall head of department claims. “Yet, the most important reason is to learn to analyze the way in which society is organized.”
Because sociology is not typically offered in the traditional high school setting, Conrad finds it most common for students to take their first sociology class during their first and second years of college, as he did. Conrad welcomes new and curious students to join his spirit of inquiry in his wide range of classes.
Conrad’s courses range from his most popular Health, Community, and Society, a core course for HSSP students, to his Nature, Nurture, and Sociology course offered in both the fall and spring.
The new interim head of department hopes that more students will experiment with the wide range of sociology courses offered by the department. Sociology’s uniqueness lies in its ability to satisfy the interests of students on a broad spectrum ranging from inequality to race to politics. Topics like these attract a range of students, and Conrad believes that because sociology does not require a perquisite, more students are drawn to picking a class purely out of personal interest.
The sociology department feels confident in its new interim head as it looks to fulfill the position permanently next September. Conrad continues to master his field as he looks to inspire his students on a daily basis and focus on his extensive research in medical sociology.