Initiative for Maximizing Student Development (Mailman School of Public Health)

New York
Academic Level
Issue Area
Academic Program
Key Personnel
Program Focus


The Department of Sociomedical Sciences (SMS) draws from anthropology, history, psychology, and sociology as well as applied public health to examine the cultural, social, environmental, and political forces that shape behavior and that produce health and disease in different contexts. SMS played a key role in instituting the NIH-funded Initiative for Maximizing Student Diversity (IMSD). IMSD has enabled SMS to significantly increase the number of historically under-represented students, including Latinos, who enroll in the doctoral program and provides research mentoring, peer support, tailored seminars on research and professional development, and individualized career guidance.

Program Description

SMS’s mission is to understand and address the health concerns of disempowered and marginalized groups who carry a disproportionate burden of diseases, such as immigrants, sexual minorities, drug users, people with mental illnesses, and racial and ethnic minorities and, also, to increase the diversity of students who receive doctoral training in public health.


From 2003 to 2010, 78 new doctoral students enrolled in the doctoral programs. Of these, 11 (13%) were Latinos. SMS has also made faculty diversity a priority: 10 of the 37 faculty members whose primary appointments are in SMS are either Latino or African-American. Over the past 10 years, 118 doctoral students have graduated from the Department of SMS. Of these, 10 or 8.5% were Latinos. Of the 22 Latino students who have matriculated in the program in the past 15 years, 14 have earned their degrees, 7 are currently making good progress towards that goal, and only 3 have withdrawn from the program. During the previous 4-year period that the IMSD has supported doctoral training, 4 Latinos earned doctoral degrees.