Certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine

Overview of the Certificate Program

The undergraduate program in the Conceptual Foundations of Medicine is designed to offer a group of related courses in the areas of medical ethics, the nature of explanation and evidence in the biomedical sciences, and social problems such as assessments of alternative forms of health care delivery. The program is likely to be of particular interest to pre-medical and pre-professional health care students, but is intended to appeal to all students interested in social and philosophical problems in the biomedical sciences.

Students interested in obtaining the the undergraduate certificate should apply as early in their course work as possible. Normally, satisfactory completion of one course in the two-term core sequence, History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) 0612 or 0613, is required for admission into the certificate program. Applications can be secured from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science.

Application Information

You can download the application form and return it to the department via campus mail or in person at the office (1017 Cathedral of Learning). Download Printable Application form in:


  • The two introductory core courses (HPS 0612 and 0613) in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine.
  • A two-term college-level course in biology.
  • Two additional courses in a variety of departments dealing with social and conceptual issues in the biomedical sciences. The two elective courses must be in different departments.
  • Students must achieve at least a C grade in each of the required courses, and at least a C+ average in the overall certificate requirements.

Core Courses from the History and Philosophy of Science Department

  • HPS 0612 Mind and Medicine 3 Credits

This course focuses on questions of the aims of medicine, its scientific status and its relation to the natural sciences. These questions are pursued in the context of psychiatry, neurology, genetics, and the process of physical diagnosis.

  • HPS 0613 Morality and Medicine 3 Credits

This course is an introduction to the ethical, legal, and social problems which are part of the modern practice of medicine. It begins with a brief introduction to various types of moral theories (e.g., Kantian, Utilitarian, Naturalistic) followed by discussions of truth-telling in medicine, informed consent, euthanasia, abortion, and the relation between political systems and health care. The focus throughout will be on the role of moral values in medical treatment.

Important Certificate Information

  • All required courses must be completed with a "C" average or better. Pass/fail grades do not count.
  • IMPORTANT: Your two upper-level elective courses MUST be from two different departments.
  • The department will furnish a list of courses which satisfy the requirements in the "Other" or "Upper Level" category. It will be available online at the beginning of each registration period or by stopping in the office or phoning the department at 412-624-5896. 
  • If you require academic advising with respect to the required courses, please make an appointment to see Professor Paolo Palmieri, 1017 Cathedral of Learning, e-mail:pap7@pitt.edu.
  • Use CFMED as the Plan Code on your registration form to ensure proper credit on your final transcript.
  • During the first few weeks of your final term of your senior year fill out an additional application in the Arts and Sciences Dean's Office (140 Thackeray Hall). This will ensure the processing of the certificate information onto your transcript. If this process is not completed in a timely manner, a processing fee will be assessed by the Registrar.
  • It is your responsibility to bring a copy of your final transcript to the HPS Department for coursework/GPA verification of the six courses taken. If everything is correct we will then issue a certificate in your name to the permanent address listed on your original application.

Alternative Elective Courses to Satisfy the Conceptual Foundations Requirement

If you believe that there is a course that deals with the social and conceptual issues in the biomedical sciences, and that it should satisfy the elective requirement for the certification, you must:

  • Obtain the description of the course; 
  • Write a very short explanation of why the course ought to count toward satisfaction of the elective requirement, by showing how it deals with social or conceptual issues in the biomedical sciences; and 
  • Submit both to the Undergraduate Advisor for approval. 

The list of elective courses is not fixed, and so other courses well may be approved. However, they must have a major component that deals with social and conceptual issues of biomedicine. You must see Professor James G. Lennox for permission to use other courses. 

Approved Elective Courses for Summer Term, 2018 (2187)

AFRCNA 1309/20591 (6WK-1) Women of Africa and African Diaspora

ANTH 0538/10729 (6WK-1) The Archeologist Looks at Death

ANTH 0768/10730 (6WK-1) Human Sexuality in Cross Culture

ANTH 1713/16840 (6WK-2) Health, Nutrition & Population

ANTH 1725/14511 (4WK-2) Social Health Issues East Africa

ANTH 1752/10371 (6WK-2) Anthropology of Food

ANTH 1752/10371 (6WK-2) History of Medicine & Health Care

HIST 1090/20494 (6WK-2) History of Medicine & Health Care

NROSCI 0081/10519 (6WK-1) Drugs and Behavior

NROSCI 0081/17888 (6WK-2) Drugs and Behavior

NROSCI 0081/18816 (Summer Term) Drugs and Behavior

PSY 1110/19487 (Summer Term) Psychological Aspect of Human Sexuality

PSY 1205/10609 (6WK-1) Abnormal Psychology

PSY 1205/10311 (6WK-2) Abnormal Psychology

PSY 1205/18350 (Summer Term) Abnormal Psychology

PSY 1215/19485 (Summer Term) Health Psychology

PUBHLT 1003/17436 (12 Weeks) Introduction to Public and Global Health

PUBHLT 1004/17437 (12 Weeks) Public Health Explorations

PUBHLT 1005/17438 (12 Weeks) Public Health Research and Practice

SOC 0446/17664 (6WK-1) Sociology of Gender

SOC 0447/19239 (12 Weeks) Medical Sociology

SOC 1488/20632 (6WK-2) History of Medicine & Health Care

Approved Elective Courses for Spring Term, 2018 (2184)

AFRNCA 1309/22233 Women of Africa & African Diaspora

AFRNCA 1510/30842 Health in the African Diaspora

ANTH 0538/10927 The Archeologist Looks at Death

ANTH 1737/16528 Special Topics in Cultural Anthropology: Anthropology and Public Health

ANTH 1752/23951 Anthropology of Food

ANTH 1793/30126 Asian Medical Systems

ECON 0220/18352 & 22107 Introduction to Health Economics

ENGLIT 0541/26926 Literature and Medicine

GEOL 1055/10888 Environmental Ethics, Science and Public Policy

HIST 0791/30029 Health Controversies in History

HIST 1090/31010 History of Medicine & Health Care

NROSCI 0081/11155, 24643 & 26106 Drugs and Behavior

PHIL 0360/25423 Introduction to Biomedical Ethics

PHIL 1360/24654 Biomedical Ethics

PSY 1052/27263 Topics in Clinical Psychology: Anxiety Theory & Treatment

PSY 1052/27263 & 29792 Topics in Clinical Psychology

PSY 1110/24636 Psychological Aspects of Human Sexuality

PSY 1205/10704, 11101, 17466 & 23992 Abnormal Psychology

PSY 1210/11220 Introduction to Clinical Psychology

PSY 1215/17750 & 27270 Health Psychology

PSY 1230/26367 Psychology of Death and Dying

RELGST 1725/25762 Death & Healthcare Professions

SOC 0466/28001 Sociology of Gender

SOC 0477/19067, 24001 & 27620 Medical Sociology

SOC 1450/28024 Health and Illness

SOC 1488/31131 History of Medicine and Healthcare

PUBHLT 1002/19581 & 30334 Special Topics in Global Health

REHSCI 1290/14172 Practical Issues in Disability

REHSCI 1292/26256 Diversity and Cultural Issues in Health, Disability & Rehabilitation

Approved Elective Courses for Fall Term, 2017 (2181)

AFRCNA 1309/29016 Women of Africa and African Diaspora

AFRCNA 1710/11610 African American Health Issues

ANTH 0768/30123 Human Sexuality in Cross-Culture

ANTH 1752/25727 Anthropology of Food 

ANTH 1761/26147 Patients & Healers: Medical Anthropology

BIOENG 1241/20174 Societal, Political & Ethical Issues in Biotech

EM 1152/14566 Issues in Health Care 

EM 1153/15043 Issues in Health Care Education

GEOL 1055/27796 Environmental, Ethics, Science & Public Policy

GSWS 0300/28885 Special Topics: Gender and Health

HIST1090/10758 & SOC 1488/2917 History of Medicine and Health Care-UHC 

HIST 1091/25915 Global Health History

NROSCI 0081/11012, 26117, 26329 Drugs and Behavior 

PS 1262/25651 Health and Policy in United States 

PS 1542/24151 Global Environmental Politics 

PSY 1205/10489, 11219, 18252, 24682, 29376 Abnormal Psychology 

PSY 1210/11424 Introduction to Clinical Psychology 

PSY 1215/11557, 26867, 28100 Health Psychology 

PSY1230/18254 Psychology of Death and Dying 

PSY 1312/29377 Child Development and Social Policy

PSY 1357/268868 Psychology of Aging 

PUBHLT 1001/19631 Introduction to Global Health 

PUBSRV 1305/24685, 27359 Health, Law and Ethics 

REHSCI 1240/14598 Issues in Health Care 

REHSCI 1280/17671 Psychology and Sociology of Disability 

REHSCI 1290/27900 Practical Issues in Disability 

RELGST 1558/27367 Buddhism and Psychology 

SOC 0471/23522 Deviance and Social Control 

SOC 0473/27249 Sociology of Globalization & Health 

SOC 0477/23579, 24689, 27360 Medical Sociology 

SOC 1450/29175 Health and Illness 

SOC 1488/10759 & HIST 1910/10758 History of Medicine and Health Care-UHC