Death and Dying


death and dying

Course Overview:

The biomedical, economic, social, and psychological issues surrounding death and dying in the twenty-first century in America. Religious and cultural perspectives both in the Judeo-Christian ethic and in other religious frameworks. Theories of dying from sociological and social psychological perspectives.

Dr. Gold, who teaches this course, is an award-winning professor.

Excerpted from a feature in Duke Magazine:

Not every nineteen-year-old is ready to confront his own mortality. "My estimation is that the students who take this class are the most courageous students on campus," says Deborah Gold, an associate professor of medical sociology. "It is not an easy class to take because of the unavoidable emotional aspects of death or dying."

The course, which Gold offers every fall, draws a diverse group of undergraduates, including would-be doctors, people who hope to manage their fear of death, and students who have recently lost a friend, a family member, or a pet. Gold began teaching the course in the tumultuous fall of 2001. "Class started the last weekend of August, and in eleven days September 11 happened, so I had the material for the whole rest of the semester right there," she says.

"Death and Dying" is a Duke Service-Learning course so it combines readings and research papers with weekly community service. Volunteer assignments are tailored to each student's interests and comfort level with death, and range from retirement homes to the cancer wards at Duke Medical Center. "We try really hard to match the student to a level of readiness," Gold says. "If I have a person who's really afraid of dying, I'm not going to send them to a hospice."

Several years ago, one student witnessed eleven deaths in a single semester, working alongside a hospital chaplain at the medical center. She is now a third-year medical student at Case Western Reserve University and has told Gold that the experience prepared her emotionally for encountering death in medical school.

Read the rest of the article here.

About Dr. Gold:

My research has centered on the psychosocial consequences of chronic illness for older adults. Although I have studied breast cancer, syncope, head and neck cancer, Parkinson's disease and Paget's disease of bone, my primary interest and focus has been on osteoporosis and its psychological and social impact on those who suffer from it. 

In particular, my current research focuses on compliance and persistence with osteoporosis medications. One current study focuses on the impact of race/ethnicity on medication decision making. We are trying to determine the relative weight of cost, convenience, dosing interval, efficacy, and safety in making medication decisions and taking medication on a regular basis as prescribed by a health care provider. I am also on the Steering Committees of two major observational studies with different osteoporosis medications. 

Finally, I have worked with voluntary health organizations to translate our research findings into positive real-world outcomes for people with chronic illness. I serve on the Board of Trustees of the National Osteoporosis Foundation and am Chair of its Education Committee. I have also chaired the International Symposium on Osteoporosis (ISO) for the last 8 years.

Crosslisting Numbers: 

Global Health

Curriculum Codes: