Monthly Archives: January 2020

Draft Sociology of Health Syllabus

I’ve been tweeting about revising my Sociology of Health and Illness graduate seminar class and some folks asked me to share. The draft syllabus is included here: Sociology of Health and Illness_Grad Syllabus 2020_Pirtle

I only taught this class once before, and pulled heavily from the sociology of stress course I took as a student, and other med soc syllabi I found on the web. I didn’t love the class and wanted to change things up.

The first major change is influenced by Cite Black Women movement. Created by Dr. Christen A. Smith,  #CiteBlackWomen is “a campaign to push people to engage in a radical praxis of citation that acknowledges and honors Black women’s transnational intellectual production”. The second tenet in the critical praxis is to #2 – Integrate Black women into the CORE of your syllabus (in life & in the classroom). One of the best transformations in health studies over the last few decades, I believe, is an understanding of social conditions as fundamental to health outcomes. For instance, acknowledging that it is racism, not race, that shapes health disparities by race. Many black women scholars have lead the way in this regard. Incorporating more black women authors in my syllabus strengthened this critical and intersectional perspective. There is so much brilliance out there I was sad to not be able to fit more in. Per my count, there are 20 black women authors on the syllabus.

health equity

Next, per feedback from former students I added a few more texts (v. nearly all articles).

Finally, I changed the assignments. I added weekly memos, a short writing assignment, and built in flexibility into the final project. The pedagogy here is to make all of us accountable in what we bring to class discussions, and to lessen the weight of one final project that may or may not be relevant to students in shaping the course grade. The short writing is open to student input, but my suggestions are either an OpEd or a book review that might be able to be published in a timely fashion. Likewise, the final assignment will allow students to choose what option is most useful for them (i.e., if they are taking an exam in the area they might use the final to do a practice exam).


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Be Good, You Deserve It

As a self-professed member of the #BeeHive, I love the saying, “You Have the Same Amount of Hours in a Day as Beyoncé,” which seemed to pop up everywhere after she dropped an award winning visual album in the middle of the night. I love it, because I pretty much love all things Beyonce, including how she gets shit done. Image result for You Have the Same Amount of Hours in a Day as Beyoncé

Take her Coachella performance, for example. She was the first black woman to headline the event in its 20 year history, and she did so less than a year after having twins. To accomplish this, she went on a strict diet and worked countless hours to perfect the pathbreaking show. As a result, she rightfully secured the bag, banking 60 million three-project deal with Netflix. She is the Queen. 

 But if we have the same 24 hours in the day as Beyoncé, does that mean that we, too, can break multiple records at a time? Well, not exactly. Most of us do not have the army behind us that Beyonce now does, so saying that we have the same 24 hours that Beyoncé does rightfully comes with a footnote (see image below). Screenshot 2020-01-03 17.06.57.png

As someone who is vocal about the many hats I wear, and more specifically about being a woman of color academic, mother, wife, and engaged citizen, the number one thing younger women like me ask is, “how do you do it all?” 

As a working mother who has struggled to fit in all of the thousands of things I have on my to-do list within 24 hours, I have reconciled that although we all can’t be as exceptional as Bey, we can at least do what we set out to do. We can be great by being good at those things we prioritize to do. My answer is not “Be Beyoncé” it is, “Be Good” at what you want to do. (Therefore, the motto that I really want to resonate here is a more humble Beyoncé, that of #BeyGood.) 

Here is my quick and dirty version of how to Be Good at multiple things. 

  1.   Identify what is most important to you 
  2.    Shape your schedule around these priorities 
  3.   Be Good at them  
  4.   Check in, adjust, re-evaluate, schedule accordingly
  5.   Enlist help if you can 

 It’s simple in theory, and perhaps harder in practice. But you have to make it your practice. I’ll focus on the first three tasks to illustrate how I make this work for me. Currently, my main priorities at this point in my life include: being an engaged and supportive wife and mother, working hard to build a meaningful and impactful career, cultivating friendships and building community, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here’s how I attempt to fit them in, and Be Good: 



I am a mother, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, and sister-cuz. I love family, it is my priority. I do what I can for my family and try to work my schedule around them. This means I try not to take my academic work home with me on evenings or weekends. I put effort into planning vacations with and to see my family, and I treat these as breaks. I enlist a babysitter on occasion so I can still have date nights with my husband. I cook healthy meals a few nights a week for my family, schedule all the doctors appointments, read books at night with the boys, and try to make my family laugh as much as someone with bad humor can. 

I am not mother-of-the-year. Both of my kids have been in full time daycare since about 8 months old. They have the same basic lunch every day, and don’t always eat their veggies. They also have a fair share of screen time. Sometimes I get the number of years wrong that my husband I have been together, and I am known for misdirecting an attitude or two towards him. I don’t call my family back east enough. I always forget to send gifts in the mail on time and only sometimes remember to do the belated online gift cards. I am there for my family. I am good at family. I am not a supermom. And that is enough. 


Academic Career 

 As an academic, my job encompasses three main duties: research and publishing, teaching and directed student learning, and university and discipline service. I am good at my job. I work to fulfil requirements in all of these things, setting aside time daily for researching and writing. I seek out opportunities to improve the classroom experience and mentor students. And sign up for committees and advisory roles at my university. I write for the public and give research talks all around the US. 

I likely won’t be prolific; I am somewhat slow at publishing. I miss deadlines sometimes, my inbox always has a couple hundred unread messages. I only agree to a couple of conferences a year and I can’t attend all the student events I’m invited to. As hard as I try, sometimes my lectures are boring and other times they have errors. I do my job, and I really love my job, which means I am a good academic. But I recognize it as my job, not my identity. And that is enough. 



 It is a priority for me to be a part of the community I live in, and to be a part of the community that works to make it better. For me, this mostly means volunteering. This past year, for instance, I sat on three difference committee’s related to my sons’ schools, spoke at a community event, and volunteer as a member of two special interests organizations. I also spend time cultivating a more intimate community of friends and social support by organizing girls nights outs, coffee meetings, and playdates. 

Sometimes I take my kids with me to community meetings that they inevitably end up disrupting, other times I miss meetings. I don’t attend all of the marches or city hall meetings, or social hours that show up on my calendar. I mostly buy from big box stores instead of buying local. But I show up when I can, working behind the scenes if that is beneficial, and advocate whenever I have a platform. And that is enough. 


Health Conscious 

I schedule my gym time, like any other appointment, and work out at least 4 times a week. I often workout with my partner, which is such an added bonus when it can be “our” time. I try to make sure I am nurturing healthy bodies in other ways, like going to the doctor when I need, scheduling chiropractor and massage appointments (guilt free y’all – It’s not indulging, it’s a preventative care!), and I have used counseling services when needed. 

In order to keep up this routine, I drag my kids to the gym daycare – even after they have gone to school all day. I also eat junk food, and take the kids through the drive through when I can’t muster the energy to cook. I sometimes bottle things in, and skip appointments at times. But I seek balance for my body and my life. And that is enough. 


For me, it is good enough to be good. I have no hobbies or side hustles. I won’t ever secure a bag as big as Beyoncé’s, or hold myself to such a strict diet. For me, that is not what I want. I have simply decided to be good at the things that I love and prioritize, because I know I cannot do it all. Being just good at the most important things to me allows me to maintain all of them, whereas being great at just one of two of them, means I cannot be good at the rest of the things. 

Some might take my goal and call to Be Good as the easy way out, but I actually think it is radical, especially for women of color. As women of color, we are told explicitly and implicitly, that we must work twice as hard to get the recognition we deserve. We are asked to stretch ourselves and shrink ourselves to fit into other expectations. We take on burdens from generations before us and shelter whole communities. We are forced to break records just to get a headlining spot. But I say, enough is enough. I just want us to Be Good.  


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