Health & Environment

Health and environmental issues impact everyone. That’s why members of Suffolk community are actively working on ways to improve medical care, advance environmental sustainability efforts, and address urgent public health issues.

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Center for Women’s Health & Human Rights

Suffolk’s Center for Women's Health and Human Rights is the first academic institute in the United States to focus on women's health and human rights in the social sciences, arts and humanities, and public policy. Dedicated to research, teaching, networking, and advocacy, Suffolk collaborates with other academic and community organizations, brings together scholars and activists already working in these areas, and provides expertise to a range of institutions.

Health Law Clinic

Students in Suffolk’s Health Law Clinic offer legal services to low-income clients with mental and physical disabilities and their families. Under the supervision of faculty director Sarah Boonin, students gain real-world experience representing clients in a range of legal matters.

Family Advocacy Clinic

Domestic violence is a focus of family law work done in the Family Advocacy Clinic. The goal of the clinic is for student attorneys to learn and develop insight into the practice of law through the prism of family and poverty law. Working in collaboration with HarborCOV, a community-based domestic violence social service agency, student attorneys are expected to perform all the lawyering tasks necessary to represent their client, from initial interviews to trial (with ongoing supervision by faculty).

Undergraduate Areas of Study


Sociologists are driven by the need to improve the lives of others. As a sociology major, you’ll study how humans relate to one another and why they thrive—and flounder—in different societies. Sociology majors can choose from a number of specialized concentrations, such as General Sociology, Crime & Justice, Youth & Community, and Health & Society.

Environmental Studies

Suffolk students benefit from this interdisciplinary major, which draws from the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences. This major also requires a practicum—a hands-on learning experience where real-world environmental challenges are solved. Environmental studies majors have completed theirs at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Sierra Club, Youth Climate Action Network, and Greenpeace.

Government Major

The Suffolk University Government Department seeks to cultivate thoughtful, active, and responsible global citizens. Courses are intended to help students gain a foundational understanding of how institutions, ideas, and ideology shape politics, policy, and decision-making. Students may choose among four concentrations, including International Relations, American Politics, Law and Public Policy, and Political Theory.

The Government Department prepares undergraduate students for further study in graduate or professional schools, as well as careers in government, business, not-for-profit, and politics. Students develop expertise through a wide range of courses, close attention from faculty, student-driven research, and public service.

Public Service Minor

In this introduction to the field of public management, students learn how to lead a nonprofit or publicly controlled institution and how to contribute to policy formation and strategic planning. Public service minors accepted into Suffolk’s Master of Public Administration (MPA) program can waive up to four courses, enabling them to complete both degrees in only five years.

Law Major

The Law Major offers undergraduates a unique interdisciplinary and cross-school educational experience. Students benefit from professional training enabling them to immediately enter the workforce as paralegals. The major offers all students excellent preparation for further study in law, public policy, or further graduate work in a range of disciplines.

Graduate Areas of Study

Master in Healthcare Administration

Those looking for a leadership role in the healthcare hotbed of Boston now have an eminent master’s program to help them achieve their goals. In late 2016, Suffolk’s Master in Healthcare Administration program earned the highest mark of approval: accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME).

Suffolk’s offering is the only CAHME-accredited MHA program in New England. To put that into further perspective, the only accredited MHA programs in New York are at Cornell and Columbia. 

Master of Public Administration

As one of the nation’s top-tier academic programs in public administration and one of only five New England schools fully accredited by the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration (NASPAA), Suffolk students learn to anticipate, respond to, and lead change. Our program emphasizes flexibility, including multiple concentrations and dual degrees with Mental Health Counseling, Political Science, Crime and Justice Studies, and Juris Doctor. 

Juris Doctor

Suffolk Law students with a passion for health can follow the health and biomedical law concentration, or choose a more flexible “area of focus” such as environmental and energy law, health and biomedical law, torts and personal injury law, or juvenile and family law, among others. While earning a JD, Suffolk Law students can gain practical experience in our nationally ranked clinical programs, where student-attorneys help represent real-world clients in areas like health law, family advocacy, and more.

Community Helped Heal the ‘Invisible Injuries’ of Boston Marathon Bombing

By its very nature, terrorism—the use of violence to intimidate and induce fear—causes both physical and psychological damage. In 2017, the late Richard Beinecke, a professor of public and healthcare administration at Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School, changed that recently by publishing a study on “The Mental Health Response to the Boston Bombing: A Three-Year Review.”

“When two terrorist bombs shattered lives at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, the spirit of community was not broken, and the outpouring of public support has been a significant factor in healing psychic wounds,” Beinecke wrote in an op-ed for WBUR.

Beinecke studied the “invisible injuries” left by the Boston Marathon terrorist attack and found that, while the heroics of first responders and medical professionals have been justly celebrated, community also played a critical and perhaps underappreciated role in helping survivors heal from less visible wounds like post-traumatic stress disorder and hearing loss.

“While professional counseling was important,” he found, so was “the help of ‘perfect strangers,’ and the wide variety of supports provided by individuals and organizations in the community.”

A Healthy Dose of Skepticism

Law professor Renee Landers, director of Suffolk’s health and biomedical law concentration, is a sought-after source when it comes to news coverage of the ongoing debate over healthcare in the U.S. Meanwhile, Landers also weighed in on President Trump’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration, arguing in an op-ed that Scott Gottlieb’s penchant for deregulation could harm American patients.

“Most consumers lack the information or expertise to assess the risks and benefits of drugs and medical devices,” says Landers. “Clever marketing could entice some patients to forego using products known to be effective in favor of ones that are less effective and possibly more expensive. Evaluating drugs is not the same as deciding whether one prefers Prego or Ragu.”

Justice League, Unite

With the help of a $286,000 grant from the U.S. Justice Department, Suffolk University professors Erika Gebo and Brenda Bond are currently studying how cities can best work together to reduce youth and gang violence using the Comprehensive Gang Model approach in four Massachusetts cities. Over three years, Worcester and Fall River will adopt intervention efforts compatible with the Comprehensive Gang Model, while Lowell and New Bedford will act as comparison sites.

Gebo is an associate professor of sociology and director of the graduate program in Crime & Justice Studies, while Bond is chair of the Institute for Public Service and associate professor of public administration at Sawyer Business School—it’s a true cross-discipline collaboration.

The pair co-edited the 2012 book Looking Beyond Suppression: Community Responses to Gang Violence, in addition to many other publications. Gebo has also been researching how a public health framework can be applied to gang violence, and recently published her findings in the journal Preventative Medicine Reports.

“My research has clearly shown that, compared with other youth, those most involved in violence and gangs are those with more risk factors, such as high levels of victimization and exposure trauma and lack of exposure to institutions that build upon their assets,” Gebo says.

Healthcare for All

In her mid-20s, Maria R. Gonzalez Albuixech, MSPS ’05, was a Madrid-based journalist covering fashion shows and trends in cosmopolitan cities. As enjoyable as the work was, she sought a more meaningful career - which led her to Boston to pursue her master’s in political science from Suffolk.

“After a few years in the United States, I understood that there was a lot of work to be done to improve access to the healthcare system,” Gonzalez Albuixech said. That led her first to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, where she worked to educate minorities about getting and staying healthy. Then, in 2012, she joined the nonprofit organization Health Care For All -- a key advocate in the health care reform law that brought Massachusetts closer to universal health care and served as a blueprint for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“When I started working at HCFA, I got to know Rosemary, a woman in her 20s who had been diagnosed with breast cancer while living in Washington, D.C., and couldn’t afford health insurance to cover the treatment,” says Gonzalez Albuixech. At the time, Massachusetts was the only state in the country with options for residents who couldn’t afford private health insurance, so Rosemary moved here to get the cancer treatment she needed. “She was a very private young woman, yet she decided to become a voice for the organization I work for and talk about how health care reform in Massachusetts had literally saved her life,” says Gonzalez Albuixech.

Rosemary’s words were especially powerful the day the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, says Gonzalez Albuixech.

“At a press conference, she shared the story that she colors one piece of her hair and changes the color often to make sure that she won’t ever take for granted again simple things such as having hair,” she says.

“That was the moment I knew I was doing what I wanted to do,” says Gonzalez Albuixech. “Now I invest my time and effort to build up a health care system that is more about patients than bills. Now I work for all the Rosemarys out there.”

(Adapted from Suffolk University Magazine, Fall 2016)

Legislating a Clean Energy Future

Alex Rittershaus BS ’11/JD ‘15 is committed to making the world more sustainable, and his concrete efforts to accomplish that goal were recognized when he was named among the Center for Development and Strategy’s 30 Under 30 Leaders of Tomorrow.

Rittershaus oversaw the drafting, advocacy, and ultimate passage of An Act Relative to Energy Diversity in Massachusetts. The statute, which calls for the largest procurement of renewable and clean energy in the history of the Commonwealth, including construction of the largest offshore wind farm in the United States, was signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker in 2016.

Rittershaus, who studied political science before earning his law degree, credits his Suffolk education with helping him get to where he is now. “The government and law courses that I took [at Suffolk] helped me to gain an understanding and an appreciation for the workings of both our state and federal government,” Rittershaus says.

“Studying near world-renowned hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and medical device companies that use cutting-edge innovations in treatments truly inspires me to make a positive contribution to people's lives,” he says. “I’ve been able to do this by holding an internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, which has been an extraordinary experience!”
Rafael Sanchez Studying for a Master in Healthcare Administration (MHA)