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The JMU Health Communication Institute is dedicated to promoting more effective communication interaction in health care.

Internship Opportunities for Health Communication Majors and Minors

 If you are interested in seeking an internship see Dr. Toni Whitfield (
 You can complete an internship for credit if you have completed 240, 245, 341, and 280.

Currently there are three open internship opportunities:

1) The TB program at the Health Department has an opening for an intern. I have heard great things about this internship and I think it would provide you with valuable health communication experience and skills.

2) Cannie Cambell is looking for an intern for a Health Ministry program at her church. 

3) Best Shot Foundation: Regional Tournament Organizer. For more information  click here

We have lots of internship possibilities. Check with Dr. Toni Whitfield and start setting up internships for the spring or summer.



The Health Communication Institute was established in the Spring of 1984 and was funded by a grant from James Madison University. The Institute is located in Harrison Hall on the James Madison University Campus in Harrisonburg, VA.

The Institute has:

  • sponsored two national conferences on health communication and published the presented papers
  • conducted and published research in the area of health communication
  • promoted and conducted educational programs to make the general public and those in the health professions aware that ineffective communication interaction in the health field is having serious negative effects on the general wellness of the American public
  • published a newsletter four times a year about health communication
  • helped students gain the knowledge and skills necessary to obtain jobs in the health promotion field through the Health Communication Concentration and a Minor in the School of Communication Studies
  Majors in Health Communication

    This program prepares students to study communication in a variety of contexts within the health care environment. Students study communication interaction between health professionals and patients/clients and health promotion communication strategies. This program prepares students for a variety of careers including public relations director in a healthcare context, hospice manager, health director for corporations and many others.

    In addition to the 15 hours of required speech communication courses, students studying health communication must complete the following hours from among the depth requirements in order to receive a letter upon graduation that verifies that they have completed a program of health communication studies. Students are encouraged to enroll in an internship during their junior or senior years.

Courses in the Major Credit Hours
SCOM 260. Introduction to Public Relations     3
SCOM 261. Public Relations Techniques I  Written                 3
SCOM 270. Introduction to Health Communication     3
SCOM 350. Organizational Communication     3
SCOM 449. Communication Training     3
SCOM 470. Health Communication Campaigns   3


  Minors in Health Communication

The Health Communication minor (18 hours) is part of the new curriculum in the School of Speech Communication and is open to all students who are not SCOM majors at James Madison University.

This minor is designed to help students who plan careers in health fields to be more effective communicators and thereby more effective health practitioners. Researchers have found that 11-65% of health care consumers are dissatisfied with the communication interaction between themselves and health care professionals.

Research findings indicate that about 51% of patients/clients do not follow the suggestions/orders of health professionals. This noncompliance, not taking medicines or not following exercise regimens for example, leads to higher rates of illness and to people not being physically fit.

Researchers have studied demographic, physical and psychological characteristics of clients/patients in order to determine which variables correlate with compliance/noncompliance. The only variable that has shown major correlation rates is effective or ineffective communication interaction.

It has been suggested that up to 50% of the illness in the United States could be lessened or abolished if health care professionals were more effective communicators, for example, if wellness centers could motivate overweight persons to stay with their exercise programs.

This is why we are educating communication majors and minors to be more effective communicators in the health care arena.

 Courses in the Minor

Credit Hours

SCOM 240. Process of Human Communication    
SCOM 245 Signs, Symbols and Social Interaction      
SCOM 270. Introduction to Health Communication    
SCOM 350. Organizational Communication    
SCOM 450 Advanced Organizational Communication   
SCOM 470. Health Communication Campaigns            





Sharlene Thompson, Ph.D.
 Associate Director, Health & Environmental Communication Institute
 Assistant Professor School of Communication Studies
 Office: Harrison 1263. Phone: 540.568.3108. Fax: 540.568.6059.