Angela Wadsworth Dr. Angela Wadsworth / Bear Hall 227 / 910-962-7424/ wadswortha@uncw.edu

Why Sociology?

My first exposure to sociology came when earning an Associate’s Degree at the local community college, and took a required “Intro to Sociology” course. The first day of class our instructor walked in the room and asked “Have you ever noticed houses that are so run down looking that you think no one could possibly live in them, only to get closer and see a late model car in the driveway? Ever wonder why? “. He used this as a way to talk about social class and consumerism, and I was hooked. At that time in my life I had been working in hospital administration for a while. My plan was to finish the education that would allow me to be board certified as a nurse; then go to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and train to be a medical photographer. An industrial accident derailed those plans, and made return to college a necessity as I needed to train for a field that required less physical, hands-on work than was necessary in nursing or photography.

Upon transferring to UNC-Charlotte, I took courses in social problems and medical sociology. Suddenly, what I had seen and worked around for years in hospital settings made more sense; as did the general world around me. This time period coincided with the advent of HIV/AIDS, as we began seeing more and more patients in health care settings with this new, inexplicable illness that brought with it old fears of contagion and suspicion of those who were “different”. Now, stigma and discrimination were not just terms in a book, but faces and names of persons who often had little to no family support as they neared the end of life. My sociological imagination, to use a term from C. Wright Mills, went into overdrive. I became involved with a local social service organization through the Lutheran church I attended. We provided hands-on care when needed, wrote grants, held fundraisers, made panels for the NAMES Project quilt, and for many served as the only form and touch of humanity they received as they neared the end of their time in this world. I watched people whom I came to love die from HIV/AIDS, as well as cancer and other opportunistic diseases to which their ravaged immune systems made them susceptible.

During this same time period I lost my 34 year old sister to malignant melanoma, a particularly aggressive form of cancer. I saw her experience stigma and discrimination at the hands of unthinking others, including in some instances, I regret to say, health care providers. Clearly education and training in cultural awareness and sensitivity was needed for health care workers; along with acceptance of the fact that the technological fundamentalism shaping their nursing and medical school experiences and careers would, at some point in time for all of us, cease to provide a cure. The emotional abandonment of persons with chronic, terminal illnesses within health care was and is a model that has to change.

A major benefit I received while an undergraduate was mentoring from several strong, independent, female professors who encouraged me to continue my education. I earned a master’s degree from UNC-Charlotte, and went on to earn my doctorate at the University of Kentucky. While there I had the opportunity to train and teach in their behavioral science department, a division of the medical school. My love of teaching was encouraged and strengthened, and is my primary focus today.

Death and dying, as well as health care inequalities on the basis of diagnosis, and how diagnosis and treatment are affected by race, age, gender, sexual orientation in health care settings; are a continuous thread that informs my teaching and writing. Come by sometime and we’ll talk, or better yet, take a class and see for yourself!

Specialty Areas

Courses Taught

Current Research Interests

Professional Associations


UNC Wilmington | 601 S. College Road, Wilmington NC 28403 | 910.962.3000 | About this Site | Copyright Notice | Feedback | Page maintained by:  K. Parish [parishk AT uncw DOT edu ]