We Noticed a Need to Rethink Public Health Education. This is Our Answer.
As an administrator and a faculty member involved in biostatistics, I noticed that there was a need to rethink public health education. This is our answer.
As an administrator and faculty member at a school of public health, I see first-hand that the world’s public health needs are changing. Public health professionals are battling new challenges every day, including global warming, aging, gun violence, urbanization and racism. At the Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), we’re excited to tackle these challenges head-on by preparing our students with the necessary skills to face today’s challenges and adapt to emerging issues.
The rapid growth of information technology, means of communication, and global population are forcing us to confront problems with new, innovative approaches. At BUSPH, we recognized the need to address the interconnectedness and complexity of the challenges we will face in the coming decades. We did so through a dynamic assortment of educational programs to prepare students to enter the fastest growing sector of the U.S economy. Colleges and universities must step up to meet the needs of the workforce and train the next generation of leaders in public health. Seeking the need to develop a 21st century model for education to address these challenges, we began an extensive curriculum reform of our Master of Public Health (MPH) degree and developed five 1-year Master of Science (MS) programs. Collectively, our interdisciplinary MPH and research-focused MS programs prepare students to think beyond the silos where institutions of higher education often find themselves.
The BU MPH features an integrated core curriculum which attempts to pull disciplines together to demonstrate the synergy of disciplines essential to meet the demands of 21st-century life. Rather than completing foundational coursework in a vacuum, our cohort-model integrated core curriculum facilitates the harmonizing of several interrelated disciplines as students take quantitate methods, health systems, law, and policy, individual, community, and population health. Additionally, recognizing the need to train leaders in the field, we developed a leadership and management core course to assist students in furthering their ability to communicate with, engage, and organize diverse groups in the pursuit of specific projects and change efforts.
Once students complete their core, they choose from one of nine interdisciplinary functional area certificates which develop specific skills needed to make an impact in the field including Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Health Communication and Promotion, Design and Conduct of Public Health Research, and Program Management. Students can also pair their functional certificate with one of eight context certificate to focus on a specific population or topical area, including Pharmaceuticals, Infectious Disease, Mental Health and Substance Use, and Global Health.
To ensure students can apply knowledge and skills attained in coursework to the workforce, they complete a series of professional development and practical experiences including a practicum, career preparation program, and an integrative learning experience. These components are a hallmark of our commitment to a practice-based public health education.
In addition to addressing the need for an innovative MPH curriculum, we also recognized the necessity to develop other programs to meet the demand of employers and students alike. Consequently, we now offer five 1-year MS programs – Applied Biostatistics, Environmental Health Data Analytics, Epidemiology, Health Systems and Services Research, and Public Health Nutrition. While students can pursue doctoral programs, the MS provides research training in discreet skill sets to prepare students to enter the workforce after one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study. Collectively, the MS programs offer an opportunity for young professionals to dive deeper into a subject area and develop practical, transferrable skills
With our commitment to ongoing reflection and quality improvement of our academic programs, I am incredibly confident that our students have the tools to confront and conquer the changing landscape, to solve complex problems, and improve the health of local, national and international populations. We need students in public health now more than ever!
If you are interested in learning more about degree programs at the Boston university School of Public Health and career opportunities for those pursuing graduate study in public health, join BU SPH on January 10 from 12-1pm in the MassBio Collaboration room. For more details and to RSVP click here.
Lisa Sullivan is the Associate Dean for Education at the School of Public Health. She has a PhD in Statistics and is Professor of Biostatistics and former Chair of the Department of Biostatistics. She teaches Biostatistics for MPH students and was instrumental in developing a minor program in public health which is open to undergraduate students at Boston University. She is Principal Investigator of the Summer Institute for Training in Biostatistics which is designed to promote interest in the field of biostatistics and its many exciting career opportunities. Lisa is co-author of a textbook entitled Introductory Applied Biostatistics, author of Essentials of Biostatistics in Public Health (currently in its second edition) and Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Clinical Trials. She is the recipient of numerous teaching awards for excellence in teaching. Lisa is a senior statistician on the Framingham Heart Study working primarily in developing and disseminating cardiovascular risk functions. She is active in multidisciplinary research projects including a variety of projects in cardiovascular disease, a large epidemiological study to assess the association between alcohol exposure in pregnancy and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), studies to improve methods for prenatal diagnosis and a clinical trial to improve repetitive behaviors in children affected with autism.