College Station -- The critical shortage of trained public health professionals in the U.S. has been well documented in recent years. This is certainly true in Texas where it is estimated that only 20 percent of the public health workforce has formal training.
In an effort to address this issue, the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health has launched several new degree programs, including the school’s first undergraduate program, a Bachelor of Science in Public Health (B.S.P.H.), a new Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) in Occupational Health and Safety, and an online M.P.H. degree in Epidemiology.
Applications are currently being accepted for the new bachelor’s degree program at the College Station campus, which will begin in the fall semester of 2014. The undergraduate curriculum is based on a philosophy of health promotion and disease prevention to improve the quality of life of individuals, families and communities. Until now, the school has only offered graduate degree programs.
“Several state health organizations submitted letters of support for the undergraduate public health program to meet the needs they recognize in Texas,” said Antonio Rene, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior associate academic affairs dean at the Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health.
With the gaps in the current workforce and the growth in public health practice in health departments, health care systems, non-governmental agencies and community-based organizations, there is a great need for baccalaureate-prepared public health graduates.
Another new degree program the school is offering is an M.P.H. in Occupational Safety and Health at the College Station campus.
“There are several driving forces behind the need for this degree program including increasing demand by the public for a safe and healthy work environment,” says Thomas McDonald, Ph.D., professor and department head.
McDonald also adds that “the increasing need to cope with technological advances in safety equipment, threats, and changing regulations, coupled with increasing public expectations is helping create the push for more highly qualified occupational health and safety personnel.”
Additionally, the school now offers an online M.P.H. degree in Epidemiology to mirror the existing on-site program, while providing an option for students who need to balance career, families and education. This allows students to complete the same requirements in the same time frame as students attending the program in-person at the school’s College Station campus.
“Beyond public health agencies, demand is increasing for epidemiologists in industry and in both public and private research and health services delivery organizations,” said Eva Shipp, Ph.D., associate professor and program director for the online program. “The program is preparing graduates to address critical health needs such as the prevention of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, drug use, injuries and violence, as well as other chronic and infectious diseases.”
Individuals interested in more information or applying to one of the new programs should visit www.srph.tamhsc.edu.