It’s well-documented that there’s been a critical shortage of trained public health professionals in the U.S. for some time. For example, it’s been estimated that in Texas only about 20 percent of the public health workforce has formal training.
In an initiative to address this issue, the Texas A&M University 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.
A Texas A&M HSE vitalRECORD news article by Rae Lynn Mitchell notes that applications are currently being accepted for a new bachelor’s degree program at the TAMU College Station campus, with classes to begin in the fall semester of 2014. The undergraduate curriculum is to be 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,” says Antonio Rene, Ph.D., M.P.H., senior associate academic affairs dean at the Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health.
Ms. Mitchell notes that with gaps in the current workforce and growth in public health practice, in health departments, health care systems, non-governmental agencies and community-based organizations, there is critical 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. The Department of Environmental and Occupational Health is concerned with the health effects of exposures to air and water pollution, pesticides, organic solvents, dusts and physical hazards, which occur in the environment, the home or the workplace. The department draws from the knowledge generated from disciplines that contribute to recognizing, assessing, and controlling these risks that include epidemiology, toxicology, microbiology, safety engineering, industrial hygiene, medicine, nursing, law and labor economics, and includes a multidisciplinary core faculty and a large adjunct faculty.
Major interests of the core faculty include environmental carcinogenesis, occupational safety and health, molecular and cellular toxicology, endocrine disruption, exposure assessment and genotoxicity. The adjunct faculty includes scientists from other academic units. The M.P.H. training program reflects a commitment to education, research and service in public health. The core of the program is a set of required and elective courses. The Department also offers an M.S.P.H. program for students interested in a research track.
The Master of Public Health (MPH or M.P.H.) is a professional master’s degree designed to provide practical training in areas related to public health practice. The Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) degree is considered more of an academic public health degree rather than a professional public health degree (e.g. MPH). As such, the MSPH in either Environmental or Occupational Health is more research-oriented and requires additional coursework in research methods and statistics. Also, MSPH students must complete a research thesis.
“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.environmental-health/mcdonald-bio1.html, professor and department head, in the vitalRECORD report.
Dr. McDonald 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 TAMU HSC programs should visit:
Texas A&M University
Texas A&M School of Rural Public Health
Texas A&M HSE vitalRECORD
Texas A&M University