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November 2008 Issue

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New Master's Degree of Public Health Enrolls First Class

By Katie Pence
Published November 2008

Jaytoya Mercer says she was looking for a change when she found that the University of Cincinnati was starting a new master’s of public health (MPH) program.

“After working as a nurse at Children’s, I realized I wanted to do something different in health care,” says the 23-year-old nurse.

The new program was just what she was looking for. Mercer, along with nine other students, is part of the first class of MPH students enrolled in the two–year program, which focuses on public health practice. It is the first program of its kind in this region and one of only a handful of its kind in the nation.

Classes began Sept. 24.

“The threats to public health are growing,” says James Boex, PhD, director of the program and professor of public health sciences and health care administration.

“Cincinnati is the perfect place to start this sort of program. The resources are already in place. “The potential is truly amazing,” he adds.

Boex says the core courses in the program focus on five areas of public health: biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health systems and social and behavioral sciences.

All MPH programs offer the same core training, but after that, each program differs in the concentrations it offers.

“We are concentrating on health education, public health leadership and improving the health of vulnerable populations,” he says. “The program will challenge our students with the health care problems society faces.”

The program totals 60 quarter hours; classes are held in the evening four days a week. Boex says about 25 faculty members from various disciplines throughout the Academic Health Center are teaching in the new program, in addition to main campus faculty.

“We have wonderful faculty with vast knowledge of the health care field,” he says, adding that he hopes to eventually accept 50 students per year into the program.

“We expect to see growth as word about the MPH degree gets out.”

The public health field faces a big challenge in the coming years with the loss of much of its employee base, Boex adds.

“Many of the public health professionals who are working in the government and the industry are approaching retirement age,” he says. “With avian flu and anthrax threatening the nation and the world, we need people with expertise in place who can effectively protect the public’s health from such challenges.”

Mercer says she hopes to be one of those experts, either in Cincinnati or wherever life takes her next.

“Cincinnati really has a high demand for a class like this,” she says. “We have a high poverty and infant mortality rate, among other issues.

“I think it will be a great asset locally and nationally,” Mercer says.

Center for the Study of Health

The Institute for the Study of Health has merged with the department of public health sciences and has been named the Center for the Study of Health.

In June, the UC Board of Trustees dissolved the institute as an independent entity to become a center within the public health sciences department.

Ronnie Horner, PhD, chair of the new department, says this change is largely in name and won’t mean much for the researchers and faculty of the former institute.

“It was an administrative structure change for efficiency purposes,” he says. “The research activities of the former institute will essentially remain the same.”

Horner says faculty and staff of the institute have become faculty or have secondary appointments in the department. He says the center is a division within the public health sciences department.

“In taking on the functions of the institute, the center will serve as a research arm of the department,” he adds.

“We continue to welcome faculty throughout the university who are interested in doing research that matches the goals of the center.”

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