(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) The UC Davis Master's in Public Health program has received full accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health, an independent accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. The program was established three years ago to meet California's growing need for public health professionals to track, manage and prevent the spread of injuries and diseases, including cancer, birth defects, and infectious conditions.
A new class of 12 students begins Monday, Aug. 8. The program is currently limited to students who have professional health degrees.
"There is a dire need for public health professionals in California and the nation, and this is going to become more acute in the near future as retirements occur in the public health work force," said Stephen McCurdy, professor of public health sciences at UC Davis School of Medicine and director of the Master's in Public Health program.
"Central Valley and rural communities have been historically underserved and will be especially hard hit. These areas, and the state as a whole, need public health professionals dedicated to prevention and control of communicable and chronic diseases and to preparing neighborhoods and communities to respond to new and changing threats to health.
The program is a collaborative effort by the School of Medicine, School of Veterinary Medicine and the California Department of Health Services. It trains physicians, nurse practitioners, veterinarians, dentists and other health professionals interested in identifying, preventing and solving community health problems. Since its inception in 2002, the program has graduated 21 public health professionals who work in government agencies, voluntary health organizations, advocacy organizations and businesses.
Recent public health threats, including West Nile virus, influenza outbreaks and SARS, were successfully investigated and contained before becoming catastrophic epidemics because of a strong public health response, McCurdy said. Conditions such as obesity, smoking-related illnesses, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and reproductive conditions can also be reduced using a public health approach. Maintaining a highly trained workforce is integral to continuing successes.
Students bring with them widely varying academic and professional interests as well as diverse cultural backgrounds.
One recent graduate, Dr. Wendy Shelton, is currently serving as a consultant on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Another graduate, Dr. Linette Scott, is recording birth and death records for California's 58 counties with Geographic Information System technology. This enables public health professionals to monitor community health block-by-block and neighborhood-by-neighborhood rather than by county lines or zip codes.
Incoming student Estella Geraghty finished her medical degree in June. "I want to develop the skills I'll need to be an independent primary investigator in public health research," said Geraghty. She began her academic career studying accounting and although she's migrated to medicine, her early studies are still evident in her pursuits. "I'm particularly interested in the economics of public health," she said.
Educators are working to establish a curriculum for a two-year program for those without professional health degrees, including students with bachelor's degrees.
This news release was originally distributed August 8, 2005 by the UC Davis Health System.
The University of California report, Health Sciences Education Workforce Needs and Enrollment Planning
, contains information about the need for veterinarians in public practice and human health research.
Learn more about about challenges and opportunities in veterinary public practice from the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges