Inside Look into Public Health at Valpo

The College of Nursing and Health Professions’ interdisciplinary bachelor of science in public health program was designed to increase the public health workforce — those promoting health and preventing disease in individuals, families, and communities — both domestically and abroad. This program enrolled its first class fall 2016.

Individualized student attention; ability to work and do research alongside faculty mentors, both domestically and globally, as an undergraduate student; and the design of the curriculum are benefits that set Valpo’s program apart and ensure student success. The public health curriculum gives students the ability to enter into the field as a generalist and later decide upon an area of specialization.

Students take a wide variety of courses that provide foundational knowledge required of public health professionals and engage early in partnerships with organizations seeking to develop public health care programs, which is largely what they will do upon graduation. In a few short years, relationships have been developed with organizations such as the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, the Lead Prevention Coalition in Michigan City, Indiana, federally qualified health care centers, Healthy Communities LaPorte County, smoke-free coalitions, and the Public Health Department.

Introducing Valpo’s Public Health Student Association

Valpo’s Public Health Student Association (PHSA) originated in 2016, shortly after the launch of the bachelor of science in public health, and was officially designated as a student organization during the 2017–2018 academic year. Since its inception, the PHSA has been very active, creating opportunities for Valpo students and enhancing both the University and wider Valparaiso communities by means of public health promotion and partnership.

The PHSA partnered with Valpo Kids for Katy, a volunteer group out of Valparaiso High School, to deliver supplies to Katy, Texas, one of the areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey. With the assistance of a Valpo alumna and resident of Katy, PHSA held a targeted drive, assigning each college across campus various necessities for collection consistent with the needs of the Katy community.

On campus this year, two Core Purpose Labs educated students about the significance of public health. The first highlighted the field of public health, and the second focused on a more holistic approach to health care through nutrition, looking at ways in which nutrition can promote health, prevent disease, and even treat disease in some instances.

Experiencing Magic outside the Classroom

Looking to advance student learning outcomes in a nontraditional setting, Professor Cory led a small group of students on a pilot fall break trip to Disneyland Park in conjunction with the College of Engineering, which has provided an experiential learning opportunity at Disneyland for the past decade. This experience gave students an inside look into health care operations within the Disney Corporation.

From their emergency response system to health-related guest services to safety and security, Disneyland employees shared their expertise in various areas that promote the health of the park’s guests and cast members. Disney has a track record of excellence in health promotion and disease prevention, and studying their systems can help students better protect the population in general.

In February, the Disneyland visit was incorporated into the public health nursing class with 12 students making the trip. Fifteen more students are scheduled to embark this June, and in the future, the trip will be an opportunity open to all Valpo students interested in public health.

Emerging Master’s Program

 A two-year, dual-entry program, Valpo’s master of public health provides for both direct entry and an accelerated pathway through the bachelor’s program. This accelerated program invites those pursing their B.S. in public health at Valpo to enroll in graduate-level public health courses their senior year, obtaining both their BSPH and MPH in five years. Valpo’s MPH program has a specific concentration area — global and community health education.

“There are lots of concentrations in public health. The concentration of our master’s program promotes the mission, vision, and strategic plan of the University to be engaged in the global community,” says Professor Amy Cory, Ph.D., MPH, RN, associate professor of nursing and public health. “And, it is a concentration where we’re seeing more job growth and opportunities.”

With an anticipated launch in fall 2019, Valpo’s master of public health program will equip students with the skills needed to better promote health, prevent disease, and improve quality of life for populations at home and around the world. Students will take advanced courses in public health theory, research, and practice, preparing to, in the words of Professor Cory, “partner with communities around the world to help these communities meet their health-related needs.”

There has been much interest in Valpo’s master’s program, particularly internationally. Perhaps this is because the public health profession is much better understood internationally. Regardless the reason, public health is global in nature, and diverse classrooms that showcase health systems from around the world will only serve to enrich the students in the program and ultimately their degree.

Valpo’s combination of undergraduate and master’s degrees in public health creates a developed and thorough approach to public health education. There are a wealth of opportunities in many different arenas, including federally qualified health care centers, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and nongovernmental organizations across the world.

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