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A New Major Comes to Furman: Public Health

By Kayla Wiles, Contributor

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Dr. Meghan Slining and students stand next to a poster presentation of a summer research project on childhood obesity at the South Carolina INBRE Symposium. Public health majors might participate in similar experiences through their capstone projects. Photo courtesy of John Kaup

The largest department on campus has a new major.

Housed within the health sciences department, the long-awaited public health major accepts its first applicants from the classes of 2018 and 2019 this academic year.

Dr. Bill Pierce, chair of health sciences,  observed the growing need for a public health major over the past five years.

“Increasingly, health sciences majors are furthering their education in graduate public health programs,” Pierce said. “The enrollment requests for public health courses have [also] increased significantly.”

According to the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), undergraduate programs in public health are growing rapidly across the nation. In 2014, CEPH began accepting applications for public health programs at the undergraduate level as well as graduate schools, states an annual report.

“Certification is a three-year process after the major is in place. We have not begun the process, but we have reviewed the criteria for certification and took them into consideration when developing our major,” Pierce said.

“The 2015-2016 academic year seemed an appropriate time for establishing the Public Health program, as Furman had already developed strong partnerships with the Greenville Health System (GHS) and other nonprofit agencies”, said Pierce.

Health sciences professors with expertise in public health, Meghan Slining and Natalie The started writing the proposal for the public health major and developing its curriculum in summer 2015.

“At Furman, the entire faculty has to vote every time there is a major proposal,” said Slining. “We spent a lot of time explaining what public health was and why courses from other departments would be applicable [to this program].”

The new public health major includes a core of health sciences courses with at least 12 additional credits from two or more outside departments. Accepted applicants must also complete a capstone experience and e-portfolio, 15 hours of community service each semester and a “brown bag” seminar series.

This out-of-class immersion in public health is what encouraged McKenna Luzynski, ’18, to apply to the program. Even though Luzynski is already double-majoring in Health Sciences and Spanish and minoring in Latin American Studies, she has taken many classes that have become part of the public health major.

“Up until this point, I’ve really just been building my own curriculum within the health sciences department to work towards going to graduate school for public health,” said Luzynski. If accepted into the program, Luzynski hopes to focus her projects and capstone on environmental epidemiology.

While it is too late for the class of 2017 to declare majors in public health, many are still glad to hear that Furman created this program. “The interdisciplinary aspect is great,” said Haley Holan, a senior health sciences and Spanish double major. “This way students can be more prepared to make a larger impact.”

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