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Sacred Heart University adding master of public health program

In response to student demand, Sacred Heart University in Farifield is adding a master of public health program with a fall 2018 launch — and program director Anna Greer couldn’t be more pleased.

“I’m extremely excited about it,” said Greer, an associate professor at Sacred Heart since 2011 and director of the undergraduate program director in exercise science. “We have a growing number of students who are interested in getting a graduate degree in public health, but they’ve been going to other schools to do so.”

In addition to the field of exercise science or kinesiology, students pursuing the master’s degree in public health will be introduced to public health theories, program planning, community health development, grant writing, epidemiology and biostatistics, health administration and ethics, according to Greer. The 48-credit program can be completed in two years by full-time students and is also open to part-time students.

Adding such graduate programs at SHU involves a multistage proposal process that includes vetting by faculty across a number of disciplines, not all related to health sciences.

“The one question that is repeatedly asked is, ‘What is the need for a program?’” Greer said. “We look to see if there’s a gap in what we already offer and gauge whether enough people are interested in it. The university has been very successful at filling those needs.”

Having received the university’s approval, the masters’ program now must be accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools of public health and public health programs outside schools of public health. Sacred Heart will submit an application to begin that process shortly, Greer said.

Candidates for the graduate program must have a bachelor’s degree in any major from a four-year accredited university with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or higher. Additionally, they must have earned a C grade or higher in college-level pre-calculus, statistics and sociology or psychology.

“I want to build a program that facilitates the development of other qualified public health professionals committed to and excited about improving community health,” said Greer. She estimated that the initial class will include 15 to 20 students, and said the search for three core faculty members should be underway by this fall.

Greer noted that the MPH program will be open to health care professionals such as nurses looking to expand their skills in the area. “Having a mix of undergrads and professionals will help make for lively classes,” she said.

There will also be an emphasis on students working in communities “as soon as possible,” Greer said. “A lot of programs wait until the final semester before they go out into the community,” she noted. “But for us, once a student shows a level of competency, we want to try and get them out there sooner rather than later. The focus of the program is community health, so having those experiences as early as possible is really important.”

The Bridgeport resident has been working in the public health field for 10 years and calls it “an incredibly rewarding career choice” that helps improve people’s quality of life.

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