Home2018-2019New public health major unveiled for fall 2019 semester

New public health major unveiled for fall 2019 semester

Ken Johnson,

Willamette University is opening a new public health program, which can be completed as a major or a minor, in this coming fall semester.

HEAL (Health Ethics, Advocacy and Leadership) is the new public health program’s acronym.

There are two main reasons why the public health program is supposed to be beneficial to Willamette students: will allow graduates to help people and make a steady income.

“Health care and health research are burgeoning areas of work,” College of Liberal Arts Dean Ruth Feingold said, “so there are also lots of things graduates will be able to do with a public health background.”

Examples of jobs in the public health sector include emergency management, creating public policy and practicing medicine.

Initially, according to Professor Sammy Basu, the public health program was spurred on by interest from current students and alumni. Basu teaches politics, American Ethnic Studies, and history at WU, and is central to the creation of the new degree.

“In addition to student interest and alumni feedback,” Basu said, “I would mention at least three additional reasons that propelled us to establish the HEAL program.”

Basu’s first reason, which Feingold would agree with, is that a liberal arts campus such as Willamette is particularly suited for a public health program because public health is an interdisciplinary study.

“Public health is an ideal liberal arts field,” Feingold said. “Natural sciences, social sciences, humanities and arts all speak to it. It provides an opportunity to put knowledge into action, and make a difference in the world.”

cartoon of person at computer by Benjamin Love
Benjamin Love

Basu’s second reason is that Willamette is close to the Oregon State Capitol, giving students plenty of opportunities to get hands-on experience.

He said, “Our program is designed to foreground the actual practitioners and practices of public health locally so that our students can locate themselves in value-adding forms of internship and service.”

His final argument for the public health program is that it is necessary. People with degrees in public health, he said, should be able to competently manage public health systems.

“Our longer term vision is that through the HEAL program and the involvement of our students,” Basu said, “the University can contribute to enhancing the social networking and coordination of self-healing communities.”

The public health program is just part of academic expansion at Willamette. It comes alongside the new politics, policy, law and ethics major and data science major.

“All these programs,” Feingold said, “leverage the connections between the CLA and advanced coursework and research in our two — soon to be three — graduate schools, giving our students a huge range of experience and edge in their future endeavors.”

These new programs are all attempts to utilize the resources that are naturally coalesced at Willamette: the Capitol, the graduate schools and the liberal arts campus.


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