New public health building on track


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Since the University of Iowa College of Public Health opened in 1999, it’s been scattered throughout 16 buildings on campus.

But by January 2012, students will start attending classes in the new five-story, $32 million Public Health Building, which is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified.

The building is just one indication of the program’s growth over the last decade.

In the fall of 2007, 339 students enrolled in the graduate program. By the fall of 2010, the number shot to 375.

Nationally, the pursuit of a health-sciences degree increased by 7.4 percent from 1999 to 2009. The number of degrees in public administration and services increased a steady 3 percent in the same 10-year span, according to the Council of Graduate Schools and reports on Graduate Schools and Degrees.

And now, officials are offering more opportunities for undergraduate students to study public health.

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“Over the past several years, at the national level, there has been a growing interest among undergraduates in the field of public health,” said Tanya Uden-Holman, an associate dean for education and student affairs in the public-health school.

She started an online pilot class, open to both graduate and undergraduate students, called Fundamentals of Public Health.

She said she hopes the education will help manage chaotic health crises such as the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak.

Though the UI offers a certificate in public health, officials said they are working to attract even more students.

Elspeth McMullan, a second-year master’s student in public health, said she’s noticed a marked increase in interest since she started in the certificate program at the UI.

“People are increasingly relating to the importance of health promotion,” she said. “More people are beginning to understand the connections our discipline can bring to other professions.”

With a variety of career possibilities available to graduates holding a master’s in public Health, Uden-Holman’s new course seeks to guide pre-med and pre-pharmacy students to varying studies, such as Biostatistics and Health Management and Policy. Sixteen students are currently registered for the class.

Nationwide, the UI College of Public Health ranked 18th among both public and private schools of health in the U.S. News & World Report.

The school was awarded $76 million in 2010 and continued research covering issues from behavioral implications of specific laws to genetic variations on lung-cancer cells.

McMullan said the real-world experience offered by professors and relevant content of the courses attracted her to the program.

“What makes public health so interesting is that it can be found in day-to-day practice, such as water testing, fluoridation, and daily nutritional recommendations,” McMullan said.

Uden-Holman said she hopes the course will show even more students the importance of studying public health.

“Public health encompasses many different disciplines every day through the air we breathe, water we drink, how we access health providers, and food we eat,” she said.

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