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Calvin adds major, minor in public health | Health

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Calvin adds major, minor in public health
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Beginning in the fall of 2012, Calvin College will become the first undergraduate institution in west Michigan to offer a major in public health--an emerging field, which offers a wide range of career opportunities both locally and globally.

Arlene Hoogewerf, chair of Calvin's biology department, is co-directing the new public health program with Economics department chair Scott Vander Linde. Hoogewerf says that the push to offer public health programs at the undergraduate level has occurred within the last five years.

"I see two major strengths of a public health program at Calvin," said Hoogewerf, "first, the goal of public health fits within the mission of Calvin--to be agents of renewal in the creation and shape contemporary culture and social institutions. And second, because the field of public health is so diverse, an institution that has excellent liberal arts programs will be able to provide excellent education across the diversity of disciplines within public health."

Calvin's new public health major draws on expertise from faculty from a wide range of disciplines: biology, computer science, sociology, nursing, social work, political science, economics, international development studies, kinesiology, environmental studies and philosophy.

"Healthcare is becoming much more interdisciplinary, and more of it is focused on public health," said Cheryl Brandsen, Calvin's dean of social sciences and contextual disciplines. "You have to be able to work in the policy arena and in economics. You have to understand healthcare disparities. You have to understand ethical issues." Brandsen said the benefit of having a public health program at Calvin is that it will be rooted in the liberal arts and will prepare students to think about complex health concerns from a number of different perspectives.

"There've been conversations about this [offering a public health major] for a few years and we started to talk about the courses that would make a solid major," said Scott Vander Linde. "We realized that we had a lot of the courses here."

The public health major consists of 15 courses. Four courses are specific to public health. Seven existing courses cover a broad spectrum of public health--ethics, health disparity, health-behavioral education, global-environmental health, health policy, health economics and biostatistics. The other four courses are upper-level electives--allowing students some flexibility to deepen their knowledge in one specific area of public health. Students can also elect to complete an internship as part of the major.

A student interested in epidemiology might take upper-level courses in biology, microbiology, biochemistry and global positioning systems. Or someone interested in healthcare policy might focus on political science and economics upper-level courses. Yet another student interested in Health Informatics might take upper-level courses in mathematics and computer science.

"Public Health graduates could pursue graduate programs and earn an MPH or DPH, but they could also enter the workplace and work in health administration, biostatistics, epidemiology, health education, environmental health, biomedical laboratories and more," said Hoogewerf.

In addition to the new major, Calvin will also offer a 23-credit minor in public health. By adding this new program at Calvin, the college is helping to fulfill one of the federal government's initiatives laid out in 'Healthy People 2020,' which aims to increase the number of undergraduate students studying public health from seven percent to 10 percent by 2020.

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