Students in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will have the option of pursuing a Doctor of Public Health degree starting this semester.
Cynthia M. Harris, director of the Institute of Public Health, said the Board of Governors approved the program in Sarasota on Oct. 21.
FAMU is the only school in the state of Florida and the fifth school in the Southeast that offers this degree.
The Doctor of Public Health degree will focus on training students to be public leaders who will be on the front line in addressing health issues such as chronic diseases.
“Our students will be researching questions such as ‘What are the causes of chronic diseases?’ or ‘How some of the conditions can be cured or treated?'” Harris said.
There are two separate tracks for completion of the program. One of the tracks requires 54 hours and the other track requires 72 hours to obtain the degree.
“The track that requires 54 hours is for students who have a Master of Public Health degree,” Harris said.
The track that requires 72 hours is for students who do not have a Master of Public Health degree, but have a master’s degree in a related area.
There are nine full-time faculty members working with the six students who were accepted into the program.
“We refer to our students currently in the program as the ‘Sensational 6’,” Harris said. “All of these students will take courses to focus on public health leadership.”
According to the faculty, this degree has several advantages for students and the community.
“The main advantage for this degree is training more future African-American health professionals,” said Fran T. Close, assistant professor of Behavioral Science and Health Education.
“This degree will also open doors to more research in epidemiology and behavioral science to improve health issues,” Close said.
Close added that because the degree is new, there are many challenges that the program will face.
“A challenge for the faculty will be to make sure we are training and preparing students for the most enervative approaches to the health issues facing minorities.”
“A challenge for the students is taking the education and training obtained in the program to make an impact on decreasing racial disparities and issues in public health.”
The faculty is also preparing for more growth in the program.
“Within the next five to 10 years, I would like to see our program evolve into our own School of Public Health,” Harris said.
“We already have a good track record with our master’s degree offered in public health. We only need to get the word out about this program,” Harris said.
Students enrolled in the program are also excited about this remarkable achievement.
“The quality is definitely here in the program and the faculty is phenomenal,” said Lauralyn Burke, a student from Tallahassee.
“Each class addresses current trends in public health,” said Burke, an instructor of Allied Sciences.
“However, I think a goal for the program should be to work on a firmly established budget and to make sure we are addressing specific issues for Florida.”
The faculty has high expectations for the program and is looking forward to the attention FAMU will receive by being the first school in Florida to offer the program.
“We must be ready to work hard to make sure we are producing health professionals that will impact public health in underserved communities.”
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