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UI public-health school touts new major

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The College of Public Health shares excitement about its new undergraduate public health major.

By Jenna Larson

[email protected]

Students passionate about public health now have the option of making an undergraduate career out of it. 

The University of Iowa introduced public health as an undergraduate degree this fall because of its growing visibility and importance, said Dean Sue Curry of the College of Public Health.

The college established a goal in 2010 to have an undergraduate program for its students, Curry said. Because public health is becoming a more popular major in other schools, she wanted to ensure students that the UI offered it as well.

Curry said she was happy that faculty stepped up, allowing the UI to not worry about hiring professors and teachers for the new program. Instead, all of the classes for the public-health major are taught by current faculty members.

Current faculty members were given an option to teach courses before new faculty members were hired — all of the courses were filled up from the UI’s faculty.

“Our faculty worked incredibly hard,” Curry said.

Margaret Chorazy, clinical assistant for the Epidemiology Department, is one of the faculty members. She is teaching a first-year seminar called Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: Public Health Saves the Day (Again).

Chorazy’s goal for the class is to introduce her students to public health through the idea of a zombie apocalypse. Students will learn about the dynamics of outbreaks, inventions to solve issues, and preparation — all of which can be related to the idea of public health.

“It’s really important for everyone to have a sense of what public health is,” she said.

Chorazy said it is hard to talk about public health when it can relate to disastrous events or hard times, so the classes offered for the public health undergraduate major will lead students to feel OK talking about it.

Applauding the faculty members was in order for both Chorazy and Curry.

“It really does come down to that we couldn’t have done it without a lot of the partners here on campus,” Chorazy said.

In the next five years, Curry said, she plans to have around 500 undergraduates majoring in public health. This new undergraduate program will give students the opportunity for problem-based learning and service, a broad knowledge of public health, and also the softer skills, such as communication and working together, Curry said.

The Fundamentals of Public Health class, a now required class for public-health majors, still holds on to its same objectives as it did before, said Jason Daniel-Ulloa, a clinical assistant professor of community and behavioral health.

“For me, the chance to bring somebody into public health who hasn’t known about it or considered it is what I really enjoy in the classroom,” he said.

The opportunity to teach undergraduates in public health is exciting, he said, especially since they are coming into the field with an open mind on the subject.

With public health now being an undergraduate program, the UI has the opportunity to allow their students to build off a platform in the public health field, Daniel-Ulloa said. Students with the new major may continue their education into the public health graduate program we already have, he added.

In class, Daniel-Ulloa said, students get to apply what is talked about, and see how their everyday life is impacted by public health.

“I think there are a lot of things that are appealing about public health,” he said. “With public health, at the end of the day, it’s about doing something.”

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