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Faculty and students excitedly prepare for new public health major

Public health will be added as a new major next fall at Ohio Wesleyan University. The new major aims to teach students how to control pandemics, deal with disaster relief, and other aspects that will ensure the health of communities.

The new program will be interdisciplinary, drawing knowledge from different departments that are related to public health.

Dr. Vanessa Hildebrand is a professor of Sociology-Anthropology. One of her interests is medical anthropology, which relates to public health and its history.

“Even though we’re not in one department, we can all talk about a shared passion,” Hildebrand said.

Dr. Elizabeth Nix, a professor of Health and Human Kinetics and a faculty member of the program, added that public health is naturally interdisciplinary.

“Being able to see the wicked problems of human health through a variety of lenses is one of the things that will make OWU public health students stand out,” Nix said.

Dr. Christopher Fink, a professor of Health and Human Kinetics, is the director of the program. Fink and other faculty members began planning the program a year and a half ago, he said.

“The process involved looking at other programs around the country,” Fink said. “We especially looked at undergraduate programs.”

Nix explained that in addition to researching programs, they evaluated preexisting OWU courses and designed the curriculum to be flexible, thoughtful, and effective.

The program hopes to provide students with lots of opportunities. These include internships, trips to conferences, research symposiums, and events throughout the year.

“We will be able to offer great opportunities and connection experiences that help students apply the health concepts they learn in the classroom to real world situations,” Nix said.

Because Ohio Wesleyan offers a variety of majors, a new health major has quickly drawn attention from underclassmen, particularly in scientific majors. However, changing a major does not need to be complicated.

The transition to the public health major is a swift change to studies similar to class requirements in Health and Human Kinetics (HHK) with an emphasis on politics and society.

A student who desired to change her major from neuroscience to public health, freshman Alexis Martin, seeks to impact the health world by understanding the inner-networking of the public policy of health.

“I want to switch my major to public health because I am personally interested in multiple aspects of the health field and the overall health of our society,” Martin said.

“The public health major allows students to learn more about what that system looks like and how we can get involved to improve it.”

OWU’s public health major evaluates a community’s capacity to promote health.

Working in a health-related field does not always require medical experience.

Kendall Dieringer, a freshman, has a similar interest in the category of health public policy. Wanting to invoke change from the perspective of law is an important stance Dieringer desires to take in her career path.

“Health has a broad-spectrum of need. Typically, many students in health choose to enter the medical field,” said Dieringer. “While the public health major gives me access to this option, I gain a community-centered understanding of health that I can apply in law.”

Students interested in health are provided a great opportunity to explore a unique form of health and disease prevention in an academic setting. Whether in education, law, government, non-profits, or social policy, majoring in public health offers a diverse path to entering a health profession.

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