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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

East Tennessee Faculty Co-Authors Two Articles on Undergraduate Public Health Education

Dr. Amal Khoury , Dr. Rob Pack, Dr. Mike Stoots, and Dean Randy Wykoff have co-authored two articles on undergraduate education in public health for a special issue of the Journal “Frontiers in Public Health: Public Health Education and Promotion”.

Frontiers in Public Health chose to do the special issue on “Undergraduate Public Health Education” because  of the rapid growth in undergraduate public health programs, nationwide. A recent report from the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health noted that, between 1992 and 2012, the number of undergraduate degrees awarded in public health increased from 759 to 6,464 and the number of institutions offering undergraduate degrees increased from 45 to 176.

Universities offering or considering new undergraduate public health programs may benefit from the experiences of established programs. Based on the long-standing duration of its undergraduate programs and its recognized leadership in this field, ETSU was invited to submit articles for this special issue.

The first of the two articles is titled “Undergraduate Training in public Health Should Prepare Graduates for the Workforce”. It reflects on lessons learned at ETSU over the 60 years that the university has been providing undergraduate training in public health, especially recent data from the BS Public Health Alumni survey.  These data show that the majority of BSPH graduates enter the workforce upon graduation, with the greatest number (34.4 percent) taking positions in “hospitals or healthcare delivery organizations” followed by “non-profit organizations” (9.8 percent) and “local, state, or federal government” (6.6 percent). Only 18 percent go directly onto graduate school. The article also reviews the high level of satisfaction among BSPH graduates, their preceptors (who oversee the students’ internships prior to graduation), and their employers. The article draws three major conclusions:

  1. “Undergraduate programs in public health should be designed, delivered, modified, and evaluated primarily with the understanding that they are preparing students for the workforce;”
  2. “Undergraduate programs in public health should be carefully and regularly benchmarked against the needs of local employers;”
  3. “Institutions offering undergraduate degrees in public health also have an obligation to assure that there is a job market for their graduates.”

The second article is titled “An Undergraduate Curriculum in Public Health Benchmarked to the Needs of the Workforce”. This article describes the methods and outcome of ETSU’s recent multi-year effort to redesign the BSPH curriculum.   This effort, led by lead author, and BSPH coordinator, Dr. Mike Stoots, sought significant input from faculty, alumni and employers in the field. In addition to identifying approximately 400 desired learning objectives, the process  identified four over-arching themes that guided the revision of the curriculum:

  1. Employers seek graduates who are knowledgeable in their field, but who also possess cross-cutting skills related to professional and ethical behavior;
  2. Employers value graduates who have very strong written and verbal communication skills;
  3. Employers expect graduates to have expanded technological capabilities, particularly with Microsoft applications and electronic health records; and
  4. Students want more exposure to working professionals in the field, prior to their internship.

The article outlines how ETSU has met each of these goals, and incorporated the 400 learning objectives, into existing and newly created courses, for both the BSPH core curriculum  and the concentrations (Healthcare Administration and Community Health). The revised curriculum, including several innovative courses, is included.

Dean Randy Wykoff stated “I am honored that ETSU was invited to contribute to this special issue, and especially pleased that the excellent work of our faculty, alumni, and regional employers, will provide essential information for other programs—present and future—around the country. I am convinced that our undergraduate program is at the cutting edge of the field, and I feel very confident that our undergraduates join our masters and doctoral students in being  exceptionally well prepared to enter the complex and evolving public health job market.”