For more than 15 years, the USF College of Public Health has trained students, practitioners, and organizations in public health preparedness.
It all started in 1998, when Dr. Wayne Westhoff offered a two-day workshop, inviting representatives from other academic institutions, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and SOUTHCOM to identify the direction of developing disaster management courses in higher education. The consensus was that there was a lack of graduate courses.
Dr. Westhoff began developing four courses in 1999 that became the graduate certificate in disaster management. This was the first online certificate in disaster management and is one of only a handful of fully online degrees in disaster management and humanitarian relief that are offered with a public health focus.
After he developed the course “Public Health Emergencies in Large Populations” for the disaster management certificate, Dr. Westhoff realized it was too much for one course. He then expanded it into four courses. By 2005, the online graduate certificate in humanitarian assistance was offered USF COPH, and the course offerings had doubled.
“It was only natural at that point to take the eight courses and make them the concentration for an MPH degree,” Dr. Westhoff said.
It was in 2009 that the state of Florida approved the MPH in GDM/HR concentration. It was established as a reduced-rate program, offering non-Florida residents reduced tuition.
Many of the program’s graduate students are serving in the military or as United States Public Health Service Corps officers, and others are veterans of either or both. Still others are practitioners in the field, management for international organizations and non-governmental organizations, medical doctors, emergency medical responders or nurses.