[caption id="attachment_220605" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Delaware State University | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING[/caption]
DOVER — Delaware State University will launch a master’s degree program in public health next spring, in response to significant interest from its students spurred from the COVID-19 pandemic.The DSU Board of Trustees voted on Sept. 21 to establish the master’s program with four full-time faculty members teaching the curriculum. The decision came after the state’s only historically Black college hired a consultant to develop the program with the DSU’s Department of Public and Allied Health Sciences.“Our mission is to prepare students for careers in public health along the lines of education, research and in the community such as public health workers to study why diseases impact certain populations,” DSU Public and Allied Health department chair Christopher Mason said. “It’s well-documented that there are major health disparities with people of African descent compared to the majority of populations. This program aims to really examine those disparities, focus the research and teach our students about the epidemiological differences that impact our community.”The master’s degree in public health will be a fully online, accelerated course. Students should be able to complete it within 12 to 18 months. Right now, the DSU Public and Allied Health Department has three degree tracks: kinesiology, public health and occupational therapy. When the HBCU acquired Wesley College, it also gained its renowned graduate program in occupational therapy which is one of the only in the region.Public health has historically been the smallest of the three programs, Mason added. The department has around 400 students and he estimates that about 125 were in public health. But it’s been growing steadily over the last four years — back in 2019, there were about half the number of students with the declared major.“I do credit the pandemic for influencing student interest in it,” Mason said. “During the early years of the pandemic, our public health majors made a significant impact on how DSU stayed open and how we battled COVID. We built an internship around COVID for those students, and they were at the forefront of our testing stations and handling those materials. They really got to work with some of the public experts and doctors we consulted at that time.“COVID was terrible and traumatic, but there was one silver lining: it provided an invaluable amount of experimental learning to our students,” he added. “ They were on the forefront, and I think a lot of students saw that.”The university is already starting to look to recruit existing students to the program, but for outside students looking to enroll, DSU would look for students that had first-hand experience in a health care-related field.In the future, DSU hopes to double the instructors to eight for the program.“We’re excited for a novel approach to this, and now the hard work really begins,” Mason said.
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