New master of public health program offered at UIndy, only one in Indiana

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The Five Year Plan at  the University of Indianapolis is creating many changes and additions intended to expand the services the university offers. Among those changes is a new Master of Public Health program.

“A master of public health program is [for] someone who wants to go on to work on health issues on the population level,  at the community level,” said interim director of the Master of Public Health Program Shannon McMorrow. “There are lots of programs in the country and a few in the state, but what makes ours unique is because it is the only master of public health program that specifically has a concentration in health disparities in the Midwest. ”

McMorrow explained that health disparities are avoidable differences in health. She said that those involved study the death rate from avoidable diseases and differences among various racial and socioeconomic classes. She also explained the rationale for starting the new program.

“Our university’s philosophy is dedicated to community service, so there was a lot of leadership across the university that was focused to help reduce disparities and have that align with what UIndy is all about,” she said.

The program has enrolled several students. Garrett Sheets, is a first-year student in the Master of Public Health Program with an undergraduate degree in biology and chemistry. He graduated from UIndy in 2013 and, after graduation, pursued a Ph.D. program at Purdue  University where he first heard about UIndy’s new program.

“A lot of the research that we were doing was very specific and molecularly based,” he said. “I found that I was more interested in the wide-scale population effects of the disease [Progeria,] which was not what we were focusing on in that laboratory. I made the difficult decision to come home and study at UIndy.”

McMorrow said that while the most common degrees are sociology, anthropology and communication, the Master of Public Health program accepts any undergraduate degree. In addition, McMorrow said it is the only program designed for the students in the program to work full time. The program is predominantly online, unlike many of the other programs. This allows students to study for the degree while living and working wherever they are. Some students live as far away as South Bend or Evansville, only coming up once a semester for a meeting.  Sheets works full time while studying for his degree.

“There is a wide scale of disciplines that you can come from that can branch off into public health,” he said. “I was in biology  and chemistry. You can come from very technical fields, or you could come from more related fields like anthropology, sociology or communication.  I think that if you have an interest in population health and various disparities that exist in communities, it would be a good fit. There are also various opportunities in the community.”

McMorrow also suggested that anyone who is interested should have a strong background in community service, since that is what the program is most widely used for. Anyone interested in more information on the Master of Public Health program can contact McMorrow or the kinesiology department in Ruth Lilly Fitness Center 104.

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