An interdisciplinary minor in global public health and the common good was introduced this semester as part of the greater Global Public Health program, which launched last year and plans to unveil a major in the fall of 2021. The program is led by professor Philip J. Landrigan, who is also the director of the Global Observatory on Pollution and Health.
The minor enrolled 50 of the roughly 100 students who applied, which exceeded expectations, according to Landrigan.
“We have students from all the undergraduate schools at BC,” Landrigan said. “Within [the Morrissey College of] Arts and Sciences, we have a pretty good diversity of majors.”
The minor is a six-class course of study with three required courses. Students must take Epidemiology, Fundamentals of Global Public Health, and Ethics in Global Health or Global Health Law.
Fundamentals of Global Public Health will be offered through the Connell School of Nursing, Ethics in Global Health will be taught by moral theology and bioethics professor Rev. Andrea Vicini, S.J., and Global Health Law will be co-taught by BC law professors David Wirth and Mary Ann Chirba.
The program has hired Rebecca Franckle as part of the minor’s focus on epidemiology—the study of the patterns and risk factors of populations’ health and disease conditions. Franckle is an epidemiologist from Harvard University who had been previously teaching at Merrimack University. She joined BC in part because of the strides the University has taken, through the Schiller Institute, to promote public health, she said.
“Historically there has been so much public health work going on at the University, but there wasn’t a formal program,” Franckle said. “This is a really great opportunity for students to get involved who might not have had public health on their radar.”
Franckle said she sees the epidemiology class as an opportunity for students to develop skills that will serve them in their classes going forward.
“I see [the epidemiology class] as students learning a new language,” Franckle said. “[They will] really think objectively about where the information and data [in the news] comes from and [have] a critical eye to appreciating why some studies are stronger than others and how we make sense of some of the numbers.”
The program’s approach to the major is dependent upon the reception of the minor, according to Landrigan.
“It really depends on how the minor goes,” Landrigan said. “We started with a minor to test the concept and make sure that things work and that we can support it. It is a way of gauging student interest, but so far the interest is very high.”
Franckle said she hopes that students will be open to taking classes and developing an interest in public health.
“It is one of those fields that students don’t necessarily know what it is when they come in, but as soon as they’re exposed to some of the topics and have the opportunity to take some of our classes, I see a lot of excitement among the student body,” Franckle said. “So I think it’s a really great opportunity for everybody.”
Franckle and Landrigan said they hope that, because the minor is interdisciplinary, students from all backgrounds and with varied career interests will consider applying for it.
Franckle said she is hoping to open up professional doors to students who may find themselves interested in the field, but are still exploring career pathways.
“I’m hoping to give the opportunity to students here that might feel drawn to health-related fields [or] be considering pre-med but not quite sure if it’s the right avenue for them,” she said.
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