New health program becoming popular

May 19, 2006, volume 36 number 2
By Diane Lukow

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Mongolia, Mexico, Canada. Internships in SFU's new master of science in population and public health program can take some students far afield, while others remain closer to home.

Students Natasha Van Borek and Alex Price are in Mexico this summer to research antibiotic usage patterns and women's ability to reduce the risks of sexually transmitted disease while Lesley Johnston will travel to Mongolia to assist a faculty member with research into rural livelihoods and health.
Other students will take on public health practice experiences that include working with professors in the faculty of education on a health literacy project in Vancouver schools and working with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

The public health practicum is a key component in this new graduate degree program that seeks to integrate social and natural science research with population outcomes, societal impacts and policy.

The fulltime program is attracting a lot of interest, with 85 applications for 31 positions in the fall 2006 semester. The program began last September with 18 students who will complete the program in January 2007.

“It's primarily designed to prepare established professionals and recent graduates for positions of leadership in population and public health and it's the only program of its kind in B.C.,” says Marina Morrow, an assistant professor in the faculty of health sciences who teaches in the program. She says it attracts mature students who have worked for health authorities or non-governmental organizations related to health, international students who have trained as doctors or dentists in their home country and some who have just completed undergraduate degrees.

“A unique feature of the program is that it's interdisciplinary,” notes Morrow. “Students get exposure to biostatistics and epidemiology, along with qualitative health research methods and a better understanding of the determinants of health. They also get an opportunity to understand health in a policy context.”

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