|New option for health master's degree
By Missy Paniaguas
Mass communication, junior
Starting fall 2007, Purdue University will offer a new educational initiative that allows a student to obtain a master's degree in public health with a concentration in health communication.
The Department of Health and Kinesiology will be offering a master's in public health for the first time. Students in the program can concentrate either in community health or health communication.
Mohan Dutta, director of graduate studies for the Department of Communication, said Purdue joins only a handful of universities nationwide, including Johns Hopkins and Harvard, that offer a health communication concentration in the MPH program.
Austin Babrow, a member of the Health Communication unit in the Communication Department, worked closely with the Department of Health and Kinesiology to create this initiative.
"The specialization in health communication is rare and is all the more significant because the Department of Communication's Health Communication program is rated among the best in the nation," he said.
Dutta said the MPH was created to address the demand for health trained people with communication skills. The initiative utilizes the strengths of the two departments.
"We've drawn from people with expertise across the board," said Dutta.
Gerald Hyner, professor of public health, said students can work in public health departments, private corporations and nongovernmental associations with these degrees.
Dutta said a master's in public health is a more prestigious degree currently than other health-related master's. Babrow said that's because it's been recognized for so long.
"By contrast, health communication is a new field; degrees in the area are not nearly as well established in the minds of employers, funding agencies, and so on," Babrow said. "But we in health communication are hopeful and ever more confident that our degree will be as attractive, and in appropriate situations, even more so, than an MPH. We are indeed becoming ever more competitive for grants, employment and the like."
Babrow said the MPH program will prepare students thoroughly through coursework, internships and thesis requirements. Students will take 27 hours in core and thesis/internship courses, and 12 hours in their concentration choice. Another 6 hours will be electives.
A master's in public health is a flexible degree and often combined with other health degrees, said Hyner.
"Someday I'd really like to see students come to Purdue to earn their doctoral degree and their MPH at the same time," said Hyner.