Friday, September 19, 2008

PUBLIC HEALTH BECOMES A RESPECTABLE MAJOR

Washington Post - Courses in epidemiology, public health and global health -- three subjects that were not offered by most colleges a generation ago -- are hot classes on campuses these days. They are drawing undergraduates to lecture halls in record numbers, prompting a scramble by colleges to hire faculty and import ready-made courses. Schools that have taught the subjects for years have expanded their offerings in response to surging demand.

At Johns Hopkins, which has offered an undergraduate major in "public health studies" since 1976, there were 159 students studying the field 10 years ago; this year, there are 311 majors. At the College of William and Mary, a freshman seminar called "Emerging Diseases" is so popular that it is offered in two sections each semester. "It fills up instantly," said Beverly Sher, the immunologist who teaches it. . .

A recent survey by the Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 137 of its 837 members, or 16 percent, now offer majors or minors in public health. (The number offering single courses is unknown.) Nearly two-thirds of the schools in that group require students majoring in the subject to undertake fieldwork or research.

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