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From Freshman to Master’s in Five Years

A new dual degree program melds liberal arts and public health


Susan Jackson, CAS senior associate dean and an associate professor of French

Patricia Garrity had little idea of what a career in public health entailed when she started BU. But after exploring the topic in a freshman writing course, she knew she had found her focus.

“It’s a field not a lot of people know exists,” says Garrity (CAS’12). “When you look at public health, it’s like the social side of medicine; how will decisions affect the economy and people’s children?”

Now, with a new dual major program combining course work from the College of Arts & Sciences and the School of Public Health, she has the opportunity to earn an undergraduate and a graduate degree, saving time and money.

The dual degree program has been created in response to an unprecedented surge of student interest in public health, according to Susan Jackson, CAS senior associate dean and an associate professor of French. From heightened concern caused by the H1N1 (swine) flu pandemic to the Obama administration’s push for dramatic health-care reform, public health professionals are in the spotlight.

Jackson says that students who had heard the new program might be in the works came knocking on her door this past semester, hoping the rumors were true.

Students can now obtain an undergraduate degree from CAS and a master’s degree from SPH in five years (saving a semester of tuition), she says. They are introduced to the Medical Campus and public health classes as undergraduates.

Second semester sophomores and first semester juniors can apply, as well as CAS undergrads minoring in public health. The program is closely modeled after the existing dual degree program between Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences and SPH.

The scope of public health is larger than many people realize. Careers in the field range from working in research and conducting surveys to disease prevention and historical explorations, a far cry from the stereotypical idea of the field. “People ask me, ‘Are you going to be a nurse? Will you inspect restaurants?’” says Julie Groth (SAR’09, SPH’09).

Groth’s academic career proves the point: she has helped conduct an asthma test study to find out what medicines participants were using and whether they were treating their symptoms appropriately, and she also worked at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care documenting the financial factors that influence health-care choices.

Garrity already has an idea about how to use the new dual degree: she has always had an interest in women’s health, but gets squeamish  seeing blood and isn’t interested in studying chemistry. The program would allow her to work in the field without attending medical school.

For Amy Bettano, the new program will redefine her years at BU.

“It’s liberal arts, but with a science focus,” says Bettano (CAS’12). “I think it will revolutionize where health is going in the next few years.” Her goal: to become an epidemiologist.

Anna Webster can be reached at annaweb@bu.edu.


One Comment on From Freshman to Master’s in Five Years

  • Anonymous on 07.08.2009 at 9:55 pm

    awesome anna :) - meers

    awesome anna :)
    – meers

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