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AU's Public Health Pioneers

By Carolyn Supinka

Public Health Scholars

AU’s inaugural class of public health scholars graduated this spring, ready to confront the pressing health issues facing our world today.

Under the intensive Public Health Scholars Program, the cohort of 10 students attended class year-round to earn a BA or BS in just three years. Their immersive and interdisciplinary course of study covered a range of public health issues, from HIV to maternal and child health to health-care equity. The students also studied abroad for a semester and worked at such organizations as the Campaign for Tobacco- Free Kids and So Others Might Eat (SOME).

“If you are seeking a challenge, prepared for intense course work, and ready to join a network of enthusiastic students, the Public Health Scholars is the right program for you,” says senior Juana Cerna Sanchez. “It may seem intimidating, trying to complete a bachelor’s degree in three years, but before you realize it, graduation is around the corner.”

For the first year, students lived together, creating a close, supportive community. “Teamwork and collaboration are integral in the field of public health,” says Meg Carr, also a senior. “The program offered the opportunity to live and learn with other students who want to stay up until 2 a.m. discussing the ethics of vaccination policy or emerging infectious diseases.”

During their second year, students studied abroad in India, Africa, or England. Assistant director Blake Bennett says that the global perspective is a fundamental component of the program, adding that students return from their international experience with greater confidence and a more personal and global understanding of public health.

“With an ever increasing globalization of world economies, cultures, goods, and services, an action taken in one location could potentially impact someone anywhere in the world,” Bennett says. “It is no longer enough to assume that a domestic policy will be sufficient to ensure the health of its citizens. It is important for students entering a career in public health to have a global perspective.”

As the students prepared for graduation, they are finalized their plans for the future—from jobs in the public health field to a graduate degree to medical school. Bennett says he expects great things from the first class of public health scholars.

“I look forward to hearing about their achievements in the areas of epidemiology, HIV, maternal and child health, health care, and health equity. I also expect many of them will earn graduate degrees before going on to become the mentors that influence the next generation of public health scholars.”