ETSU dean leads national panel that identifies core components of undergraduate public health education

JOHNSON CITY - Dr. Randy Wykoff, dean of the East Tennessee State University College of Public Health, recently chaired a national panel of experts that developed recommendations for the core components of public health education on the undergraduate level.

The panel of experts from both academia and the practice community was created by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH), the national membership organization for accredited Schools of Public Health. The ETSU College of Public Health is the only ASPH-member school in Tennessee.

ASPH charged Wykoff and the panel with identifying the critical component elements of an undergraduate degree in public health. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, public health was identified as one of five "college majors on the rise" in 2009. The findings of the ASPH panel are available at www.asph.org/userfiles/CCE_2012-08-03-FINAL.pdf.

Wykoff said the ASPH appointment is a reflection of ETSU's long experience with public health education at the undergraduate level. The university created a school of health and first offered a bachelor of science degree in health education in 1955. ETSU can trace its history of offering a concentration in health all the way back to 1933 when it was East Tennessee State Teachers College.

"ETSU has a rich, influential history when it comes to public health education," Wykoff said. "The ETSU College of Public Health would not be growing as quickly as it is today were it not for the vision of leaders from as far back as 50 and 60 years ago."

Under the leadership of Dr. Mike Stoots, undergraduate coordinator for the college, ETSU is continuing to revise its undergraduate public health degree. Wykoff is confident that the degree will continue to meet or exceed all of the Critical Component Elements.

"I believe that our undergraduate degrees and concentrations are competitive with any in the country," Wykoff said.

From his ETSU vantage point, Wykoff can attest to the value and rising influence of undergraduate public health education. The number of undergraduate majors in the college has risen 66 percent in the past four years, and the human health concentration - available to students in the Department of Health Sciences - is one of the fastest-growing majors on campus.

Student satisfaction is high as well, Wykoff said. In the most recent survey of the college's baccalaureate graduates, 100 percent of respondents said they were either "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with their educational experience. Community preceptors who evaluated more than 100 ETSU undergraduate public health students following their internships over the past three years gave them an average overall score of 4.5 out of 5.0 in such categories as "understanding public health," "work ethic," "creative thinking" and "reliability."

A recent survey of ETSU graduates who earned a bachelor of science in public health degree found that about half work for a health care organization, such as a hospital, long-term care facility or physician practice. Most of the remaining graduates work in state or local government, industry or non-profit organizations.

The ASPH initiative was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.