JOHNSON CITY – East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health has received accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), becoming the first school in Tennessee, and the only one in central Appalachia, to earn that designation.
The university received an accreditation term of five years, the maximum available to a newly accredited College of Public Health. CEPH is the only organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit public health schools and programs, and ETSU is now one of only 43 universities nationwide with a CEPH-accredited College of Public Health.
“This is an exciting day for East Tennessee State University and an accomplishment our entire region can take pride in, because CEPH accreditation is a national distinction,” said ETSU President Dr. Paul E. Stanton Jr. “The commitment by our university to public health education goes back more than five decades, and those efforts have enjoyed great support from the community through those years. Because of that history, the College of Public Health is especially representative of the special connection that exists between ETSU and the region we serve.
“I offer congratulations to our dean, Dr. Randy Wykoff, Dr. Wilsie Bishop, the College of Public Health faculty and staff, and our students on a job well done.”
This watershed accomplishment of the present is an echo of the past, when visionary leaders and faculty members at ETSU emphasized public health education even when the field was in its formative stages and fewer universities nationwide offered the field of study. ETSU traces the beginnings of its public health program back to 1949.
“The College of Public Health is a benchmark that brings national prestige not only to the university itself but also the area in which we live,” said Bishop, vice president for Health Affairs and university chief operating officer. She formerly served as dean of the College of Public and Allied Health for 10 years. “Public health education is more relevant than ever because it empowers people to bring about positive change to health problems on a large scale, and our state needs to make strides in overall health.”
The United Health Foundation ranks Tennessee 47th overall in state health rankings.
“Our state isn’t where it needs to be in terms of overall health,” Wykoff said, “and public health education is one of the primary tools to change our health for the better. Recognition of that is one factor that has driven our faculty, staff and students to make the ETSU College of Public Health the best college it can be. Part of being the best we can be is earning CEPH accreditation, but it doesn’t end there. We look forward to continuing to work with other colleges at ETSU and with the many outstanding public health programs in other parts of Tennessee to make a difference.”
Wykoff said the federal government may take CEPH accreditation into account when determining which colleges receive grants for study and research. These extramural funds are crucial building blocks for growing the College of Public Health and improving community health.
Wykoff emphasized that longstanding efforts by Stanton and Bishop were key to bringing accreditation efforts to fruition. The college that Bishop formerly led as dean split into two colleges in 2007, creating the College of Clinical and Rehabilitative Health Sciences, under the direction of Dean Nancy Scherer, and the College of Public Health.
“This is really a natural progression of a longstanding commitment by the university to improve the health of the region,” Wykoff said. “Full accreditation is reflective of the tremendous leadership of our faculty and staff, and the input from our students, alumni, employers and community leaders was necessary to make it happen. Dr. Stanton and Dr. Bishop, along with many others at ETSU, have been working for years to make this day happen. This could not have happened without their leadership.”
The College of Public Health offers a broad spectrum of undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs, with academic areas that include biostatistics, community health, epidemiology, environmental health and health services administration, as well as the Department of Health Sciences, which encompasses microbiology, anatomy and physiology. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently surveyed economic forecasters, business analysts and academic experts to identify five “emerging fields of study” for higher education, and public health was one of them.
CEPH accreditation is the culmination of an intensive process that began more than three years ago when the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission gave ETSU permission to move forward with its application. The preparation was guided by an accreditation steering committee led by Dr. Amal Khoury, interim chair of the Department of Health Services Administration in the College of Public Health, with input from five faculty-led working groups and four community advisory groups, as well as students, alumni, employers and community leaders.
“The process won’t end now,” Wykoff said, “as the five-year term includes interim reporting requirements to CEPH, which is a normal provision for new members. In many ways, this is a milestone but also a stepping stone. It’s a milestone in ETSU’s 50-year history of serving the community through public health. It’s a stepping stone, too, because it takes us to the next level. But this is one of those necessary but not sufficient things. I look forward to working with everyone here at ETSU and with people throughout the community to allow this college to have the greatest influence possible on the health status of this region.”