16 October 2023 • STEM Colleges Launch New Public Health Program

New program explores health, wellness and care from multiple angles. 

Launched this fall, Hobart and William Smith’s new Public Health program offers an interdisciplinary curriculum to prepare students as leaders and innovators in the healthcare landscape.

The program, currently offering a minor, is designed to prepare students for post-graduate education in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, occupational or physical therapy, public health, global health and health justice, as well as careers in policy, advocacy, community health and the environment. 

Students will explore health and wellness from a range of perspectives through cross-listed courses in biology, anthropology, environmental studies and educational studies, gender, sexuality and intersectional justice, Africana studies and English, among others.  

"As everyone learned during the COVID-19 outbreak, public health is of great importance, and it engages many players beyond physicians, from government experts in many fields and political leaders at many levels, to private corporations and academic researchers," says Associate Director of Health Professions Counseling and Fellowship Advising Scott MacPhail. "The new program is designed to help students interested in many ways of thinking about health and likewise the many career pathways that put people in position to substantially shape our health." 

Two new courses explore the nuances of subjects related to the pandemic: an introductory course covers the core functions of public health in the U.S. and abroad, while a course on epidemiology focuses on the history and core concepts including field methods. 

MacPhail, who teaches the introductory course, says that effective public health work requires critical thinking, strong analysis of multidimensional problems and the ability to communicate clearly to a diverse audience. 

"Our approach includes training in core skills required to work in public health plus the ability to continuously learn and self-reflect as new problems arise and old solutions are discovered to be less effective than desired," says MacPhail. 

Jessica Hayes-Conroy, an associate professor of Gender, Sexuality and Intersectional Justice and the chair of Public Health, says the program is distinctive in its far-reaching exploration of public health, from healthcare access and historical medical inequalities to statistical analysis and reproductive rights and ethics.

“Because we are an interdisciplinary program, we have the ability to work closely with many other programs and departments on campus, including many justice-oriented programs,” she explains. “This makes our program more critical and self-reflexive than most professional public health programs.”

As the new program gets underway, Hayes-Conroy says, “We are excited to now also be able to better serve and advise students who are interested in health policy, health education, health advocacy, nutrition and dietetics, community health, environmental health, social work, the wellness and fitness industries, health entrepreneurship, public health research and much more.”

The Public Health program will be hosting Ryan J. Petteway, a public health scholar, educator and poet on Oct. 25 for two events. From 1:20 - 2:20 p.m., Petteway will be discussing career paths in public health in the Blackwell Room. At 5 p.m., Petteway will deliver his talk "Towards a Public Health of 'Radical Possibility': Sonic & Poetic Pedagogies of Epistemic & Health Justice" in Bartlett Theatre. More information on Petteway can be found here

The new Public Health program will replace the Health Professions minor; however, the individualized advising process for pre-health programs remains in place, with guidance for students navigating prerequisite courses for admission to medical, dental or veterinary school, as well as support throughout the graduate application and entrance exam process.