In the wake of the ongoing international pandemic, a growing number of students across the nation have developed a strong interest in public health and are channeling that into obtaining related degrees.
(TNS) — When COVID-19 hit,
A second-year student at the University of South Florida’s
“It was really exciting at first getting that firsthand experience,” she said. But, after working 12-hour days, coping with the emotions of people infected with the virus, and seeing exhausted frontline workers, “it starts to feel a little hopeless.”
Still, the experience inspired her career path. “It has really pushed my drive for researching health disparities, especially the disparities we’ve seen within the Black community,” said Lewis.
Once she graduates with her master’s degree, Lewis plans on pursuing a doctorate in public health, focusing on maternal and child health in addition to disparities.
She is among a growing number of students across the nation who, because of the pandemic, have developed a strong interest in public health and are channeling that into degrees.
Public health programs that use the common application for admissions reported a 20 percent increase in applications to master’s in public health programs for the 2020-21 academic year, according to the
“We’re definitely seeing an increase in applications,” said
In December, applications to USF’s masters of public health program were up nearly 200 percent, according to Petersen. Similarly, the number of applications rose 50 percent for the Doctor of Public Health program and nearly 80 percent for other doctoral programs in the college.
Among those pursuing master’s degrees, there’s an increased interest in pandemic-related specialties, including epidemiology, infection control, and global health disaster management.
Additionally, the school is seeing more interest among
In recent months as the coronavirus spread,
Around FSU’s campus in
Her devotion to the field solidified when, through her coursework, she realized the direct link between public health and those disparities.
“I knew of (the disparities), but I didn’t know how bad they were,” said Smith, who grew up with a single mother in a predominantly Black Polk County neighborhood and now dreams of becoming a health policy analyst with the
Florida State’s public health major for undergraduates is new — started in the fall of 2019 — but “it’s the fastest growing major at FSU,” said
“Our growth has just exploded,” Burdette said.
And while Black students make up 9 percent of FSU’s overall student body, nearly 20 percent of those in the major are Black, with Black women leading the way, according to Burdette. “We have more Black students and students of color than a lot of other majors at FSU.”
Before the pandemic, public health programs across the country were seeing a decline in interest, said
In addition to the pandemic, college and university deans credit the interest to outreach initiatives that have been part of a years-long process.
It’s a combination of intentional recruiting and young adults wanting to make an impact, said Magnolia Hernández, an assistant dean at Florida International University’s
Although the college is fairly small, interest in its master’s of public health program has risen dramatically. The biggest spike has been in the fully online option, with a similar increase in those wanting to study epidemiology.
In recent years, FIU has made it a priority to be visible at
Prior to the pandemic, Campbell knew she would continue her education, but it was unclear whether it would be in public health.
This spring, the biochemistry major and swimming student-athlete begins her master’s work. And like many public health officials, Campbell — a Black student of dual heritage from
“To have people from minority groups like the Black community in the field is really important,” she said.
(c)2021 the Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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