FORT WORTH, Texas— A scant 10 years since the initial proposal, north Texas is now home to the 32nd fully accredited school of public health in the United States.
The Council on Education for Public Health recently awarded a five-year accreditation to the School of Public Health at the University of North Texas Health Science Center. The five-year term is the longest a new school can receive.
In 1992, a steering committee of community leaders and health professionals proposed establishing a public health school in north Texas to train highly qualified individuals in the areas of public health practice and research.
The health science center then launched a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program in 1995. Enrollment in the MPH program quickly exceeded initial expectations, with more than 100 students enrolled within three years. U.S. News & World Report soon ranked the degree program among the top 20 in community health in the country.
In 1999, a full School of Public Health was established, and a doctoral program was added.
This fall, the school will set a new enrollment record, with more than 220 students studying in its MPH program. Another 36 doctoral students will be working toward a doctorate of public health (DrPH) degree. Construction will also begin on a $27.5 million building to house both the growing school and the biotechnology research programs at the health science center.
With an accredited School of Public Health, UNT Health Science Center joins an elite group of institutions that includes Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Yale universities. In Texas, the University of Texas and Texas A&M Health Sciences Center have accredited graduate schools of public health.
UNT Health Science Center is now eligible to compete for research funding only offered to accredited institutions and is better positioned to recruit students and faculty. Graduates also benefit from the additional credibility associated with studying at an accredited institution.
“Accreditation means that outside reviewers have found our educational and research programs to be among the best in the country,” said Fernando Treviño, MPH, PhD, dean of the School of Public Health.
To be accredited, an institution must offer master’s degrees in all five disciplines of public health: epidemiology, biostatistics, health management and policy, environmental and occupational health, and social and behavioral sciences. It must also offer a doctoral degree in at least one of the disciplines. The School of Public Health exceeds this criterion by offering doctoral degrees in four of the disciplines. Accreditation by CEPH allows for entrance into the Association of Schools of Public Health, a national organization that lobbies on behalf of public health.
“The most significant impact is for students and graduates to qualify for jobs, fellowships and grants that require graduates from an accredited university,” said Pat Evans, executive director of CEPH. “Certain federal funds for grants that are available are tied to membership in the Association of Schools of Public Health, which requires the CEPH accreditation.”
The accreditation comes at a time when public health is at the forefront of policy-making decisions. Concerns about the threat of bioterrorism have grown since Sept. 11, causing many local governments to add epidemiologists and other professionals to augment public health departments. Public health’s message of prevention is also critical to addressing an emerging epidemic of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, that are associated with obesity, lack of physical activity and unhealthy eating habits, Dr. Treviño said. “This accreditation is recognition of the great work going on in the School of Public Health,” said Ronald Blanck, DO, president of UNT Health Science Center. “It is the basis for even greater accomplishments as public health is more and more seen as the solution to the problems we face in our current way of doing health care.”
For additional information on the UNT Health Science Center’s School of Public Health, visit www.hsc.unt.edu.
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