By Sean Olson, University Relations

Recognizing a shortage of highly trained public health professionals, The University of North Carolina will begin offering a doctor of public health degree.

The Department of Public Health Education, located in the School of Health and Human Performance, will offer the 63-credit-hour degree beginning in fall 2006.

The program will prepare students to work in colleges and universities, research institutions or public health agencies with a curriculum divided into four core areas: public health, research, health or health-related electives and a dissertation.

Part of the reason for offering the degree and for offering it now, said Dr. Daniel Bibeau, head of the Department of Public Health Education, is that there is a need for students trained with a doctor of public health (Dr.PH) degree and experienced in practice-based research. That’s a sentiment echoed by national expert Dr. Larry Green, who teaches at the University of California, San Francisco and is a former official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In recent years, it has been recognized that there is a growing gap between the research that is being produced and the application of that research in public health,” Green said.

“Part of the problem is that the research that PhD faculty we’re producing in public health was becoming more and more academic, more theory driven rather than public health-problem-driven. It was removed from a base of practice, so practitioners regarded the research as not being relevant to their position. And that is the reason why the doctor of public health is needed – to formulate research and research approaches that take the realities of practice into consideration. There is an increasing need to fill this gap between research and practice. The Dr. PH is part of the answer to closing that gap.”

Yet, if there is great need for the Dr.PH, there is scant supply. Of the 36 schools studied in the 2004 Annual Data Report from the Association of Schools of Public Health, only 1.4 percent of all degrees awarded were the Dr. PH. The PhD accounted for 7.6 percent of degrees.

UNCG’s new Dr.PH degree is based on models for prevention research and evaluation developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Institute of Medicine. The program will be a community-based and will have doctoral students and faculty with public professionals as research teams.

“This is the first program to use community-based prevention research teams which include faculty, students and community partners as the basis for the entire program,” Bibeau said.

The Doctor of Public Health (Dr. PH) will emphasize:
-Preparing doctoral students for careers in academia
-Researching and preventing health disparities
-A socio-ecological perspective for understanding public health
-Researching and preventing health problems of citizens of North Carolina and the United States
-A commitment by faculty to work with public health professionals, agencies, and community members

The program will be open to graduate students who meet prerequisites including: a master’s degree in public health education, public health, a relevant science or an acceptable equivalent; Graduate Record Exam scores; and other general requirements. Students without an MPH degree will be required to complete public health core courses, including epidemiology, social science theory applied to public health, biostatistics, health policy and administration and environmental health.

UNCG currently offers three doctoral degrees – Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) and Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) – in 18 academic areas. Since May of 2002, UNCG has established new doctorates in economics, geography, history, information systems, special education and nursing.

For application information, call the Department of Public Health Education at (336) 334-3240 or visit www.uncg.edu/phe.