A Major Win

 

UCSD will have another good reason to boast about its excellent science program. Beginning in Fall Quarter 2013, the UCSD School of Medicine will offer its first undergraduate major, a Bachelors of Science in public health. UCSD is the third UC campus — behind UC Berkeley and UC Irvine — to administer this major. This new development shows UCSD’s commitment to continuous growth as a top-notch science university, and the public health major will help a wide range of UCSD students begin their careers in a quickly developing health field. 

UCSD’s implementation of the public health major will set the university apart as an institution offering an especially broad variety of science disciplines. In 2003, the Institute of Medicine recommended that all universities offer public health education to their undergraduates. According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, only 16 percent of the 837 institutions surveyed offered undergraduate public health programs as of 2008. It may have taken eight years for the developing process to start, but the decision to create a public health major in 2011 was the right move for UCSD. 

The addition of a public health major benefits students as well as the prestige of the university. The division of biological sciences is ranked ninth best in the world according to the Center for World-Class Universities’ 2012 Academic Rankings of World Universities. This ranking is based on factors such as the number of Nobel Prizes and Field Medals that alumni and faculty have won, how widely staff research has been cited and the per capita academic performance of a university. While many universities may have majors and minors similar to public health, such as Yale University’s history of medicine major, none are as specifically developed as the new program to be started at UCSD this September. Previously, UCSD’s closest major to public health was a Bachelors of Arts in human development and a global health minor under the Eleanor Roosevelt College department. The public health major at UCSD will not only increase students’ options and diversify our science program, it will also attract more students to the university.

Generally, a public health track differs greatly from that of typical lab-oriented science majors such as chemistry. Public health addresses issues all across the medical board from rising healthcare costs to disease prevention, rather than focus on the micro-level causes behind diseases as biology does. All public health majors at UCSD will be required to take seven brand new courses under the department of family and preventive medicine.

Unlike Berkeley’s impacted program, there are no prerequisites or a formal application to declare the major — making public health more available to the entire UCSD student body. UCSD’s program is unique in that professors from the School of Medicine will teach undergraduate courses, allowing students to receive a deeper insight into the medical field. When designing the program, FPM modeled the curriculum after a Masters program to create a smoother flow for students who wished to pursue a Masters degree after completing the major. 

Students have much to gain from the addition of a public health major. Students majoring in public health will have the opportunity to jump into an in-demand medical field without necessarily going to medical school. The Association of Schools of Public Health predicts that by 2020, the U.S. will be short more than 250,000 public health workers — a number that current graduation rates cannot compensate for. This is due to the diminishing number of people entering the field as well as a spike in public health workforce retirements in the past year. 

The addition of a public health major is beneficial to students as well as the university. As one of the most in-demand fields in the America today, this new major gives UCSD students a large lead in the cutthroat job market. While there is controversy in many of the decisions made on campus, the implementation of a public health major shows that UCSD still does many things right.

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