SRPH Brings Distance Ed Program to Austin

August 19, 2004

For Immediate Release
August 19, 2004
Distance Ed-Austin
Contact: Andrea Pool at (979) 458-0773
Office of Communications
School of Rural Public Health
The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center
A&M Health Science Center Fills Public Health Education Void in Austin
When 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax scares occurred, public health experts were among the first to be called. When environmental hazards occur, public health experts are called on. Injuries in the workplace require experts in public health as well as medicine. With such importance placed on public health, it is a shame that there is a relatively small number of public health professionals to serve the nation and the majority are not formally trained in public health.
To help alleviate that problem, for the last five years, the School of Rural Public Health (SRPH), at The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, has offered its master’s degrees via distance education in several regions of Texas. SRPH begins its first distance education classes in Austin on August 30, 2004. This will be the first Master of Public Health degree program ever offered in Austin. This program will work in close collaboration with agencies such as the Texas Department of Health (TDH). A majority of the 20 students selected for admission are TDH employees.
Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Commissioner of Health at TDH; Dr. Nancy W. Dickey, president of the A&M Health Science Center and vice chancellor for health affairs for the A&M System; and Dr. Ciro Sumaya, SRPH dean, will inaugurate the program and welcome the new class on August 26, 2004, at 5 p.m. in Room K100 in the Texas Department of Health Building at 1100 West 49th Street in Austin. Media are invited to attend.
Public health professionals improve the health of communities and their residents. Many who acquire education in public health are existing physicians, nurses, dentists or other health-related professionals. Public health professionals focus on improving the determinants of health such as human behavior, health policy and law, the environment, and disease transmission patterns. They develop interventions to address significant public health issues and concerns. Public health touches everyone’s lives every day.
The school will offer an interdisciplinary Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) degree with a concentration in epidemiology and environmental health. This one-of-a-kind master’s degree program blends the study of epidemiological methods with risk assessment and environmental health to address critical public health issues facing Texans, in particular its underserved and rural populations.
Through the use of two-way video conferencing, web-based courses, and face-to-face delivery, individuals in the Austin area will have the opportunity to complete an MPH in the evenings. This three-year, part-time program is designed specifically with working professionals in mind, offering evening classes at a central location.
Sumaya believes the Austin area is a natural expansion of the school’s distance education program. “We’re reaching out to improve the public health workforce. It’s only natural that we initiate this in Austin because of the many state agencies relating to public health that are located in Austin. We want to offer employees who may have received minimal formal public health training in the past an opportunity to improve the skills they already possess.”
The Texas A&M University System Health Science Center provides the state with health education, outreach and research. Its five components located in communities throughout Texas are Baylor College of Dentistry, the College of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Institute of Biosciences and Technology and the School of Rural Public Health.

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