By Emily Christensen
Wartburg College is expanding its degree program offerings in fall 2017 with the addition of a new major in public health.
The Bachelor of Arts degree, which was approved by the Board of Regents in February, was designed by Dr. Lorinda Sheeler, visiting associate professor of public health.
“Wartburg’s public health major is an interdisciplinary program that provides students with an understanding of the connections between public health and diverse disciplines, like social sciences, biological sciences, and business,” Sheeler said.
The field is growing in Iowa and nationally, with the Association of Schools of Public Health estimating a shortage of about 250,000 qualified public health workers by 2020.
“We’re very excited to be moving forward with our new public health program at a time when student interest is high and employment opportunities abound,” said Dr. Brian Ernsting, dean of the faculty and vice president for academic affairs. “Students who graduate from this program can expect to have access to careers in areas as diverse as epidemiology, health care administration, community health, public policy, and environmental science. Wartburg is proud to help prepare the next generation of public health leaders who will make the world a better place.”
Wartburg’s program will provide students with a basic understanding of the five core areas in public health: social and behavioral health, epidemiology, health policy and administration, biostatistics, and environmental health. As part of the degree program, students will be required to complete an introductory field experience in their first or second year and either a service-oriented public health internship or original research project in their third or fourth year.
“These experiential opportunities will help them graduate with an understanding of the role of public health in assuring and improving health and protecting people and communities against health threats,” Sheeler said.
Initiatives developed by public health professionals promote healthy lifestyles to combat diseases like cancer and diabetes. Others investigate the spread of infectious diseases, ensure the safety of the food supply, implement programs that protect workers’ health, or develop policies that ensure access to quality health care.
“It has been a busy year putting together the new public health major,” Sheeler said. “My desire was to create a program that is focused on providing meaningful experiences and will instill passion in students to improve our communities by doing something valuable, something that helps others be healthy. It’s just the right thing to do.”
Sheeler earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Auburn University and her master’s and doctorate from Texas Tech University. She has served as the principle epidemiologist for the Tennessee Department of Health and, most recently, was the director of assessment and evaluation and associate professor at the School of Physician Assistant Studies at South College in Tennessee.