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Raymond L. Goldsteen, DrPH, Director, MPH at University of North Dakota

 
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Raymond L. Goldsteen, DrPH, Director, MPH at University of North Dakota, joins us today to discuss public health education.

#1 Can you tell us about the public health program at the University of North Dakota?

North Dakota is situated in the Northern Plains, and the MPH Program at the University of North Dakota (UND) reflects and responds to our location.  There is much diversity within the Northern Plains, as North Dakota illustrates well.  There are booming towns in the oil and gas fields in the west, agricultural communities in the rich Red River Valley, American Indian reservation in the central plains, frontier locales, and small cities throughout the State.  These areas are continually changing in multiple ways including population size, economic basis, and culture.  The MPH Program at UND emphasizes, and is enriched by, the diversity and change within the Northern Plains.

The program offers two specializations:  Population Health Analytics and Health Management and Policy.  Both specializations emphasize development of excellent analytical and critical thinking skills, recognizing that changes will continually occur in the public health and health care fields, and MPH graduates will need these skills in order to contribute and lead in the future.

The program is student-centered.  The MPH faculty values personal experiences with students throughout the educational period.  These include work on projects outside of class, as well as close supervision of class-related work.  Student-faculty interaction in and outside of class is promoted.

#2 How long does a typical public health master’s program take at the University of North Dakota? What is the maximum and minimum time of completion for a MPH?

The MPH Program is 42 credits in length and can be completed in two years of full-time study or three to five years of part-time study.  Because of the diversity of our students, the program is designed for full and part-time study, as well as distance education through live broadcast of all classes.  At this time, most students take courses at the UND campus in Grand Forks.  However, distance learning is well established at UND and an integral part of the MPH Program.  We currently do not offer courses in the summer, except for the Practicum.

#3 What do you think makes the University of North Dakota public health program stand out from other programs in the country?

The context of the MPH Program at UND differentiates us from others.  Within UND, the MPH Program is located in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS). The SMHS includes one of the nation's most respected community-based medical schools, as well as other clinical programs of excellence including physical therapy, occupational therapy, clinical laboratory science, and physician assistant. The preeminent Center for Rural Health is located in the SMHS, as are the Rural Opportunities in Medical Education (ROME) program and the Indians into Medicine (INMED) program, which prepare native students for careers in the health professions.  The Center for Rural Health is a major partner of the MPH Program, including the American Indian programs:  the Seven Generations Center of Excellence in Native Behavioral Health (SGCoE), the National Indigenous Elder Justice Initiative (NIEJI), and the Native Research Health Team.

Our newly developed Center for Comparative Effectiveness Analytics provides novel opportunities for students to respond to changes occurring in the expectations for health care and public health systems.  Policymakers increasingly want evidence that these two complimentary systems are providing effective, efficient, and accessible interventions that improve health and prevent disease and disability in individuals and populations.  At the same time, our ability to study health problems and the most effective and efficient ways of preventing, diagnosing, treating, and monitoring them is growing.  Advances in information technology and the routine collection of electronic data as a byproduct of service delivery have created massive datasets that are accessible for these purposes.  The Center responds to the need of payers and providers of health care and public health services to demonstrate their efficacy in promoting health and preventing disease and disability by providing expertise in analytics, particularly using existing clinical and administrative data.  The Center draws upon the full range of expertise at UND, including the SMHS, the Department of Political Science in the College of Business and Public Administration, and the Department of Geography in the College of Arts and Sciences.

The larger university enriches the MPH Program, as well.  We jointly offer the MPH specialization in Health Management and Policy with the Department of Political Science in the College of Business and Public Administration (CoBPA).  This relationship gives MPH students access to the rich course offerings and faculty expertise in management and policy within the CoBPA.  In addition, many departments at UND offer graduate certificates that can enhance public health education, and these programs are open to MPH students including graduate certificates in Geographic Information Science (GIS), Policy Analysis, Applied Economics, and Social Entrepreneurship.  A university-wide coalition – Healthy UND – has a focus on health as does the nationally recognized Wellness Center at UND. The Wellness Center is at the forefront in providing students, faculty, and staff with programs to promote health and prevent disease.  The range of opportunities includes fitness, nutrition, safety, substance-abuse prevention, and stress reduction.  It is a remarkable university resource for both personal wellness and educational experiences.  Both Healthy UND and the Wellness Center offer students employment and educational opportunities.

The community is also rich in educational opportunities for MPH students.  Grand Forks has a vibrant civic culture that has spawned many organizations with a health focus.  The Coalition for a Healthy Greater Grand Forks is a prime example of the collaboration that occurs.  Coalition member agencies include Grand Forks Public Health, the United Way, Altru Health System, the YMCA, Grand Forks Park District, and the USDA Health and Nutrition Research Center.  Activities extend from creating bike trails to addressing teen substance abuse.  The Northern Valley Arts Council is another coalition of community organizations with an emphasis on art and an interest in the arts and health.  All community organizations are potential sites for educational experiences including Practicums.

#4 What are the advantages to earning a Master’s in Public Health degree?

Because there are multiple ways to promote health and prevent disease, the MPH degree prepares graduates to work in many, many different settings including public health and other government agencies, health care systems, insurance companies, and non-profit community organizations.  As a result of this workplace diversity, the program at UND welcomes applicants from a wide variety of backgrounds including the social and behavioral sciences; the basic sciences including biology, chemistry, and physics; mathematics and computer science; and the humanities.  In addition, the MPH is an excellent partner for all clinical degrees including medicine, nursing, laboratory science, physician assistant, physical therapy, and occupational therapy, as it expands professional opportunities in these fields.  Also those who wish to apply for a clinical program find that the MPH degree can enhance their application as well as their preparation for their clinical career.  In all cases, the MPH degree produces graduates who understand the context in which health and poor-health are ‘produced’ including the social, behavioral, cultural, environmental, and occupational impacts and develop skills needed to apply this knowledge in order to prevent poor health and promote well-being in communities and populations.  These include analytical and communication skills particularly.  There are many settings in which these skills are needed.

#5 Does the University of North Dakota offer job placement for students who graduate in public health?

The Career Services office at UND coordinates activities such as on-campus interviews, provides specialized workshops, and holds three Career Fairs annually.  The resource library houses labor market information, audiovisual materials, company literature, computerized job information systems, and direct online access to the Internet.  The MPH Program has relationships with potential employers in the public and private sectors throughout North Dakota and western Minnesota.

#6 What type of financial aid packages are available for students in public health? Are there any fellowships, grants and scholarships available?

UND Graduate Assistantships, which can include tuition waivers, stipends, or both.  The MPH Program and many other graduate programs on campus regularly award this type of financial aid.  Other financial aid may come in the form of grants, loans, and scholarships.

#7 What advice do you have for students who are considering public health for their graduate study?

I would advise students to select a MPH Program that has many opportunities for professional growth through faculty projects, internships, and other educational experiences and is committed to facilitating that growth.

#8 What do you enjoy most about your position at University of North Dakota?

I enjoy most developing the chemistry between students, faculty, and staff that creates an atmosphere of excitement and learning.  When that happens, nothing could be better.

For more information on the public health programs offered at University of North Dakota, visit them online www.med.UND.edu/mph

Thank you, Raymond Goldsteen, for sharing and participating in this piece.

That concludes our interview!