The Mailman School of Public Health could offer a concentration in public health through Columbia’s undergraduate schools within two to three years.
For interested students, the school also hopes to offer a 4-1 dual degree program–in which an undergraduate would attain a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Public Health degree in five years–around that time as well.
“There is interest and potential for a concentration and 4-1 program to be offered over the next two to three years,” Ian Lapp, the Mailman associate dean for academic affairs and education, said. “This is not a five to 10 year plan.” Still, Lapp offered no definitive commitment or time line, simply stating that it was a work in progress.
This year, the Mailman School is offering four courses to undergraduates–three this fall and one in the spring–which is an increase from the two courses offered last year. Over the next few years, the Mailman School plans on incrementally increasing the number of undergraduate courses it offers and could eventually offer public health as a major.
Lapp explained the Mailman School’s interest in expanding into the undergraduate curriculum by emphasizing that the Mailman School is not just a professional institution but that, like Columbia College, it also approaches public health as a liberal art. “In many ways, the Mailman School, from an educational perspective, resembles places like Columbia,” Lapp said. “We see our professional education and our academic interests as a natural extension [of undergraduate studies]. The school believes in a continuum of public health education that could span from the undergraduate through the doctoral experience.”
The three courses being offered this semester are Sexuality, an anthropology course taught by professor Richard Parker, Stigma and Discrimination, a sociology class instructed by professor Jo Phelan, and A Social History of American Public Health, a history class being taught by professor David Rosner. The class Fundamentals of Global Health will be offered by Mailman School faculty in the spring semester for the second straight year.
As of Tuesday, 110 students enrolled in the three fall courses overall, which Lapp believes demonstrates interest among the undergraduate population for more public health curriculum. One student who would like to see public health eventually offered as a major is Eleanor Stein, CC ’13 and psychology major.
“It would be absolutely amazing. If they offered public health as a major, I would love to double major in it,” Stein said. “That would be very exciting. It’s a topic that I really want to study but they don’t offer yet.”
The first class offered to undergraduates by the Mailman School, A Social History of American Public Health, is being taught again this semester by Rosner, the Ronald H. Lauterstein Professor of Sociomedical Sciences and History. The class, with 54 students enrolled, is the largest of the three public health courses currently offered. According to Rosner, the course looks at the social history of the United States and how the decisions the United States made affected the health experiences of Americans. This course is the first undergraduate class Rosner has ever taught. He said he enjoys the change, and that undergraduates are more willing to consider new ideas.
“Graduate students are older, they’re wonderful too,” Rosner said. “But they’re more intellectually sophisticated, they have their ideas more enforced tightly and therefore it’s harder to break in new ways of thinking.”
Stein is currently taking Rosner’s class. She described the course as a solid introduction to American public health, and hasn’t found the course too difficult. “It’s a lot of reading, but the reading is easy to understand and it gives you a multifaceted view of public health,” she said.
Stein also added that the class contained many overlaps to two of her other courses, Drugs and Behavior and Global Urbanism. She says that Rosner’s class includes analysis of drugs and discussions on public health in cities, which are topics covered in those classes.
Another student in Rosner’s class, Nathan Albert, CC ’13 said, “It’s more interesting than a lot of my other classes. … I really haven’t taken a history class like this, it’s broadening my horizon.”
Rosner says that his course is a good preparatory class for students interested in studying at the Mailman School as a graduate student, adding that there were several people from the same course he taught last year who applied to the Mailman School. Rosner also supports the Mailman School’s expansion into undergraduate studies, stating that it exposes students to alternative academia earlier on in their education. “It’s wonderful when kids see the world in another way and understand there are other ways of doing things. It’s not just medical school or business school,” Rosner said. “Public health is not just the laboratory… It’s thinking about the population’s life. It’s a very exciting field.”