Mason Launches Northern Virginia’s First Master of Public Health Degree

Posted: February 19, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Marjorie Musick

Public health professionals are key players in successfully responding to and preparing for natural disasters, terrorist attacks and disease outbreaks. But the Association of Schools of Public Health says the nation will have a shortage of more than a quarter of a million of these critical workers by 2020.

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia recently approved Mason’s new Master of Public Health (MPH) for launch in the fall of 2009. The degree will address this shortage within the commonwealth by preparing an estimated 100 graduates per year to respond to disasters and improve the health of vulnerable populations.

The degree — administered through the College of Health and Human Services’ Department of Global and Community Health — is the only one of its kind to be offered in Northern Virginia.

“Hurricane Katrina highlighted the need for public health professionals at the local, regional and national level,” says Lisa Pawloski, associate professor and chair of the Department of Global and Community Health.

“This new degree will train public health workers to strategically respond to natural disasters and acts of violence, and effectively manage the control of both infectious and noncommunicable chronic diseases.”

The Department of Global and Community Health conducted a survey in 2008 of 55 graduate students taking courses in epidemiology, nutrition, global health and biostatistics at Mason. All of the respondents agreed that it was important for an MPH program to be offered in Northern Virginia.

“The high level of interest in the MPH is largely due to Mason’s convenient location, its tremendous value for Virginia residents and its distinguished faculty,” says Pawloski.

“The rise of chronic diseases has significantly impacted the health of not only Americans, but also people around the world. This degree is both timely and needed.”

Students can complete the 42-credit program in as little as two years studying full time, or take courses on a part-time basis.

The curriculum follows the guidelines established by the Council on Education for Public Health, thereby qualifying graduates to take the Certification for Public Health Exam, a professional licensure exam that is administered by the National Board of Public Health Examiners.

Mason is currently accepting applications for the fall with a deadline of April 1. A baccalaureate degree with a minimum GPA of 3.00 in the last 60 credits is required, and a background in statistics, biology and the social sciences is preferred.

“Currently, there are enormous workforce shortages in public health for individuals with skills in epidemiology, community health, global health and public health administration,” says Shirley Travis, dean of the College of Health and Human Services.

“Because our program prepares students to fill some of the most critical roles in public health, we expect our graduates to be heavily recruited at the local, state, national and international levels.”

An information session will be held on Thursday, March 5, at 5:30 p.m. in the Student Union Building II, Room 1, on Mason’s Fairfax Campus. For more information, e-mail Allan Weiss, office manager in the Department of Global and Community Health, at

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