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UB adding new programs in public health, athletic training, statistics

Students from the School of Public Health and Health Professions take part in an exercise routine as part of a class. Photo: Douglas Levere

By JACKIE HAUSLER

Published May 18, 2017

“We focused growing our academic offerings on degree programs in high demand in the workforce in the coming years and that complement our current academic programs.”
Jean Wactawski-Wende, dean
School of Public Health and Health Professions

The School of Public Health and Health Professions (SPHHP) will add three new programs to its academic offerings.

An undergraduate degree program in public health, an undergraduate degree program in statistics and a combined bachelor’s in exercise science and master’s in athletic training program will be available beginning this fall.

“The addition of the new programs provides new opportunities for students interested in joining our school and the university,” says Jean Wactawski-Wende, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions. “We focused growing our academic offerings on degree programs in high demand in the workforce in the coming years and that complement our current academic programs.

“Our School of Public Health and Health Professions is in a unique position and one of only a few programs in New York State with such offerings,” she says. “We continue to enroll an increasingly diverse student population and have the ability to connect our students with our outstanding alumni base.”

A pathway to improving health

Public health represents a growing and dynamic field, with opportunities to address the world’s most pressing health problems. The discipline is a combination of both the science and art of advancing the health of individuals, families, communities and populations through education, promotion of healthy behaviors and research for disease and injury prevention.

The undergraduate degree program, which offers graduates a BS in public health, provides students with the skills necessary to understand the factors that influence health and take a public health approach to addressing these factors to improve health outcomes for individuals and societies.

“There are substantial synergies between public health education and the University at Buffalo’s strengths and signature areas,” says Marc Kiviniemi, director of undergraduate public health initiatives and associate professor in the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior. “The undergraduate degree in public health arguably has some fit with all of UB’s institutional themes, with especially strong ties to health professions, health equity and impact of our environment on health. Students in this program ultimately can seek careers in health professions, management and environmental sciences, to name a few.”

Helping keep athletes healthy

The combined degree program offering a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and a master’s in athletic training is designed to provide an expedited path to education in exercise science while completing the requirements for certification in athletic training. Interested students seeking to complete this program can apply to the undergraduate portion of the curriculum as a freshman.

This new program will help meet the growing demand for athletic trainers, says Dave Hostler, chair and professor of the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences.

“In cooperation with physicians and other health care personnel, the athletic trainer functions as an important member of the health care team in schools, colleges, universities, professional sports programs, sports medicine clinics and other health care settings,” Hostler explains. “Sports and physical activity are integral parts of our culture and are important for health and wellness. There is a growing need for professionals at every level to keep athletes and competitors healthy.”

Wactawski-Wende adds that the new program will allow the school to collaborate with UB’s Division of Athletics and will expand its role in training health care professionals.  “Our program will emphasize strong clinical skills and the training of exceptional clinicians,” she says. ”It is intended to create the next generation of leaders in athletic training who are well-versed in contributing to evidence-based practice.”

An increasing demand for experts in statistics

An undergraduate degree program in statistics, which was last offered at UB in 1998, will be offered through SPHHP’s Department of Biostatistics and led by Dietrich Kuhlmann, undergraduate program director and research professor.

UB is one of only two SUNY schools to offer an undergraduate major in statistics.

While the department currently offers an undergraduate minor in statistics, Kuhlmann says growth in the job market and a renewed interest in the field have led to increased demand for a more comprehensive, rigorous statistics curriculum.

“With the advent and proliferation of big data, there is a rapidly increasing demand for individuals who can provide a statistical skill set,” he says. “Job growth is strong and statisticians are employed in a wide array of job sectors. We’re very proud to be bringing this program back, and I’m excited to begin mentoring the next generation of statisticians so they are prepared to succeed.”

The program will include coursework on topics such as statistical inference, probability, regression analysis and analysis of variance. Additional electives also will be offered in such areas as statistical computing, quality control, methods of survey samples and more.

“Not only will a major in statistics provide students the mathematical and computational tools to prepare for a successful career in science or industry, it will also serve to prepare students interested in graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines,” says Gregory Wilding, interim chair of the Department of Biostatistics. “Furthermore, students will be able to broaden their possibilities for employment by combining the high-quality statistics education they will receive with other fields of study.”

Information for interested students

Students interested in these new programs should contact the SPHHP Office for Academic and Student Affairs at (716) 829-5000 or sphhp-oasa@buffalo.edu. Information on all the academic offerings provided by SPHHP is available on the school’s website.