Penn State degree prepares health workers to protect the public

October 12, 2011

Disease outbreaks from food contamination, medical preparedness for natural disasters and bioterrorism, and the threat of pandemic flu are among the topics students study in Penn State's online homeland security master's degree in public health preparedness

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Listeria contamination in cantaloupes is just the latest public health threat to emerge in the nation. Being prepared for food-borne outbreaks and other public health crises is challenging the professionals responsible for protecting public health. To be successful on the job, they need up-to-date medical and public health knowledge. Delivered online through the Penn State World Campus, the public health preparedness option in Penn State's homeland security master's degree program can help these professionals.

"Penn State's program prepares students to handle serious public health problems, such as food contamination, bioterrorism, pandemic flu and diseases arising from natural disasters," said Eugene J. Lengerich, program director and professor of public health sciences and family and community medicine. "Students learn how to develop emergency plans and protocols, communicate effectively with the public and officials, set up surveillance systems for monitoring disease outbreaks and deal with increased morbidity and mortality."

Planning for public health threats — intentional and unintentional — is just one responsibility of public health professionals. "The nation needs a well-educated public health workforce to safeguard the public," Lengerich said.

The master's program was the first of its kind to be offered by a medical school, the Penn State College of Medicine. It is designed for federal, state and local emergency management officials, public health practitioners, health care providers, hospital administrators and managers and first responders.

As recent graduate Andrea E. Davis, external affairs director for the Louisiana Recovery Office, noted, the program "has been invaluable to my career, helping me become a leader in my field."

Davis is one of nearly 50 students who have already graduated. Sixty-eight students are currently enrolled, and enrollments are increasing every semester.

The public health preparedness option is part of the Intercollege Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security, which includes a base program in homeland security and options in agricultural biosecurity, geospatial intelligence, and information security and forensics. Information about the homeland security master's degree is available online and via smartphone.

Penn State World Campus specializes in adult online education, delivering more than 70 of Penn State's most highly regarded graduate, undergraduate and professional education programs through convenient online formats. Founded in 1998, Penn State World Campus is the University's 25th campus serving more than 8,500 students in all 50 states and around the world. World Campus is part of Penn State Outreach, the largest unified outreach organization in American higher education. Penn State Outreach serves more than 5 million people each year, delivering more than 2,000 programs to people in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, all 50 states and 114 countries worldwide.

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Last Updated October 17, 2011