College of Public Health Offers New 100% Online MPH in Epidemiology
The COVID-19 pandemic inspired Kent State alumnus Robert Roland Jr. to enroll in the College of Public Health’s new 100% online Master of Public Health (MPH) program with a specialization in epidemiology. The online program fits perfectly into Roland’s lifestyle as a non-traditional student who serves as the caretaker for his father, who has Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
Roland’s plan is to use his expertise to attack disease on a global scale.
“I would like to travel to different parts of the world to learn more about the etiology of diseases in order to work towards a cure or treatment,” Roland said.
The 100% online MPH with a concentration in epidemiology has launched for the fall semester. Roland and other students in the program will take 46 credit hours spanning the breadth of public health and provide training in epidemiology methods and bio-statistics. Core courses also cover public health topics in environmental health, social and behavioral sciences, and health policy.
Roland, who has bachelor’s degrees in chemistry and biology from Kent State, has created a strong foundation for which to build his online MPH studies.
“Students who have strong quantitative skills and who have a background in the sciences, math, pre-med, nursing, exercise science, or any similar degree are appropriate for the program,” said Melissa Zullo, Ph.D., associate professor of epidemiology and graduate coordinator of epidemiology and biostatistics in Kent State’s College of Public Health. “Students who have taken courses in biology, chemistry, and higher-level math classes and are interested in identifying and solving health-related issues are appropriate for the MPH concentration in Epidemiology.”
Epidemiology methods and biostatistics courses train students in study design and analysis and include content in infectious and chronic diseases. Epidemiologists at the master’s level provide the methodological expertise to conduct and carryout studies with teams of researchers in a wide variety of areas, including infectious and chronic diseases.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it obvious what public health is and why it is so important to have a prepared public health workforce in place to quickly identify and stop disease outbreaks before they impact people’s lives and livelihoods, Zullo said.
“The pandemic is a good example of how entwined public health is with all facets of our lives and shows why well-trained public health professionals are critical to our success as a country and a global community,” Zullo said. “We tend to take for granted the behind the scenes work that public health practitioners do to keep us safe and healthy until we are faced with an obvious health and economic crisis.”
Epidemiology students come from a variety of backgrounds and may have undergraduate degrees in biology, psychology, health sciences, mathematics, geography, and pre-med among others. Those who choose the online program follow the same curriculum plan as students who complete the on-ground program.
Graduates of the on-ground epidemiology concentration, which has been offered in the College of Public Health since fall 2010, have gone on to work for health agencies in Ohio, and across the country and world. Others have gone on to Ph.D. programs or to medical schools. Employment may be found in local or state health departments, medical schools, hospitals, governmental health agencies and in pharmaceutical research.
McKenzie McConaha is one of those graduates. She earned her master’s degree in public health, epidemiology in 2017. She is a full-time epidemiologist at Summit County Public Health in Akron, and is also a contracted epidemiologist working for Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services where she helped create the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Report for the Cleveland Region.
“I feel that the new online MPH program is a wonderful opportunity for others who may not have the means to be on campus to have the opportunity to join this rewarding field,” McConaha said.
McConaha, who had a background in medicine, worked throughout undergraduate school at Tennessee Technological University, where she majored in cellular and molecular biology. While working in an emergency room in rural Tennessee as a scribe she witnessed the social inequities daily that lead to emergency and chronic conditions.
“After earning a bachelor’s degree in undergrad, I decided I wanted a career that focused on disease prevention and that also addressed social inequities,” McConaha said. “Obviously, public health was the ideal next step. I chose epidemiology, because I wanted to be the one to do research and provide evidence in public health. Also, it doesn’t hurt that I love math.”
McConaha said she loves her career because she can see how her job directly affects the community because many of her data products and reports are used to help communities obtain grants, which then lead to programs that benefit the community.
Lauren Hoff-Borling earned her Bachelor of Science in public health from Kent State in 2018 and now works as a health educator. She enrolled in the 100% online MPH program to eventually become an epidemiologist at the state or local health department level.
“I became interested in public health because I worked in critical care during my undergrad as a nursing assistant and saw firsthand the toll that preventable diseases had on people,” Hoff-Borling said. “I wanted to work in prevention to reduce the amount of people suffering from those diseases.”
The College of Public Health at Kent State offers MPH degree concentrations in Health Policy and Management, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and has a Master of Science in Clinical Epidemiology. For more information about Kent State’s College of Public Health, visit www.kent.edu/publichealth or contact the college at: 330-372-6500.