College of Public Health offers new environmental health sciences concentration

Emily Mills

The College of Public Health is offering a new environmental health sciences concentration for the bachelor’s in public health.

The program is intended to be a combination of health and science, said Charles Hart, associate professor and program coordinator for environmental health sciences.

“The course is health-based, but it’s a lot of hard science too,” Hart said. “It’s what I would call an applied science. It’s good for people who want to work in the community, who don’t just want to research in a lab.”

The College of Public Health contacted Hart in fall of 2011, when he was a professor at Case Western Reserve University. Planning for the program began in January 2012 and was officially approved in January 2013. This is the first semester for the new concentration.

Students enrolled in the environmental health sciences concentration will take courses in both public health and science, said Jennifer Noble, assistant director of Undergraduate Student Services and adviser for the College of Public Health.

“The program focuses heavily on natural sciences,” Noble said. “Students in environmental health need to have a natural science background.”

Natural sciences include subjects like biology and chemistry.

Currently, adjunct professors are teaching the environmental health classes until the college decides what professors will teach what courses.

Environmental health classes will meet two days a week, Hart said. Four times during the semester, students will engage in four-hour lab or field days, where they go out and get real-world experience.

“We don’t just stay in the classroom,” Hart said. “We go out.”

The College of Public Health is now working on advertising the new concentration, said Cheryl Laubacher, the coordinator for academic recruitment and retention for the college. The college has placed ads in PARTA buses, set up information tables at Ohio Environmental Health Association conferences and sent information to local high schools about the new concentration, especially high schools that offer environmental health science as an advanced-placement course.

“A student who took this (class) in high school might have really liked it and consider it as a major,” Laubacher said.

Both high school students considering this program and college students considering switching to the concentration might wonder what makes environmental health sciences different from a biology or chemistry degree, Hart said. He said the concentration is a science degree with a focus on how science relates to our health.

“Environmental health deals with that part of the health field where injuries and illness are closely related to something in our environment,” he said.

Environmental health is also different from the hard sciences, such as biology or chemistry, because students will be going out into the field on a daily basis.

“For a lot of students in biology or chemistry, the jobs are limited without a master’s degree,” Laubacher said. “They’ll be working in a lab.”

The degree requires graduates to take the state board exam to become a registered sanitarian, Noble said.

Hart said that as a registered sanitarian, graduates will go to restaurants, schools and other locations to do health inspections. Registered sanitarians can also go to ponds, parks and other natural areas to take samples to determine the safety of the area when it comes to health.

Graduates can work at the local, state or federal level, Hart said. However, master’s degrees are not required in this field, so graduates can jump into their field immediately after graduation.

“You don’t need a graduate degree. It’s helpful…but there are lots of jobs for people with just a bachelor’s degree,” Hart said.

Students interested in the environmental health sciences concentration can contact the College of Public Health by phone at 330-672-6500 and by email at [email protected].

Emily Mills at [email protected].