New course allows students to learn about public health careers

Samara Sands

Taylor Maddy, freshman exploratory major, came to Kent State not sure which career direction she wanted to take.

She originally thought of majoring in nursing with a minor in public health, but after taking a course in public health, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do.

After speaking to her adviser, she decided to take a new course called Exploring Careers in Public Health.

Maddy said after taking the course, she is now considering a career in health policy and management.

“It’s more of the office and business aspects of the medical field, like working in hospitals and health departments,” she said. “Public health careers are important because it changes people’s lives. It’s important in discovering diseases, and it’s more behind the scenes of the medical field.”

Maddy was one of many students who weren’t sure what career path they wanted to take until taking the course.

“You have to first be interested in a career in public health for the course to even appeal to you,” she said. “It helped me figure out what I wanted to do.”

The recent rise of public health majors in Kent State has sparked more interest in the field. The course was first introduced a year ago and was offered in the fall 2011 semester. It’s a non-traditional one-credit online course that is only five weeks long.

Ken Slenkovich, assistant dean of the College of Public Health, was one of the instructors for the course this semester.

What careers are available?


“Epidemiologists are sometimes called disease detectives,” Slenkovich said. “Let’s say there is a disease outbreak in a community, people are getting sick and we’re not sure why. What an epidemiologist would do is gather data and evidence of this outbreak and try to determine what are the reasons and causes for it.”

Health policy and management

For health policy and management, people can have management positions in health care organizations,” he said. “For example, they can become managers in hospitals or administrators in nursing homes.”

Environment health

“One nature of the job is collecting samples of water out in the field and then taking them to the lab and testing them for contaminants,” Slenkovich said. “Environmental health professionals can test the water, air and food supply to see whether there are micro organisms or chemical toxins that are making people sick.”

Health policy and management

“For health policy and management, people can have management positions in health care organizations,” he said. “For example, they can become managers in hospitals or administrators in nursing homes.”

He said the course is important because it allows students to be aware of the many career opportunities in public health.

“Everybody knows that you can be a doctor and go to medical school, or you can go to nursing school and become a nurse, but there’s so much more in the health field,” he said. “The course lets folks know that there are many other options than nursing or medical school.”

Slenkovich said the course is primary for those seeking interest in a career in public health, but it is open to all majors.

The course explores the five fields in public health, which include epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, health policy and management and social and behavioral sciences.

Jessica Ransome, sophomore public health major, said her adviser also told her about the new course.

“I chose a public health major because I knew I wanted to do something with health or medicine, but I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to be a doctor,” she said. “I took the course because I thought it would be a good determining factor if I was to stay as a public health major or not.”

She said the course showed her that there is a place for everyone in the public health field.

“I was struggling with which direction I wanted to go with the public health major,” she said. “I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do after I finished college and the course really helped me narrow it down.”

Ransome said when she finishes school she wants to help non-profit organizations that teach and promote different health factors in urban communities.

“I would recommend the course to students because you learn a lot, and it gives you guidance to what you really want to do,” she said. “It’s very helpful if you’re going into public health as a major, or even if you’re deciding.”

Ransome said that public health is really important in society today.

“There’s always something going on within the United States or globally, dealing with health,” she said. “Whether it’s political or it’s right within your own community, you can’t have a healthy economy without healthy people.”

Contact Samara Sands at [email protected].