Master of Public Health Program equips graduates with leadership skills to better serve the population

Vital Signs » Fall 2014
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The Boonshoft School of Medicine offers a Master of Public Health (M.P.H.) degree program tailored for working public health and other health services professionals in southwestern Ohio who serve more than 2.8 million residents.

The program is designed for in-career professionals as well as traditional undergraduate students, said James Ebert, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., F.A.A.P., program director.

“Our program is a community-based public health practice program that prepares people to understand and address problems of public health in the community,” he said. “Our program offers four specialty areas—emergency preparedness, global health, health promotion and education, and public health management.”

The program matriculated its first class in 2004. The medical school also offers an M.D./M.P.H. dual-degree for medical students. Of the more than 200 graduates of the M.P.H. program, several have become health commissioners and work in public health departments.

James Gross, M.P.H., the health commissioner for Public Health—Dayton & Montgomery County (PHDMC), was one of the first M.P.H. students to graduate from the program in 2005. As the chief executive officer of PHDMC, he oversees about 75 public health programs, 275 employees, and an annual budget of almost $32 million. While he has worked in public health for more than 30 years, he began his career as a teacher and a coach after completing his undergraduate degree at Wright State University in 1977. Gross, who also serves on the voluntary faculty of the M.P.H. program, was appointed health commissioner seven years ago and plans to retire in early 2015.

Melissa Howell, M.S., M.B.A., M.P.H., R.N., R.S., health commissioner of the Greene County Combined Health District, is a 2007 graduate of the M.P.H. program. She credits the program with enhancing her communication and leadership skills in public health. With a background in nursing, Howell pursued a career in public health after anthrax letters were discovered in 2001. She has worked as an epidemiologist for PHDMC and has been a health commissioner in Preble and Greene counties.

“My concentration in the M.P.H. program was in preparedness, which allowed me to explore the public health system beyond the local health district,” she said. “My ability to build lasting partnerships and develop strategies to address issues in public health in the context of global health was improved by attending Wright State’s program.”

Howell, along with a Wright State University nursing professor, developed the Academic Nursing Coalition for Disaster Preparedness. The regional group that meets for epidemiology, infectious disease, and information technology was developed along the same regional approach model.

“Ideally, we hope to strengthen public health’s ability to translate the return on investment made into public health initiatives, develop dashboards for measuring the impact of initiatives that address complex health issues, and further develop the Public Health Unified National Data System for financial stability of the overall public health system,” she said.

Last edited on 09/22/2015.