Senate to vote on ‘major’ changes to Public Health Sciences PhD program

Changes to program would take effect September 2019

Changes will be approved next Tuesday, and come into effect on Sept. 1, 2019.
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Next Tuesday, Senate will vote to approve “major” changes to the Public Health Sciences PhD program, citing its outdated scope.

The proposal to update the program, approved by the dean of health sciences in June, cleared the Senate Committee on Academic Development (SCAD) on Oct. 10 to reach a final vote in Senate early next week.

According to SCAD’s written report to Senate, students in the program “have not been well served” by its focus. The program’s current scope, epidemiology, refers to the study of health and disease conditions in different populations.

The report said biostatisticians in the department are disadvantaged by the current structure.

Additionally, the report explained the faculty complement to the program has “further evolved” to have research strengths in adjacent fields, which “don’t necessarily require” advanced epidemiological training.

Instead, the faculty will broaden the program’s focus to include other areas of health research, like public health services, health equity, global health, and Indigenous health.

According to a written report to SCAD from Professor Patti Groome and Associate Professor Duncan Hunter, the changes represent an effort to “more purposefully include all areas of research expertise represented in our faculty,” creating a more interdisciplinary program.

The faculty’s aim is to “attract top students across a wider range of public health research areas while maintaining a high quality program that produces strong, independent investigators.”

“There is increasing recognition that broader PhD-level training can prepare graduates for positions of responsibility outside the academy,” the report read.

If the vote is successful, the program’s current structure would be overhauled to facilitate the new focus.

The changes could include broadened MSc admissions requirements, addition of a mandatory first-year class in public health research, the addition of field-based directors to the PhD program committee, and the introduction of biostatistics.

If passed, the changes will come into effect Sept. 1, 2019.

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