University of Vermont

Associate Dean for Public Health Leads the Way for New Online Graduate Certificate Program

Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H.
UVM Associate Dean for Public Health Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H. (Photo: Raj Chawla/UVM Med Photo)

A new online certificate of graduate study at the University of Vermont promises to train professionals in the art and science of public health, with a focus on real world application.

The idea for the program, initiated by Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for public health at the College of Medicine and coordinator of the Certificate of Graduate Study in Public Health program, grew to fruition following conversations with colleagues at the UVM Graduate College and Continuing Education. The 18-credit, online certificate program is open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree. It is designed for medical and graduate students, health practitioners, researchers, and students interested in advanced study in the field. The Graduate College, in collaboration with the College of Medicine and Continuing Education, administers the program. 

There is a “pressing and urgent need” for professionals trained in public health, says Carney. With health care reform a national priority, and growing awareness about how the environment, behavior, and other social factors affect the health of a population, the program trains students to become leaders and advocates for change.

“One of the strengths of the program, by design and by our faculty, is to help students apply what they are learning,” Carney says. “We want our students to be able to hit the ground running.”

The certificate program provides a foundation in population health sciences including epidemiology, biostatistics, and environmental health. It also includes interdisciplinary and public policy-focused coursework. Students take five required courses and one elective. They also benefit from individualized advising. Faculty from the College of Medicine, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and the Vermont Department of Health, including experts trained at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), teach courses in the program.

One goal, says Carney, is to get students thinking about how systems work, and to make connections between fields.  For example, students may examine how a lack of access to green space influences exercise rates in a population, which in turn may affect how many go on to develop cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Other topics may include how socioeconomic status affects health, or how public policy can influence behavior trends.

“In health care you try to change the behavior of one person at a time,” Carney says. “This is about ways to change the health behaviors of an entire population.”

Carney, who served as Vermont’s health commissioner from 1987 to 2003, helped to develop important statewide public policies related to tobacco control, breast cancer screening, and many other issues. She also instituted Healthy Vermonters, a program that is going into its third decade of setting measurable public health goals for the state.

The online certificate program is a first step towards establishing a master’s degree program in public health at UVM, shares Carney. Applications are now being accepted and students can begin public health graduate certificate coursework as early as the summer of 2013.

Learn more about program eligibility, prerequisites, and application.