Loma Linda MPH students graduate at Adventist school in Peru
Three members of the first graduating MPH class that LLU offers at Universidad Peruana Unión in Peru are pictured from left: Cleopatra Huapaya, Lili Fernandez, and Flor Contreras, nurses that are faculty in the health sciences school of UPeU.
Loma Linda University has graduated its first master of public health cohort in Peru. The class of 52 students received their diplomas during a weekend of ceremonies earlier this year at Universidad Peruana Unión.
This milestone took place for the master of public health (MPH) students who began their studies in the summer of 2003. The MPH students have a choice to major in either public health practice or maternal and child health.
The cooperative program between Universidad Peruana Unión (UPeU) and the LLU School of Public Health is expected to graduate one class of MPH students per year.
“A graduation like this is a really big occasion in Peru,” says Dianne Butler, MBA, MS, RD, director, office of distance learning, School of Public Health. “Students and families came from other countries to attend. There was much excitement and picture-taking.”
The January 27 to 29 graduation weekend marked the first time Universidad Peruana Unión has had an international graduation in its campus.
“UPeU is proud of doing its part in this great task,” says César Gálvez, DrPH, MHE, MT, director of public health in UPeU’s graduate school.
Most of the Peru MPH students enter the program as professionals working in public health or other health fields. The program’s format of meeting twice yearly in January and July for four weeks of classes each time allows them to study with minimal disruption to their lives.
The graduation ceremonies were exciting for faculty, students, and their families because of the colorful ceremonies, the deep lectures, and the emotion of being part of a Loma Linda University graduation in Peru, according to Dr. Gálvez.
Ms. Butler and Susanne Montgomery, PhD, MPH, associate dean for academic affairs, School of Public Health, attended the graduation, where Dr. Montgomery awarded the diplomas and gave the graduation address.
“Students felt very proud that authorities from the SPH were personally presiding over the ceremonies and available to greet, talk, and be photographed with them,” Dr. Gálvez says. “Hearing their sons and daughters, or husbands and wives, called to the stage in English made their relatives feel excited.”
Receiving an MPH degree has been life-changing for the first graduates.
“The MPH did for me more than I had thought it would. It not only made me a better health professional, but also it made me a leader and an authority in my community,” says Ximena Durand, MD, of Ecuador. “I am now the associate mayor in my community.”
Fellow graduate Nora Aranda, RN, is working in Mozambique with ADRA (Adventist Development and Relief Agency International).
“The MPH means for me something special. It gave me tools and skills to use in my new setting to help ADRA to be more successful where it works. As wife of the ADRA director in Mozambique, I am developing a curriculum on AIDS prevention in the country where we work,” says Ms. Aranda.
In addition to changing the lives of the graduates, the MPH has influenced other fields of education at Universidad Peruana Unión. As a result of the increased awareness at UPeU about public health, the nursing and nutrition courses now include public health modules, according to Dr. Gálvez.
By Heather Reifsnyder