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TODAY news for Thursday, September 24, 2004

School of Public Health news

Public health initiates on-line MPH program

Students standing on the steps to Nicol Hall
SPH online students and faculty gather in front of Nichol Hall during the �welcome BBQ� last month.
Fourteen students from four countries commenced the inaugural online executive master of public health (MPH) degree program offered by the School of Public Health with a “welcome BBQ” on Sunday, August 8, 2004. Faculty and staff gathered to welcome the new students who had come from across the United States, as well as Iraq, Serbia, and Singapore.

This new three-year “blended” online MPH degree with a major in public health practice includes both on-campus intensive, and online courses. It is designed for practicing professionals who want to augment their current careers with additional information and skills, but who are unable to come on-campus for an extended period of time.

“We are pleased that this first class of online students will open a new chapter in distance learning that can inspire mid-career health professionals globally to develop their skills and enhance service to their communities,” says James Kyle, MD, MDiv, dean of the School of Public Health.

Nearly 30 years ago, Loma Linda University School of Public Health pioneered the first off-campus MPH degree program offered in the United States. To date, more than 20 percent of SPH graduates have attained their degrees via this means.

“Now we are moving with the times and the technology to extend our sphere of influence even further, and we are very excited with the response we have received,” says Christine Neish, PhD, associate dean for academic affairs.

The School has employed the services of Bill Colwell Jr., an instructional designer, to assist the faculty in re-designing their face-to-face courses. This will allow the faculty to take full advantage of the benefits of online learning. “Online learning lends itself to the sharing of professional experience; student to student, student to instructor, and instructor to student. When you have practicing professionals this is a powerful learning tool,” says Mr. Colwell. 

Accepted students come to Loma Linda for two weeks in August for the first two years. This time is used for orientation, course work, and meetings with faculty advisors. One of the first on-campus courses is general biostatistics taught by Floyd Petersen, MPH, assistant professor, SPH. “We learned a lot in such a short period of time,” remarked one student. “Floyd is outstanding! He has taken us from point 0 to point 10. I can’t believe what we have learned!” expressed another student.

“Our students have gone home to study online, motivated to succeed and with a great sense of community and camaraderie,”  says Dianne Butler, MS, MBA, RD, director, office of distance learning. “They are determined to support each other through the coming year and in this electronic age, distance is no barrier,”

Other comments from the students include: “I have enjoyed every moment of it. It has been two weeks of very unique and pleasant experience.”

“You have all been extremely helpful to us. With such support, I don’t see any reason why this online program would not become one of the best in the country or in the world!”

“Overall the online program holds a great deal of promise and should be an exciting and rewarding experience for all.”

A new cohort of students will be accepted into this program each August. For more information prospective students may visit <www.llu.edu/sphonline> or call Dianne Butler at (909) 558- 4835.

TODAY news for Thursday, September 24, 2004