uOttawa Senate approves new Master of Public Health program

Posted on Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Several people hold aloft a world globe

"We need people to be able to identify and survey the state of public health, prevent public health crises, and take leadership roles in managing these crises when they happen.”

— Dr. Monique Potvin Kent, associate professor, School of Epidemiology and Public Health 

The Faculty of Medicine is set to launch a new Master of Public Health (MPH) program, after the University Senate approved the proposal at its November 25th meeting. 

Pending approval by the Ontario government, the program will begin accepting applicants next spring, with classes starting in September, 2020. Applicants must have an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 75% to be considered for admission. 

“We want to have people from many different backgrounds applying,” said Dr. Monique Potvin Kent, associate professor at the School of Epidemiology and Public Health (SEPH), who chaired the planning committee for the new program. 

“There will be nurses and doctors who apply into this program, but you could also apply if you have a background in English, journalism, or art; law, psychology, or a science degree. We need people with a variety of backgrounds working in public health.” 

The MPH program at uOttawa will have certain offerings that set it apart from other similar degrees.

One such feature is that every student will take at least one course in public policy. Students wishing to specialize further in that area may enrol in the dedicated public health policy stream, offered through a partnership with uOttawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs in the Faculty of Social Sciences. 

The MPH program will offer three other streams: public health practice; global health; and population health risk assessment. 

The program at uOttawa is also unique in giving students the opportunity to study another language as part of the MPH+ option. Thanks to partnerships with the Official Languages and Bilingualism Institute and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, MPH students can learn Japanese, Russian, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Arabic, English or French. 

“If you wanted to improve your French so that you can eventually work for the federal government in public health, you could study French. Or if you were a student who was interested in global health and you wanted to work in Latin America, you could learn Spanish,” Dr. Potvin Kent suggested. 

The MPH program, which will accept an initial cohort of approximately 25 students, will combine classroom learning with a 420-hour practicum in the third semester and an applied public health capstone project in the final semester. The degree will take 16 months to complete, or 20 months for students who choose to add language studies to their course load. 

“I believe Dr. John Last, professor emeritus of SEPH, who was a pioneer in public health, and who died this fall, would have been thrilled to see the MPH program finally come to fruition,” said Dr. Melissa Brouwers, professor and director of SEPH. 

“It is fortuitous that our first class will be coming the same year as the 75th Anniversary of the Faculty of Medicine, when SEPH will be hosting a special John and Wendy Last scientific event, open to the entire University of Ottawa community.”

Dr. Potvin Kent said the decision to offer an MPH degree came in response to demand by students, professors, and the community over the past ten years. 

“When you look at the various public health threats like childhood obesity, the opioid crisis, or at what’s going on with vaping; when you look at the vector-borne illnesses like Lyme disease and infectious diseases in developing countries; there’s always a public health crisis going on somewhere in the world. We need people to be able to identify and survey the state of public health, prevent public health crises, and take leadership roles in managing these crises when they happen.”

Four university students of different ethnic backgrounds sit in a row, with a window behind them.

The MPH program will welcome students from many different backgrounds.

 

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