UB wins grant to grow and diversify public health workforce
In addition to the nurse and doctor shortages impacting health care in the United States, there is another major shortage threatening global health – a huge drop in the number of public health workers attending and guide entire regions and communities in preventing disease and health crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
In response, the federal government is ramping up aid through the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration to help more — and more diverse — students enter public health professions, including at the University at Buffalo.
The idea is that more academic research can help transform UB into a powerful force that can help Buffalo Niagara’s economy grow.
UB recently received a $1.3 million grant to train students in its School of Public Health and Health Professions who otherwise could not afford graduate school.
UB is using the money to directly help students from underrepresented backgrounds fund their education in public health. In the spring, UB welcomed its first cohort of 20 students into the HRSA program, said Gregory Homish, professor and director of UB’s Department of Community Health and Health Behavior, which oversees the award.
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From the first cohort, 17 students are enrolled in UB’s Master of Public Health program and three are enrolled in other graduate certificate programs. Just over half are the first members of their family to attend college, Homish said.
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“This is a great opportunity for the School of Public Health and Health Professions to help train public health personnel,” Homish said. “We are at the forefront of graduating students who have the deep skills that public health employers need to improve health outcomes…Through the HRSA program, we will now train more candidates highly skilled workforce.
Studies have found that nearly half of all state and local public health workers left their jobs between 2017 and 2021, with another 130,000 expected to leave by 2025, according to healthaffairs.org.
Some cited public backlash against efforts to implement health measures such as vaccines and masks. Many have expressed exhaustion with the demands of the pandemic, which has revealed the seriousness of the shortage of all medical professionals.
Healthcare systems and educators are responding by offering more support services to aspiring healthcare professionals before they even enter the workforce and are looking for more ways to recruit and retain those interested in public health.
Kim Krytus, assistant dean and director of UB’s graduate public health programs, said students in the program include working professionals and current students, as well as new students.
“They come from diverse backgrounds and will go a long way in diversifying our local public health workforce, bringing deep skills in pandemic preparedness and public health crisis planning, as well as addressing health disparities. health,” she said.
One of the UB students in the program is Naike Belizaire, who grew up in Haiti and majored in biological sciences with a minor in African studies at Binghamton University before coming to UB for her Masters in Public Health.
“I would not have been able to graduate on time if I had not received this scholarship, because as a full-time independent student who works part-time, I would not be able to pay for my education and living expenses at the same time,” Belizaire said.
Belizaire plans to become a public health program manager focusing on refugee health, black maternal and child health, and predicting pandemics and epidemics in underserved communities, she said. She currently works as a research assistant in the Department of Family Medicine at UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
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