The young person who wishes to become a police officer, physician or veterinarian might one day find a home in forensic science, epidemiology or the study of zoonotic diseases.
“We had one biology student who came in wanting to be a veterinarian. Then, she took public health and got very excited about how disease affects animals,” said Stephanie Bennett, a Saint Rose sociology professor who is all for opening students’ eyes to areas of study they never knew existed. “Now, rather than be a vet and help animals one at a time, she will go into public health and help keep all animals healthy.”
Going into its fifth year, the public health minor at Saint Rose has helped a growing list of students across the disciplines imagine a different path. About 15 students have completed the program, which they combine with a major in biology, criminal justice, psychology, social work, history or business administration. Enrollment rises every year, along with the range of issues that are covered.
The minor, which typically takes two years, explores factors affecting community health. Students take an introductory course, statistics and epidemiology, then choose electives that look at social justice, epidemics, aging, politics, medicine and behaviors that shape society. Professors from across campus take part.
“There was one course I took, social perspectives of medicine, that really expanded my horizons,” said Bianca Diaz who graduated in May with a biology degree and public health minor. “I learned the factors in terms of gender, race, ethnicity and culture that affect patients. They are sometimes stigmatized in doctor’s offices and they are very scared.”
Diaz said the study of public health made her want to help patients more fully. She hopes to pursue a master’s in nursing and work in a hospital or public clinic.
Professor Bennett, outgoing coordinator of the public health program, can list many students who have been influenced to look differently at the areas they are excited about.
A biology student who initially hoped to become a doctor chose instead to pursue a masters’ degree in public health in order to respond more broadly to diseases. Another, majoring in counseling, discovered a passion for statistics and decided to pursue a research career focusing on gerontology. A criminal justice major learned that he was interested in disaster preparedness.
“Many of our students have gone on to graduate school in public health,” she said. “What we are proudest of are the ways our students will be able to help the community.”