Coronavirus spurs interest in public health careers, UofL says


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) - The University of Louisville says the coronavirus pandemic has sparked interest in public health careers at both the undergraduate and graduate levels over the last school year.

Enrollment in the discipline at UofL is up, with a 34 percent increase in students pursuing an undergraduate degree in public health, the largest percentage surge for any baccalaureate degree program, and a 19.5 percent jump in graduate education at the School of Public Health and Information Sciences.  

The growth is not just happening at UofL. Data on academic public health admissions from the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health annual data, along with a public health education enrollment database known as SOPHAS, shows a 20% uptick in applications over the same time last year.

Craig Blakely, Ph.D., M.P.H., dean of the school, says with public health officials in the daily news, more people are seeing firsthand the importance of the work related to preventing, detecting and responding to viral outbreaks.  

“The vast majority of the population is starting to see the wisdom of investing in public health infrastructure,” he stated. “I think there’s no question of an expansion in opportunity for our students on the horizon.”

Now in the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Blakely says some students are choosing the discipline because they feel a calling to make a difference.   

One of them is Maymie Owens, who will graduate in December with a Bachelor of Science in public health degree.

“I love everything about public health because it covers all areas of life and can help make changes in your own city, state or even globally,” she said. “You will look at your own life and the lives of those around you differently, in a way that I don't think any other major could give or show you.” 

Locally, UofL students have been a part of the effort to combat COVID-19 as contact tracers, where they make phone calls to positive cases and close contacts, providing education and information on up-to-date isolation safety measures and guidelines. 

"Our students are gaining incredible experience for their future public health careers. This work is a resume builder for the students, some of whom earn practicum or capstone experience credit. More importantly, it is crucial to helping our community fight COVID-19,” Blakely said.


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