GALVESTON 

The University of Texas Board of Regents on May 6 approved creation of a School of Public and Population Health at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

A shortage of public health care workers and an increasing number of students in existing public health programs at the medical branch are two reasons why the new school is coming to Galveston.

The medical branch plans to obtain full accreditation by the end of the 2024 fall term, a document outlining the proposal stated.

The new school will emphasize the comprehensive nature of public health, officials said. It will include research and education in public health, population health, global health, emerging and infectious diseases and health services.

The school will help solve major health problems, including emerging pandemics, and will help fill a state-wide gap in highly trained public health professionals, the document stated.

The need for the school to create more professionals in part comes from changing population demographics and the emerging importance of community engagement.

A variety of employers are seeking public health workers because of a shortage of qualified professionals, the document stated. The shortage is projected to continue.

Also, new credentialing requirements for public health workers; new national accreditation requirements for public health departments; and emerging pandemics such as COVID-19 all fueled the push to start the new school.

The master of public health program alone has grown from 20 students in the 2016-2017 school year to 60 students in 2020-2021, a 200 percent increase.

In 2019, the master of public health program expanded with the addition of a four-year combined doctorate and master of public health degree. That allows medical students to earn medical degrees and the master’s of public health more quickly, officials said.

As of 2021, more than 160 students graduated from the master of public health program at the medical branch, the document stated.

Research will be a big part of the new school that will include biostatistics; epidemiology; global health and emerging diseases; data science and population health; bioethics; aerospace medicine; and environmental health.

The new school initially will seek to offer degrees in four areas: master of public health, medical humanities, population health and data sciences and doctor of public health.

The board’s Health Affairs committee approved the proposal for the new school May 5.

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