Committed to educating globally minded citizens with a focus on global health, faculty in the College of Nursing & Health Sciences (CNHS) have created a timely and innovative minor for undergraduate students across the university to learn about the complexities of global health and current efforts and programs designed to address them.
In a further expansion of program offerings in CNHS this semester, an online bachelor’s degree program in Medical Laboratory Science (MLS) was introduced through Online & Continuing Education for students who already hold an associate degree. The college continues to offer the successful on-campus bachelor’s degree in MLS.
Global Health minor
“At a time of increasing globalization and widespread disease burden, the need for university students to be educated through a global lens is critical,” said College of Nursing & Health Sciences Dean Kimberly Christopher. “As we are experiencing in the current coronavirus outbreak, it is important that students from all disciplines understand how global health is connected to countless social and economic issues.”
The Global Health minor is designed to provide undergraduate students with interdisciplinary exposure to theoretical, scientific, and practical issues affecting health on the global stage. Students are encouraged to think critically and reflectively about the multiple factors or determinants that influence individual and population health, as well as specific policies and practice strategies for addressing a range of contemporary global health problems.
The first course of the minor, Principles of Global Health, is being offered this semester while the remaining courses will be available in subsequent semesters. Students are also required to take Introduction to Epidemiology, Emerging Trends in Global Health, and Health Care Systems, along with two electives.
The minor is supported by and fulfills the mission of the Julia and Harold Plotnick Endowment for global nursing. Dr. Nancy Street is the Julia and Harold Plotnick Professor of Global Health, an endowed chair established by Fall River native and (Ret.) Rear Admiral Julia Plotnick, former U.S. assistant surgeon general and chief nurse of the U.S. Public Health Service.
Minor prepares students for careers in health and policy
The minor supports students who are planning health and health-related careers in research, teaching, or health services in any variety of settings including universities, government agencies, international organizations, or private industry.
Valuable training is provided through the minor for those who plan to pursue advanced specialist health training in medicine, nursing, pharmacy, allied health, or public health. Completion of the Global Health minor will strengthen students’ capacity to participate across national and cultural borders, and thus greatly enhance their competitiveness when applying for post-baccalaureate training or careers that focus on global issues, according to Street.
Global and local partnerships provide experiential learning opportunities
The Global Health minor is supported by partnerships in global nursing that provide experiential learning opportunities on the international, national, and local level. Nursing students can participate in clinical practicums during their junior year. Bridging the Atlantic Program is an international alliance in community health among American and Azorean nursing students and faculty. Over the last four years, 110 students have actively participated in eight bilateral week-long exchanges while engaging community agencies in both countries to promote health education to vulnerable groups.
Nursing students participate in well child clinics in Haiti and community nursing in Glendora, MS, a low-income rural community with limited access to health care. CNHS undergraduate and graduate students and faculty are working with partner organizations to improve access and coordination of health care in the Mississippi Delta region.
Locally, there are opportunities to work with neighboring partners in New Bedford and Fall River. Over the past year, the College of Nursing & Health Sciences partnered with the New Bedford Health Department to develop a 2019 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP). This ongoing plan will provide realistic steps for achievable outcomes and goals for the betterment of the community.
Street serves as program director and lead faculty member for the new global health minor. A specialist in social epidemiology and global health, Street earned her bachelor of science degree from Boston College and her master of science degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She earned both master of science and doctorate degrees from the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University. She is a board-certified pediatric nurse practitioner and led a seven-year initiative to educate nursing faculty in public and private nursing schools throughout Haiti.
“This minor aims to promote global citizenry among UMass Dartmouth undergraduates,” said Street. “The goal is to educate the next generation of scholars and leaders whose efforts will improve health and health equity for all people worldwide.”
Medical Laboratory Science
The new online program is designed for students already holding MLT-level certification, an associate degree, and 18 months of work experience. In contrast, the traditional on-campus program is designed for students who do not have any prior experience in medical laboratory science.
“There is a growing shortage across the country of medical laboratory scientists who hold a bachelor’s degree,” said Professor Frank Scarano, medical laboratory science department chair. “Many working medical laboratory technicians with an associate degree are interested in obtaining their MLS degree and certification.
“Our online program will fill in the gaps for medical laboratory technicians who have hands-on experience but require more theory and application of this theory to be successful on the MLS certification exam,” Scarano said.
The online program will take two years to complete, including summer sessions.
In 2019, the Department of Medical Laboratory Science transferred from the College of Arts & Sciences to the newly named College of Nursing & Health Sciences. The transfer aligns the university’s only two professional health science degree majors in the same college and positions UMass Dartmouth to educate students who can contribute to the need for a team-based healthcare workforce.
With over 100 students and ten faculty members, the UMass Dartmouth MLS program is one of the largest in the United States and is one of only three programs in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that offers a bachelor of science degree.