Editor’s Note: The Allegheny Alumni Council has partnered with the Global Health Studies (GHS) Department to identify alumni who work in global health fields who are willing to share their knowledge and expertise with current Allegheny GHS students and perhaps be featured in Admissions publications to highlight the remarkable outcomes of an Allegheny education.
The GHS program at Allegheny began in 2012 and is a rapidly growing major. Global health includes research and practices that improve health, seek to achieve equity in health for people worldwide, and protect societies against global health threats.
If you work in a GHS field and are willing to help, please complete this interest form to tell us about your work and the ways you would like to be engaged in the program. Please direct questions to Dr. Caryl Waggett, Global Health Studies department chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allegheny’s mission to encourage personal and social responsibility, and its strategic priorities – to build new interdisciplinary programs, enhance collaboration among curricular and co-curricular programs, and to diversify and internationalize the campus and curriculum – were brought together in the development of the Global Health Studies program.
Erica Bryson ’15 was one of the earliest Allegheny Global Health Studies majors to graduate. Since then, she has worked for the Allegheny County Health Department as a National Health Corps Pittsburgh (AmeriCorps) member and now as the Health in All Policies (HiAP) Coordinator for the Chronic Disease Prevention program. Under the county-wide wellness campaign, Live Well Allegheny, she has developed and implemented a learning collaborative and training curriculum for participants.
“The ultimate goal is to improve chronic disease outcomes by surrounding residents with healthier options,” Bryson says, “whether creating a smoke-free park, promoting active transportation, or providing guidelines for healthy food procurement.”
HiAP is defined as a collaborative approach to improve the health of all people by incorporating health considerations into decision-making across many public policy areas. Bryson’s position as coordinator allows her to look into which practices best serve Allegheny County’s 1.2 million people, and the best ways to disseminate the information to county agencies. Ultimately, the health department’s goal is to improve chronic disease outcomes by creating a healthier county environment.
Global Health Studies at Allegheny is a relatively new program, but it is growing rapidly. Currently, the campus is working to expand the program’s capacity and the benefits it provides to students. One way they are doing so is through alumni outreach. Keri Fadden, director of Alumni Engagement at Allegheny, says, “The Global Health Studies department is relatively new on campus, starting in 2012, but is growing rapidly in size and student interest. We are searching for alumni who work in a variety of aspects of Global Health to become more involved.”
In 2013, faculty and students collaborated to develop the Global Health Studies major with the assistance of a generous $1.5 million undergraduate science education grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The program continues to be redefined and strengthened by the students participating in its courses. Allegheny is one of only a handful of American liberal arts colleges with a GHS program, and is one of just three primary undergraduate institutions to receive grants of $1.5 million.
“This grant demonstrates HHMI’s confidence in Allegheny’s leadership role in higher education, and our faculty’s strength in cultivating creative and innovative researchers and practitioners in the science and medical fields,” says Allegheny’s President James H. Mullen, Jr.
Global health is a modern field of research and practice that prioritizes improving health equity and equality for all people worldwide and protecting societies against global health threats. The field is divided into researchers and practitioners.
Researchers seek to understand the underlying cause of social and environmental determinants of diseases so that they may be further acknowledged and addressed within unique populations and cultures. Practitioners focus on improving population health through multidisciplinary approaches, directly engaging in widespread population-level disease prevention and treatment of diseases, and indirectly by practitioners in fields as diverse as urban planning, food security, transportation, environmental and occupational health, architecture, and park services, each of which create the infrastructure that can lead to community health and wellness and less incidence of disease.
Allegheny’s GHS program stresses its interdivisional core, to promote a multidimensional understanding of global health issues in relation to patterns of socioeconomic development, bringing together courses on the environment, ethics, politics, economics, society, and culture.
Bryson believes the focus on interdisciplinary relations is what makes the GHS program so beneficial. “It is very fitting considering that public health depends on the collaboration among different sectors as well,” she says. “Another advantage is that the program provides an opportunity to look at health at a population level – something that I think could benefit all medical professionals.”
The program seeks to cultivate future scholars, practitioners, and leaders who possess the knowledge, skills, and ethical outlook required to respond effectively to existing and emerging challenges. For this reason, creating a strong connection between our developed alumni network and current students is invaluable to the growth of the GHS program and the students involved. Involved alumni might collaborate with the program by coming to speak on campus and directly mentoring GHS students.
Student mentoring is an esteemed role, through which involved alumni would help to generate momentum to assist students on the path to graduation and beyond, to the starting point of their global health career. Other alumni in targeted fields might be tapped to collaborate on short course offerings to enhance and deepen the student experience, or to network in regions with high student and faculty interest. The GHS program is hoping for approximately 30 to 45 alumni in a wide range of career paths, to help provide a diverse variety of guidance and career advice to students.
“In addition to traditional internship opportunities and job networking, an increased alumni presence would benefit the GHS program given the international experience requirement,” Bryson says. “I believe that as the college continues to grow the program, we will need to accommodate students with an increase in opportunities to intern, volunteer, or shadow abroad. Many of these experiences are possible because of alumni donations.”
Though the GHS program is still relatively new, it has already made a positive impact on Allegheny’s campus. It has shaped the futures of many students by opening new doors and providing vital opportunities of study and interdisciplinary work. The program has already had 19 GHS majors and 28 minors graduate, and currently there are 62 declared majors and 74 minors, though there are many still undeclared who intend to follow the GHS path.
Photo Caption: Erica Bryson ’15, at right, now works as the Health in All Policies (HiAP) coordinator for the Chronic Disease Prevention program in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.