UNM Health Sciences Center Masters in Public Health Program Expands into Shiprock Area



The Masters in Public Health (MPH) Program within the UNM School of Medicine has expanded its offerings to create an educational program in Shiprock so that fulltime public health professionals in the area can study for a Masters in Public Health.

"The program's creation came at the request of the community professionals working at the Indian Health Service at Northern Navajo Medical Center and with the Navajo Nation," said Nina Wallerstein, doctor of Public Health, professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and director of the MPH program.

"The purpose of the program is to provide graduate education that serves the four corners region," said Wallerstein.  "It's an exciting proposition for us to be able to tailor our program to the needs of working professionals in the region and to incorporate the local and cultural needs of the region into our teaching."

To ensure that the classes are culturally relevant, a number of local adjunct faculty have been recruited to present information on local community concerns and needs. "Our overall goal for the partnership is to develop local capacity for public health, including assessment, planning, program management, and evaluation", said Dr. Chris Percy, Director of Community Health Services at the Northern Navajo Medical Center."  The MPH is a degree that really provides skills and tools for public health practice. Providing access to this outstanding level of training for local people working on the front lines of health care and public health will be a big help to us in working towards our mission of building and strengthening healthy families and communities."

Janet Hayes, who works in the IHS Community Health Services Program at the medical center and who is enrolled in the MPH program, said the program has helped her to obtain a solid philosophical base for her work.  "Working with the health programs for so long, I knew that the need was there within the community," she said of the MPH program.  "It has given me a framework for understanding how to expand our programs and work with people for change." 

There are 16 students enrolled in a three-year educational cohort, said Wallerstein; some 75 percent of them are Navajo, and IHS and Navajo Nation employees.  "The group meets at Dine College where they are taught by UNM faculty and hear presentations from area health care professionals," said Wallerstein.  She added that the UNM MPH program is seeking other educational partnerships throughout New Mexico, "We want our educational programs to reflect the diversity and the public health care needs of the citizens of the state."

Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322

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