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Students showing increased interest in public health programs during pandemic

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Posted at 5:58 PM, Nov 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 17:58:36-05

TAMPA, Fla. — As the pandemic nears the end of another month, the health crisis may be inspiring the nation’s future leaders in public health.

“This was not what was on my mind when I was first applying for this program back in early January,” said Nicholas Cropper. “Now, this feels so much more important an issue even than it did back then.”

Cropper found himself in a front seat on learning for a field highlighted during the pandemic. He is a first-year Master of Science student in Public Health at the University of South Florida.

The spotlight on public health may be sparking interest in new students, too. According to the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, among the more than 100 schools and public health programs using the Common App, there was a 20% increase in applications to master’s in public health programs for the current school year.

“We’ve seen a huge increase in applications for the PhD and the doctor of Public Health, huge increase in inquiries, in expressions of interest, people starting the application process, almost five times the normal amount we would see at this time of the year,” said Dr. Donna Petersen, USF’s College of Public Health dean.

Dr. Petersen says they’ve also seen an increase in demand for undergraduate classes. She thinks people might be more aware of the field now than before.

“I think people are seeing public health as a way to give back, as a way to explore a career path that allows you to engage with people, engage with the whole community, engage with society, and make structural and systemic changes that will be helpful to all people.”

University of Tampa assistant professor Dr. Claudia Aguado Loi echoes that public health tends to be a forgotten field, but she sees interest rising, too. Dr. Aguado Loi teaches epidemiology and research method courses.

“I’m seeing more folks, or at least, more students that want to get in the field,” said Aguado Loi. “They want to know what the majors involve. They want to know what career choices they have. In fact, the class that I had last night, they wanted me to take them through the different career choices.”

Students say it’s a worthwhile career path, and one future students might want to give another look.

“I really suggest that if you feel like you want to do good in the world, if you want to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, this is something that you can do,” said Cropper.