OHSU and PSU Collaborate to Create New Public Health School

Classes will be held at both universities and the school isn’t expected to have official accreditation for up to two more years.

For over 20 years, the Oregon Master of Public Health program, Oregon’s first accredited MPH-granting entity, has trained Oregonians and students across the country to work in and contribute to the ever-changing field of public health. In fact, it’s the longest running collaborative, accredited MPH program. Building on such a strong and successful foundation, Oregon Health & Science University and Portland State University, two of the original partners, are working together to establish a School of Public Health.

“We’ve had a 20-year history of a program of a particular size,” said Dr. Elena Andresen, interim dean. “The School of Public Health is a more complex enterprise. We are moving to the next level and increasing our accredited footprint.”

By “moving to the next level,” the new school allows OHSU and PSU to leverage their strengths, and help meet Oregon’s public health workforce needs while also addressing key issues of health policy, social determinants, and health disparities.

To gain a better understanding of such disparities and policy issues in Oregon, both universities published The State of Our Health 2013: Key Health Indicators for Oregonians in 2013, a compilation of statistics available through state and national agencies that offers a state and county-by-county overview of health status.  

“Like any school of public health, we have a national focus,” Andresen explained. “But when we think of our constituents, we look to the state. That’s a pretty strong driver for this School of Public Health.”

To better inform constituents, the universities intend to update that report each year, Andresen said.

Currently, the Oregon Masters of Public Health program graduates 100 students per year, and Andresen expects the new school to expand that number while also graduating students from three new doctoral programs: PhD in Epidemiology, PhD in Health Systems and Policy and a PhD in Community Health.  Dual degrees will continue to be offered that are not currently available at any Oregon university or partnership including Medical Doctor/Master of Public Health, Master of Public Health/Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health/Master of Urban and Regional Planning.

“It’s easier to grow when you have a more cohesive model,” Andresen noted.

And, according to Andresen, such growth has its benefits.

“The larger the enterprise, the more varied the faculty, the better the opportunities for the students.”

While each university has invested $400,000 into the initiative, the largest portion of the funding comes from existing resources at both universities. Andresen hopes the strength of the collaborative will bring in additional funds.

This collaborative has been in the works since 2010 with a steering committee comprised of faculty and administrative representatives from both campuses meeting regularly to develop the infrastructure for the School of Public Health and to address the requirements for Council on Education in Public Health school-level accreditation.  With much of the process complete, university officials plan to apply for accreditation in 2015.  The accreditation process could take up to two years.

Andresen believes they have a strong position toward accreditation.

“This is an exceptional collaboration,” she said. “This is our opportunity to shine.”















Joanne can be reached at [email protected].

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