Former U.S. Surgeon General C Everett Koop once said, “Health care is vital to all of us some of the time, but public health is vital to all of us all of the time.” Last spring, I was saddened to hear that the public health program here at Northern would be closing, as the program has meant so much to me, and impacted me in such an enormous way. Though I am majoring in pharmacy, this program has ignited a passion within me. As a future pharmacist I hope to work in a non-traditional role focusing on public health. While I am only in my third of six years, the passion I have found already has me thinking about fellowships and graduate schools to further my education in public health and the possibilities for my potential job.
I have noticed that public health has had a large influence on the current pandemic and Northern’s ability to remain open. Public health has taken the spotlight. It has shaped policies and guidelines throughout the pandemic, including those regarding masks and vaccines. Most of my coursework in pharmacy does not consider these topics. It is only because of the public health program that I have had the privilege to learn more, as well as how to identify misinformation. Much of the information circulating online throughout this pandemic is incorrect. I have come to realize that this misinformation, not only impacts those outside of health-related fields, but those within. Without proper training, even those such as physicians and nurses, may not have the ability to recognize misinformation. This was shown by their initial reluctance to getting vaccinated when COVID-19 vaccines were released. Therefore, I feel that the value of a public health program cannot be denied. It can help address these educational gaps.
With Bluffton University’s discontinuation of its public health program, Northern holds the only general public health program in Northwest Ohio. I believe that it is a disservice to the campus and the surrounding community to close the program here. Nobody will ever again get the chance to experience the passion this program can ignite within someone. I understand that there are currently no faculty to staff the program. So, I implore the university to do all in its power to hire faculty for the program. I know that there are likely budgetary concerns with keeping the program. However, since the start of the pandemic, public health has become much more well-known and understood. The program is already quite popular with current students, and with the newfound awareness established by the pandemic, an increase in prospective student enrollment is likely. This justifies the program’s continuation and addresses the budgetary concerns.