MPH Concentration: Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness

Saint Louis University is a pioneer in biosecurity and disaster preparedness training and was one of the first to offer a degree program in the field.

At SLU, you can get a Master of Public Health with a concentration in biosecurity and disaster preparedness, or pair your study of biosecurity and disaster preparedness with coursework focusing on epidemiology, environmental and occupational health, or global health. You can also get a certificate in the discipline.

Each prepares you for a wide range of senior leadership roles in the prevention of and response to both natural and manmade disasters, and can be completed entirely online or in a traditional classroom setting.

Students sort bottle of prescription drugs

Students sort medication bottles during a simulation training of a closed point of dispensing unit that would go into effect in the event of a biological attack. 

Training in biosecurity and disaster preparedness trains you to help prevent biological terrorism and build effective rapid response capabilities for organizations throughout the public and private sectors.

You can work to curb emerging infectious disease outbreaks in crops and livestock that threaten our food supplies.

Or, you can develop, implement and assess strategies for governmental agencies, first responders and industry to effectively respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and earthquakes.

What is Biosecurity?

Biosecurity measures are aimed at mitigating, preventing, preparing for, responding to or recovering from natural or manmade biological events that could harm humans, animals or the environment.

At SLU, you will learn about recent public health threats, including: anthrax, avian influenza, botulism, chikungunya, dengue fever, Ebola, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Middle East respiratory syndrome Coronavirus (MERS Co-V), Nipah, plague, severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus (SARS Co-V), smallpox, tualremia and Zika.

These are complex humanitarian events that require a multi-disciplinary approach, incorporating clinical medicine, public health, veterinary medicine, epidemiology, environmental health, business, law enforcement and emergency management.

Admission Requirements and Deadlines

In addition to the admission criteria for all M.P.H. programs, the following is needed for admission to the M.P.H. in BSDP program:

  • A bachelor's degree that includes at least 12 credit hours of college-level coursework in biological, chemical and/or physical sciences and at least one college-level math course is preferred.

Submit your application by March 31 for priority consideration. You can submit GRE scores up to six months after your initial application.

You can apply using the centralized application services SOPHAS.org and HAMPCAS.org, or you can apply directly to Saint Louis University.

Joint Concentration Options

The joint concentrations require just six additional credit hours and can still be completed in two years. Blending concentrations enables you to combine your interests and provides additional skills that future employers will value.

All BSDP joint concentrations have the option of being completed with one year online and one year of "hybrid" study, combining online and in-person classes at Saint Louis University.

Certificate in B iosecurity and Disaster Preparedness

If you are not ready to commit to the full Master of Public Health in Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness, we also offer a 15-hour certificate in biosecurity and disaster preparedness that introduces students to the foundational concepts of the M.P.H. and can later be applied to the degree. The certificate is a completely online program.

For more information about the BSDP certificate, contact Larry Bommarito, program director, at 314-977-8135 or view the curriculum.

Concentration Competencies

SLU's strong job placement rates are based largely on its competencies-based training, collaborative faculty and team-based learning environment.

If you concentrate your public health studies in biosecurity and disaster preparedness, you will be able to:

  • Analyze qualitative and quantitative data to accurately identify biological and other health hazards and measure risks, using epidemiological, statistical, and risk assessment methods and tools.
  • Use an evidence-based approach to develop and analyze effective human, animal, and environmental hazard control strategies, programs, and policies, taking into account legal and ethical considerations
  •  Explain the scientific characteristics, including transmission routes and control measures, of major biological hazards that result in human and animal health risk
  • Create and disseminate tailored messages regarding biosecurity hazards and risks to responders, the public, the media, and policy makers
  • Apply management principles in program, organizational, and community initiatives
Curriculum Plans
Find sample curriculum plans for full-time students* below:

Joint concentration sample curriculum plans:

Certificate curriculum

*If you are interested in part-time study, please contact Larry Bommarito, program director, at 314-977-8135.

Biosecurity and Disaster Research

Our faculty members are involved locally, nationally and internationally in biosecurity-related research and practice, and part of the Institute for Biosecurity. They are leaders in the field and in touch with current practices and polices.

  • Selection and correct use of personal protective equipment (PPE) for Ebola and other emerging pathogens
  • Laboratory biosafety policies and compliance regulations
  • Impact for long-term use of respiratory protection for health care personnel and first responders
  • Influencing factors and barriers to vaccine uptake
  • Increasing resilience among individuals, agencies and communities
  • Maximizing mass dispensing of medical countermeasures for biological events
  • Health policy
  • Zoonoses

Internships in Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness 

As a Master of Public Health student, you will be required to complete an internship with an approved organization and preceptor. This 320-hour experience is designed to enhance your educational experience and promote professional competence in biosecurity and disaster preparedness.

As an intern, you may be involved in planning, developing, implementing, and/or evaluating tools and programs to prepare for and respond to natural or man-made public health threats.

You will work with a faculty mentor to identify an internship that fits with your specific career interests. Internships are available in the United States and internationally.

Our students have completed internships with:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
  • Monsanto
  • National Association of County and City Health Officials
  • National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism
  • St. Louis City Department of Health
  • United States Army Medical Research Institute for infectious diseases

Careers in Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness 

Driven by globalization, emerging infectious diseases, the threat of terrorism, and more, the field of biosecurity is rapidly expanding. You will be able to work in the military, law enforcement, public health, and state and local governments.

There are also a variety of private-sector or nonprofit employers that require emergency management specialists for situations where emergencies are prone to happen or could be potentially devastating. Examples of these employers include: hospitals and health systems, large companies, colleges and universities and various community relief organizations such as the Red Cross.

Our alumni are working as:

  • Biological safety or biosecurity officer
  • Bioterrorism epidemiologist
  • Business continuity consultant
  • Director of emergency management
  • Disaster coordinator
  • Ebola specialist
  • Emergency response coordinator
  • Infection preventionist
  • Public health emergency preparedness manager

Online and Hybrid Learning

You can choose to study biosecurity and disaster preparedness at Saint Louis University in an entirely online format, or in a "hybrid" format, which combines online and in-person classes. All of our programs are fully accredited and competency-based.

Designed for the self-motivated, mature and action-oriented learner, the online M.P.H. and certificate in BSDP are taught asynchronously, providing students with access to lectures, discussion boards and coursework from any location, at any time, through Blackboard, an industry-leading standard for higher education.

Our instructors are well-established in their professional fields and have extensive experience in online teaching techniques. Our online classes are not correspondence courses; student-faculty interaction is an invaluable component of the BSDP learning environment.

Request Information

Questions about SLU's biosecurity and disaster preparedness concentration, certificates or courses? Contact Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., RN, CIC, FAPIC, professor and director of the Institute for Biosecurity, at 314-977-8260.