September 25, 2012

SLU Creates College for Public Health and Social Justice

Combined Schools of Public Health and Social Work Will Be Unique in U.S.

ST. LOUIS — Saint Louis University has established the College for Public Health and Social Justice, a new academic unit that combines SLU’s accredited Schools of Public Health and Social Work.

“For years, Saint Louis University has been a national leader in public health and social work education,” said University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J.“

Joining these two schools — with an increased focus on social justice — ensures that SLU is uniquely positioned to live our Catholic, Jesuit mission to serve humanity.”

Manoj Patankar, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs, said the timing was right for the reorganization, which was approved by the University’s Board of Trustees on Sept. 22.

“Right now, both schools have substantial and growing undergraduate and graduate enrollments, active research programs, strong community outreach initiatives, and a global approach to improving health,” Patankar said. “Bringing these two units together at this time will be a truly transformational move.”

The decision to create a new college comes with the full support of faculty, administrators and staff. A joint committee of faculty and administrators from both schools studied the merger. That committee consulted many students, alumni and community partners in their consideration.

Edwin Trevathan, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the School of Public Health, will serve as the dean of the new college.

“Social justice is the moral foundation for the fields of public health and of social work,” Trevathan said. “Consistent with our Jesuit educational mission, our two schools have a strong tradition of focusing on the most disadvantaged and most vulnerable. Together, we can do more.”

The accredited College for Public Health and Social Justice will house SLU’s School of Social Work with its accredited programs. Donald Linhorst, Ph.D., M.S.W., will continue to serve as director of the school.

“The need to improve health and tackle complex social issues has never been greater,” Linhorst said. “This reorganization further positions Saint Louis University to be a leader in addressing the pressing concerns that face our global society today.”

Trevathan and Linhorst add that the reorganization reflects an understanding that social, environmental and physical factors together play a significant role in determining human health and well-being, particularly among those who are most at risk.

“We are not satisfied with simply pursuing new knowledge,” Trevathan said. “We are driven to push our faculty and students to translate the knowledge they create into sustained service that truly benefits humanity.”

The new college will advance the cause of social justice through a number of strategies that include:

  • Preparing graduates who understand the inequities and disparities in society, and are prepared to work to correct these disparities.
  • Conducting collaborative research that incorporates the expertise of all involved disciplines to focus on the critical issues that create inequities and disparities.
  • Supporting and engaging in community service activities that improve health.
  • Improving health on a global scale.

A committee of 12 faculty and administrators from Public Health and Social Work has examined the possibility of creating a new academic unit beginning since February 2012. The planning process has been transparent and inclusive, including input from faculty, staff, alumni, students, key community partners, and the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate.

As part of the transition, the Criminal Justice program, formerly part of the College of Arts and Sciences, will be integrated within the School of Social Work.

The College for Public Health and Social Justice will incorporate five existing undergraduate majors and several minors among its offerings. The School of Public Health is among the first in the nation to offer undergraduate majors in three key fields — public health, health management and emergency management. These majors, along with the majors in social work and criminal justice, will be enhanced.

The college also will expand its master’s degrees with multiple concentrations in social work, public health and health management — including the No. 9 ranked master of health administration (M.H.A.). Additionally, there are proposals to add graduate-level concentrations in global health, as well as maternal and child health. Plans to enhance Ph.D. programs are also being developed.

The College for Public Health and Social Justice will become fully operational on July 1, 2013. Planning for the transition will continue through the end of 2012, and soon the two schools will work together as a virtual college.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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