BRISTOL – Roger Williams University’s growing public health program is getting a boost from a new partnership with the R.I. Department of Health that will put state health professionals in classrooms and students alongside health care officials working on public health challenges.
As part of the partnership, student “public health scholars” will visit the department and assist RIDOH officials in their work to improve the health of Rhode Islanders facing health risks such as the opioid epidemic, said RIDOH spokesman Joseph Wendelken.
Students will help officials on projects including prevention, research and lab work aimed at improving the health of Rhode Islanders.
The collaboration began in 2010 when the university sought RIDOH’s help building its public health program to offer a public health minor, said Marybeth MacPhee, RWU professor of anthropology, sociology and public health. Since then, interest in and demand for the program has grown, leading RWU to add a public health major in 2015 and create a Public Health Department at the university beginning July 1.
The program will also bring RIDOH officials to the university as guest lecturers and adjunct professors, giving students the benefit of learning from health officials in the field and in the classroom.
“I am hopeful that the partnership will expand beyond the public health program to include all divisions of the university, including the law school. The hope is that more students can take advantage of the relationship and that the Department of Health will benefit from the insights of faculty and students in an effort to improve the health of all Rhode Islanders,” McPhee said.
“This new collaboration will allow us to develop, implement and evaluate cutting-edge public health interventions that will help improve health outcomes in every zip code in Rhode Island,” said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director, RIDOH. “At a time when Roger Williams University is expanding its public health program, this partnership will bring together committed faculty, active researchers and ambitious, talented students with leading public health professionals at RIDOH and other state agencies to embark on careers building healthier communities throughout the entire state.”
Laurie Leonard, director of the RIDOH Academic Center, said, “The Rhode Island Department of Health is excited to formalize our partnership with Roger Williams University as we utilize research to inform public health policy and practice and provide interdisciplinary experiential learning opportunities for students through the RIDOH Public Health Scholar Program to achieve improved health for all Rhode Islanders.”
Rob Borkowski is a PBN staff writer. Email him at [email protected].
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