Fisher’s Master of Public Health program moves online

COURTESY OF ST. JOHN FISHER COLLEGE

St. John Fisher College’s Master of Public Health program will move to a fully online format this fall, allowing students greater flexibility as they pursue their advanced degrees. 

Dr. Heather McGrane Minton, an epidemiologist and assistant professor in the Wegmans School of Nursing, is stepping into the role of program director. She believes Fisher’s MPH program will create a pipeline of public health experts who understand and can address population-based health care issues. 

Dr. Heather McGrane Minton.

McGrane Minton said the program meets a nationwide need for public health professionals, citing a 2008 study that estimated there would be a 250,000 shortage in public health workers by 2020. That same year, the recession hit, resulting in a 19% reduction in governmental public health workforce positions, which were never recovered. In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, bringing to light the negative effects of the workforce shortfall. 

“The Centers for Disease Control was upfront in saying that there were not enough public health officials in the workforce to do what needed to be done to address the pandemic,” McGrane Minton said. “A larger workforce would have meant more robust ways of handling the pandemic, from more readily available testing early on to more aggressive campaigns on infection prevention.” 

In addition to infectious disease education and chronic disease prevention, McGrane Minton said that students in the MPH program are prepared to address health disparities that exist in their own communities, supporting the American Public Health Association’s declaration that racism is a public health crisis. 

“Part of a public health official’s role in the community is dismantling systemic racism, and addressing inequities such as disproportionate cases of COVID-19 among Black and Latinx communities to Black maternal and infant mortality,” she said. 

McGrane Minton said that moving the program to an online modality allows full-time professionals more flexibility in building their public health knowledge and expertise. 

“Now, individuals who are already in the workforce have the opportunity to advance in their careers or sharpen their focus,” she said, adding that the reduced commute time and ability to learn from home make the program a desirable option for students. The online modality also expands the reach of the program. “The workforce shortage hit rural areas especially hard. Now, we can train individuals who live in those communities, allowing us to build up the workforce there and address the specific needs of that population.” 

Call 585-385-8064 or visit sjfc.edu for information. Interested students can attend a virtual information session at 5 p.m. July 20.