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Graduate Certificate in Community and Public Health Launched at UW

September 28, 2022

An online, asynchronous graduate certificate in community and public health -- that will help better serve regional public health practitioners and University of Wyoming students -- was launched this fall.

The certificate covers foundational public health concepts; the use of epidemiological data; the design of evidence-based projects and community collaborations; and building public, political and financial support for public health work.

“Since 2020, we have heard the words ‘public health’ more than usual,” says Derek Smith, director of the Division of Kinesiology and Health in UW’s College of Health Sciences, where the certificate program is housed. “The University of Wyoming has long recognized the importance of public health training and education, which can help communities not only prepare and respond to new pandemics, but also begin to address the ongoing public health crises we face.”

So far, the Wyoming community seems to agree, according to Lacey Gaechter, UW’s Community and Public Health Certificate Program coordinator. The certificate program, which was approved by the UW Board of Trustees in May, has garnered more students than anticipated in its first year -- and has attracted existing UW students and employees as well as public health professionals in the state.

“That is just with the soft launch we organized this summer; basically, advertising through our own professional networks,” Gaechter says.

Plans are to grow marketing efforts in the future, especially to reach interested individuals in Wyoming, Smith adds.

“One of our priorities has been making this certificate accessible to as many folks as possible, which is why all of the classes are online and asynchronous,” he says.

For more than a decade, the U.S. -- and especially rural states, such as Wyoming -- have faced a critical shortage of public health professionals, says Jacob Warren, dean of UW’s College of Health Sciences who also is an epidemiologist.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the depth of this need, adds Christine Porter, a UW professor and Wyoming Excellence Chair in Community and Public Health.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer this certificate as one formal step toward training a much-needed public health workforce,” Porter says. “Because the courses are interactive and draw on student expertise and current evidence, both experienced practitioners and degree-seeking students will have so much they can learn from the courses and from one another.”

To earn the certificate, students complete 12 graduate credits at UW. The four core courses are “Unlocking the Potential of Public Health”; “Using Epidemiology to Build Healthier Communities”; “Creating Conditions for Community Health”; and “Increasing Support for Public Health Projects.”

Students can work through each week of the courses at their own pace from anywhere they can access the internet, Gaechter says. Students focus on a public health issue of their choice in each course. If they choose to work on the same issue throughout, they then complete the certificate with an evidence-based, actionable and funding-ready project, Gaechter adds. 

“As a society, we may never know exactly what the next pandemic may bring, but public health training gives us the scientific knowledge, systems perspective and critical thinking tools necessary to respond in the best way possible to both new and existing health issues,” Warren says.

For more information about the graduate certificate in community and public health, click here.

Students can enroll in the certificate program before any fall or spring semester, with the next session in January.

For more information, call Gaechter at (307) 225-9775 or email lgaechte@uwyo.edu.

About the College of Health Sciences

UW’s College of Health Sciences trains health and wellness professionals and researchers in a wide variety of disciplines, including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, communication disorders, social work, kinesiology, community and public health, and disability studies.

The college also oversees residency and fellowship programs in Casper and Cheyenne, as well as operating primary care and speech/hearing clinics in Laramie, Casper and Cheyenne. With more than 1,600 undergraduate, graduate and professional students, the college is dedicated to training the health and wellness workforce of Wyoming and conducting high-quality research and community engagement, with a particular focus on rural and frontier populations.

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