University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign: The MPH of the future

A Master of Public Health (MPH) is a professional degree programme that focuses on the health of communities and populations as a whole. It equips graduates with the knowledge, skills, and competencies to address public health issues on a global scale. With this, you can pursue a wide range of careers, including roles in government, nonprofit organisations, academia, and the private sector.

An MPH degree from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign sets you up for these great careers — now and into the future. “The future of public health will be around five main areas: climate change and environmental sustainability; population ageing and brain health; health equity; syndemic of chronic and infectious diseases; physical activity promotion,” says Pedro Hallal, director of the MPH programme. “And these are exactly the main priorities of our programme, making us aligned with the future of public health.”

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Illinois’s MPH programme is filled with faculty and students who are determined to make a difference. Source: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Fully accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) since June 2013 (recredited in 2018, with current accreditation extending until 2025), Illinois’s MPH programme follows the 22 foundational competencies of the accreditation body which are informed by traditional public health core knowledge areas as well as cross-cutting and emerging public health areas.

Outside of its accreditation and competencies, what makes Illinois’s MPH programme special is the sense of community built within the programme, which helps students understand the importance of such camaraderie and how they can then implement that important aspect into their projects. “I could see myself being a part of the community that seemed to offer a lot of good opportunities,” says  Tsatsral Enkhbayar, MPH in Epidemiology student. “There were many opportunities to grow as a public health professional and I liked the availability of faculty to each student and the teamwork and collaboration that comes with a tight cohort. What also stood out to me was the involvement of faculty and staff in the pressing matters of today.”

Enkhbayar sees public health as “a very diverse field,” which is why the Mongolian student appreciates being able to take classes related to data and epidemiology, areas she’s interested in. “You can go into public policy, biostatistics, environmental health, health administration, health services or epidemiology, as I am doing. There are so many opportunities for students to learn and get mentorship from professors here and in that sense, I was able to customise my whole experience of my MPH to my aspirations.”

Learning is hands-on at Illinois. Enkhbayar worked with Erie Family Health Centres where she developed multiple documents and projects to support their Patient Programmes team. “Applied Practice Experience (APE) and Integrative Learning Experience (ILE) are required modules, where students complete projects in a public health setting utilising the skills and knowledge we gained from our programme as a hands-on experience,” says Enkhbayar. “APE and ILE gave me the essential experience needed to develop and improve professionally so it was an extremely valuable experience to have completed. Additionally, there are tons of research opportunities students are able to do with professors in our programme.”

Working with Illinois professors is another highlight as they focused on pressing issues, from climate change to chronic and infectious diseases. “They are all successful professors who are passionate about what they do,” adds Enkhbayar. “A lot of our programme instructors have been involved in current public health issues including the COVID SHIELD programme.” Launched in 2020, the SHIELD: Target, Test, Tell enabled the university to maintain operations throughout the semester with zero COVID-19-related deaths or hospitalisations in the campus community.

Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Students are encouraged to take part in experiential opportunities such as Applied Practice Experience (APE) and Integrative Learning Experience (ILE). Source: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Students can contribute to community-improving projects like this, as well as mosquito abatement, syringe service programmes and more. Student Marco Ciaccio built homemade air purifiers to give away and graduate Aisha Tepede travelled to Kenya as part of a sexual health education programme for adolescents. There are campus research centres devoted to veteran health and ageing and disability as well.

Assistant professor Dr. Rachel Hoopsick’s research applies epidemiologic methods and brings a socioecological perspective to understanding the risk and resilience factors for problems with substance use and mental health. “I have a particular interest in applying these methods and perspectives to understanding these topics among people with high-stress occupations and life circumstances. I have worked with a range of clinical and community populations (e.g. military service members, healthcare workers, people receiving substance use disorder treatment, people involved in the carceral system, people who inject drugs) and large secondary datasets (e.g., National Survey on Drug Use and Health, CDC WONDER),” she says. “My research team includes undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral-level students, all of whom have opportunities to engage in multiple aspects of the research process, including working with community members and the IRB, data collection and analysis, and dissemination of findings.”

It’s yet another example that makes Illinois an excellent environment for growing a robust skillset and network of colleagues spanning the social, behavioural, and clinical health sciences. “As a top public university in the US, students will have exposure and access to a wide range of health-oriented research,” says Hoopsick. Other reearch opportunities here span areas such as physical activity over the lifespan, community health, rehabilitation counselling, leisure and mental health among cancer survivors, and more.

An MPH degree is truly about making the world a better place, and Illinois allows students to be a part of that change from the get-go. The community and faculty-student relationships make the experience that much more enriching. “What I love most about our CEPH-accredited MPH programme is our community connections and faculty-to-student ratio,” says Hoopsick. “Our students benefit from ample opportunities to make meaningful contributions to community-based projects – locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally. Moreover, our large and growing department faculty means that students can learn from a diverse range of faculty mentors whose expertise spans multiple domains of public health.”

To make a real difference check out the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s MPH programme, click here to apply now.

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