Global health discovers undergrads at UI

map and stethoscope

By Addison Martin, The Daily Iowan

University of Iowa students now will be able to expand their knowledge of health around the world, thanks to a new major in Global Health Studies.

The new interdisciplinary major will enhance the previously offered minors and certificates.

UI Professor Christopher Squier, the director of the program, has been in a key person creating the major for those wanting to work in global health.

“Not only is this unusual by being undergraduate, it is unusual by being interdisciplinary,” Squier said.

Most global-health studies are centered on graduate courses, he said, making the UI’s program unique in allowing undergraduate students to begin their exploration of health care on a worldwide scale relatively early in their education.

“One of the things that is now apparent is we say global health is local health,”  Squier said.” If you look at the people who are using many of the services in Johnson County, the Farm-to-Table food program, the Free Medical program, they are actually international, immigrants and refugees often from developing countries, so it’s almost like working internationally.”

The major is available for students this fall, but it has been a long process for those who have been working on expanding the discipline, which has involved professors and university faculty from numerous departments.

“I’ve got a steering committee of about 15 to 17 people …” Squier said. “We have faculty from public health, my appointment is in dentistry of all places. We also very much value people in anthropology and geography.”

History Associate Professor Mariola Espinosa, an expert in Caribbean public health who will teach a global-health-studies class next spring, also is excited about the importance of global health as an undergraduate major.

“In an ever-more-globalized world, I think that this type of concentration of major is important,” she said. “I’m an advocate for it. If the student is interested in health or public health or human well-being, this type of interdisciplinary program is great.”

This major is recommended for a myriad of students, especially those interested in the public health and health problems all around the world, said Karmen Berger, an associate director of International Programs and Global Health Studies.

“The University of Iowa is known for many things, and the health sciences is one of those things; this just increases the range of our offerings,” she said. “A lot of students come to the UI for these health sciences,  maybe they’ll go onto professional health degrees, but maybe they’ll come and decide, ‘I’m more interested in policy, I’m more interested in advocacy,’ and this new major allows them to engage in a career path related that.”

Berger said that so far this semester, the major has around 15 new additions, and officials expect more.

All parties involved hope that this major will grow in the coming years. Even though the major is called global health, its pertinence has strong effects locally.

“What we do here in Iowa City has global repercussions; we also have a sense of what’s going on elsewhere, and we’re definitely connected,”  Espinosa said.

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