SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (KION) UC Santa Cruz announced that it is creating a new global and community health program in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The university said the goal of the program is to prepare students and provide research to help solve global health problems. The program will offer a multidisciplinary Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degree and coordinate community and global health research in the university.
“It's a bit surreal to have a conversation about building a global and community health program in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Matthew Sparke, a professor and member of the team developing the new program. “But the pandemic certainly shows why these issues of global and community health matter. It has made painfully clear why we need to study the natural science of disease emergence, spread, and impact. And it is also showing why social science on vulnerability, resilience, and how we respond to health challenges globally and locally is critical.”
The program involves faculty and administrators from the biological and social sciences, but also participation from engineering, the arts and the humanities.
Grant Hartzog; a professor of molecular, cell and developmental biology and member of the team; said the diversity of viewpoints is a strength that will help make the program a success.
The program will include new courses and expanded elective offerings. The current Human Biology major will also transition to become the new BS track for the global and community health program, Hartzog said.
The university is hiring six new positions for the program-- four in human biology and two in social sciences.
For the human biology positions, the university said the hiring committee searched for specialists in the microbiome, stem cell biology, structural biology and parasitic and infectious diseases.
The two social sciences positions are in the finalist stage, and fields that appear likely are anthropology, sociology, politics, environmental studies and Latino and Latin American studies.
Students will start and end their studies together in an introductory course called Foundations for Global and Community Health and a capstone course.
The introductory course is designed to help students decide whether they want to go through the BA or BS track, according to Hartzog. It will provide five to six case studies of global health challenges. Hartzog said they will include a parasitic disease, a bacterial disease and an example of infectious agents moving from one species to another.
Biological and social sciences are involved in the program so people can get the biological science perspective of a disease, but also learn about the social implications. When describing how they go together, Hartzog used elephantiasis as an example. He said it is not a lethal disease, but can be socially isolating, and treatment can be expensive and administered over a relatively long period of time.
“If you have poor people who have to travel a long way to get to medical providers, and then they need to take a course of drugs for six to twelve weeks, it's just really not practical to do that,” Hartzog said. “Those sorts of social and societal-level problems make solutions that might work in the developed world are not appropriate in many of countries where elephantiasis is common,” he said.
After the introductory course, students will take either the BA and BS track until their senior year. At that point, Hartzog said they will participate in a capstone project with the goal of providing solutions to a major challenge in global and community health.
Students will be able to start working with the new faculty once they are hired, but the degree programs will not start until at least April 2022.