Pandemic helps spark interest in public health careers, says TAMIU

While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected so many people, it has also heightened awareness of the importance of public health…and the diverse career opportunities it makes possible.

Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) assistant professor of public health, Dr. Cindy Lynn Salazar-Collier, said the shared experience of the pandemic has helped spark interest in the Bachelor of Science in Public Health ( BSPS) from the university.

“We launched our program in the fall of 2020 and have doubled our enrollment since then. Public health aims to prevent disease rather than to cure it. Prevention is much more effective and affordable than cure. The pandemic has confirmed this, acting as a catalyst to raise awareness of the importance of public health,” observed Dr. Salazar-Collier.

Interest in public health programs has not only surged at TAMIU, but is part of a trend that is mirrored across the country. Many believe that the increased visibility given to public health and the emphasis on prevention contribute to fueling this interest. Salazar-Collier reinforced this.

“The field of public health differs from the field of medicine – or individual-centered health care; public health focuses on the prevention of disease and the promotion of health and well-being at the population level. The five major areas of public health are biostatistics, epidemiology, health promotion, behavioral sciences and environmental health and public policy… so there are broad career options,” she said. declared.

Dr. Marivic Torregosa, TAMIU Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences, home of the BSPH program, agreed.

“Our program offers students the opportunity to develop an interdisciplinary perspective to address the social determinants of health. Nursing, psychological, sociological and behavioral approaches to health disparities, health care delivery systems, contextual and environmental factors – all facilitate the development of innovative strategies that can have a positive impact on health promotion , especially in vulnerable border communities with reduced access to health resources,” said Dr. Torregosa.

Salazar-Collier affirmed the distinctions of the programs that she believes help provide TAMIU students with real benefits.

“All required coursework is online, with the exception of completing internship hours with eight varied health organizations across Laredo. The Public Health program has entered into a new partnership with the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at the Houston School of Biomedical Informatics (UTHealth SBMI) to implement the Development of Informatics Accelerated Learning in Laredo (DIALL) program ). DIALL offers TAMIU students the opportunity to complete a 4+1 Graduate Certificate and Accelerated Masters Program with UTHealth SBMI. Upon completion, students earn a bachelor’s degree from TAMIU and a graduate certificate from UTHealth SBMI,” she explained.

Salazar-Collier said biomedical informatics is a dynamic field with rich job opportunities.

“It’s a growing field that optimizes the use of information in healthcare with job opportunities in pharmacies, hospitals, insurance companies, and more.” Of added interest, graduates of the 4+ program have the opportunity to continue their coursework with UTHealth SBMI and earn their MSc in Biomedical Informatics in just one year,” she said.

SBMI is one of six schools in the UTHealth Science Center at Houston System and the only academic biomedical informatics program in Texas. It is also the only independent school among 70 related programs in the country, and one of the largest in the world.

Torregosa said the interdisciplinary approach of the BSPH program produces graduates who can tap into an equally diverse range of career opportunities.

“This is a degree program that really offers a wide range of careers for graduates. These include community health educators, health specialists, health navigators, epidemiologists, policy makers, public health administrators, health promotion experts, sanitation technicians, research assistants, researchers and scientists, to name a few,” explained Torregosa.

Additionally, graduates can also pursue graduate programs, noted Salazar-Collier.

“Students graduating from a BCSP can pursue graduate programs in public health (MPH, MS, PhD, or DrPH); medical school (MD or DO), law school (JD), dental school (DDS or DMD), professional degrees in allied health (pharmacy, physiotherapy, etc.) and others,” she noted.

Salazar-Collier observed that for many the pandemic has offered a real call to action, something the study of public health can drive. She said TAMIU students are uniquely qualified to do this.

“TAMIU students are in a unique position to play a pivotal role in this area, as most of our students represent a minority population with health disparities. Our students offer a unique perspective on health influences for an underserved population on the Texas-Mexico border. They can also interpret and understand the story conveyed by public health data from these populations, which other public health researchers may not fully understand. Finally, they have insight into how to reach these populations in a way that will resonate with community members. This ability gives our students the potential to be true agents of change in the future health of the Laredo community,” she said.

Salazar-Collier said the University’s upcoming celebration of National Public Health Week, April 4-10, 2022, provides an opportunity for students to understand the impact and importance that public health brings on a daily basis. . This celebration will include virtual events for students, including healthy eating awareness, mental health awareness, practicing clean eating, and a public health movie night, among other activities.

“We have learned a lot and will most certainly continue to learn from the globally shared pandemic experience. Most important is the realization that public health must drive public policy focused on the health and well-being of all communities around the world,” she concluded.

For more information on TAMIU’s degree in public health, visit, email Dr. Salazar-Collier at [email protected] or call 956.326.3279.