UC Davis is teaming up with the California Department of Public Health in an effort to better encourage public health practice and education within the state.
The university signed a no-cost, four-year agreement with state public health officials earlier this month in what they hope will be a mutually beneficial relationship.
“The future of public health is doing more with less, so partnerships become all the more important,” said Dr. Bonnie Sorensen, department deputy director at a recent forum at UC Davis.
“[This agreement] will allow a sharing of resources between the [state] department and UCD,” said Dr. Stephen McCurdy, director of the UC Davis Masters of Public Health program. “UCD has a wealth of expertise in areas that are highly relevant to public health challenges and the state brings its own considerable expertise as well. The state also has access to a lot of the population that the university is trying to reach.”
The agreement will provide more opportunities for UC Davis students in the Masters of Public Health program, McCurdy said.
“We hope to invite individuals at the state department to participate as volunteer faculty here on campus,” he said. “The agreement would also allow our masters students to participate in projects at the state as part of their practicum.“
Though the university already has a history of working with the state, the agreement makes the relationship more official, said Dr. Thomas Nesbitt, executive associate dean for clinical and administrative affairs at the UC Davis School of Medicine.
“The purpose is really to put together a document that puts everything into one place.… We wanted to create a formal relationship that is in writing,” he said.
This is especially important as UC Davis moves forward in establishing its own school of public health, Nesbitt said. The university currently has a masters of public health program, which is jointly sponsored by the medical and veterinary schools. However, a separate school would allow for great expansion of the program, McCurdy said.
“We have accredited programs already but we don’t have a full set of resources,” McCurdy said. “When the program becomes a separate school, we can hire more faculty, do more research, teach more courses and take in more students.“
The university first proposed to establish a school of public health in 2005 and is currently working toward receiving approval from the University of California Board of Regents.
“The proposal has already been approved by the UCD campus Academic Senate,” McCurdy said. “However, when the proposal was sent to the office of the president (UCOP), some clarifications were requested and it was sent back to the university.“
At the request of Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef, the university created a task force headed by Dr. Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor of human health sciences at the UC Davis medical school, to respond to the UCOP and work toward gaining regent approval, McCurdy said.
“[The university] has a vision to really look at a very innovative approach to public health,” he said. “We are interested in what public health looks like for this century – what are the challenges that we are facing currently? The goal is to design new ways to train a workforce to serve the state of California.“
One of the biggest concerns regarding the public health school is determining how it will be funded, Nesbitt said.
“The task force has been given several jobs, and one of those is clarifying funding sources and figuring out how all of this would be paid for – something that is a challenge in the current budget situation,” he said.
Though it is not yet determined where the new school would be built or when construction would begin, the task force is getting very close to defining a timeline for its completion, Nesbitt said.
“The task force is very active and meets on a regular basis,” he said. “Right now the main focus is on determining funding and creating a fiscal model for the new school.“
ERICA LEE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.