Tuskegee University’s master’s in public health program is now nationally accredited, a move school officials say will help them continue to train the next generation of Alabama public health workers and educators.
Accreditation helps the Department of Graduate Public Health students and faculty compete for federal and grant funding. The accrediting body, the Council on Education for Public Health, evaluates health programs at colleges and universities in the United States.
Each institution must meet the council’s criteria to determine if the standards of their program are adequately equipped to better the efforts of public health work.
“This opens up the opportunity for those at Tuskegee to compete for federal dollars to enhance the work we’re already doing in our communities,” said Crystal James, the interim vice president of external affairs and general counsel for the university.
Tuskegee is home to the only veterinary medical college in a historically black college or university in the country; the college now houses both the veterinary program and the public health department. The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health is the only other CEPH-accredited program in Alabama.
James believes Tuskegee’s rich history highlights the very best for the students able to participate in this type of public health education. The program grounds its students in the importance of public health ethics and informed consent since it is also the site where an infamous syphilis study was performed on Black Americans just 50 years ago.
“The other specific significance of our public health programs is—first of all, we’re embedded in the only veterinary medical college in a HBCU in the country. This is responsible for over 70% of Black veterinarians that are currently working in the United States. We have access to the historical documents that actually record the health and achievements of Blacks since the late 1800s,” James said.
“Having access to that historical information as we look at what’s currently happening in our rural spaces, we’re able to actually correlate that historical significance to what’s happening now and partner with our extension program to build better health messages for individuals who are still working and living in these spaces.”
School leaders hope accreditation will help the school recruit more students and increase enrollment. The newly accredited program will also give students new job opportunities that were previously unavailable.
As of now, eight students are enrolled in the public health program for the fall 2022 semester, and classes are still being filled to ensure every student is properly funded.
“There are key programs within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as in the Department of Health and Human Services that require you to have a degree from an accredited program in order to be eligible for work,” James said.
James emphasized that this development is just one of the many steps taken by the university to reflect its overall mission statement.
“The students are critical links to enabling our community to grow healthily and make positive contributions not only to rural areas but to America as a whole,” she said.