Major spotlight: public health

Kate Verity, Staff Writer

When GC students think of the College of Health Sciences, popular majors, such as nursing and exercise science, may spring to mind. One lesser-known major in this department is public health.

Isabel Henson is a senior public health major. She started out her undergraduate career at GC as a nursing major. She added minors in both global health and public health but soon realized that she did not enjoy nursing as much as she had anticipated. Rather than remain on the nursing track, Henson switched her major to public health and dropped her global health minor.

“I would say if you aren’t passionate about something now, you’re not going to be passionate about something later,” Henson said. “If you don’t enjoy or feel like you’re relating to what you’re learning, then I would probably switch.”

Henson’s decision to study in the College of Health Sciences was greatly impacted by the careers of her family. Her family members work in a range of healthcare professions, including occupational therapy, physical therapy and nursing. She also explained that she has always felt like the “mom” of the group among her friends and enjoys taking care of people.

GC’s Public Health B.S. webpage states that, “Public Health is a holistic learning experience specializing in faculty-mentored undergraduate research and cross-disciplinary engagement within the classroom and community.”

Courses in the public health major work to prepare students for their careers after graduation. One way is through a course where students have to go out and get hands-on experiences.

“So, I think with all of the classes, they’re very — they teach similar things, but they’re also very diverse,” Henson said. “And one of my classes actually had me go into the community and do work. That’s when I did my volunteer work at the nursing home last semester. I think they prepare you very well for the world around you and what you’re going to have to do.”

One professor that helped Henson to figure out where to focus her efforts was Dr. Ernie Kaninjing. However, Henson emphasized that she felt that she knew many of her professors well and that they were always a good source of advice.

“Since the public health major is small, you really get to know each of your professors,” Henson said. “I’ve had a lot of them repetitively, so I feel like a lot of the professors in public health have kind of helped me shape and develop what I want to do.”

Additionally, public health students have to complete an internship in order to receive their diplomas. Henson will be completing hers this summer at High Hopes Children’s Therapy in Alpharetta, Georgia. After completing her internship, Henson hopes to work in the realm of community health.

“It really just depends on which organization I go with,” Henson said. “I’m looking at, like, a community health worker or health educator. Maybe when I get my master’s, infectious disease analysis. There’s really a lot of options, and it’s kind of hard to pick one.”

Community health is one of the subfields of public health. GC’s undergraduate public health program does not offer specific concentrations; these are focused on more at the master’s degree level. Other subfields include epidemiology, disaster relief and environmental health, to name a few.

With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, working in the field of healthcare has proved more important than ever. Often, healthcare is associated solely with nurses, doctors and other hospital staff, but the importance of those working behind the scenes to better the health of the community cannot be diminished.