Each year, thousands of students seeking to major in the health sciences are turned away for lack of faculty – a problem that is fueling a staggering dearth of health care professionals in the United States.
NIU’s College of Health and Human Sciences is ready to do something about it.
The college last week earned approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education to offer a doctorate in health sciences that will address the critical shortage of faculty in health care programs.
Administrators expect an initial enrollment of 10 and project at least 50 more students to join the program in the next five years. An estimated 16 degrees will have been awarded by that time.
“Our Ph.D. in health sciences will offer doctoral educational opportunity for individuals from a wide range of health-related professions,” Dean Derryl Block said. “Teaching and learning in an interdisciplinary environment will help develop health science faculty and researchers of the future.”
Development of the degree “relied on the joint efforts of faculty, administrators and partners, and we listened to the requests of our students and alumni,” added Beverly Henry, associate dean for academic affairs.
“We also stayed open to designing a doctoral program that meets 21st century needs for education and health care, such as blending learning in a university lab or workplace with research skills and core course work,” Henry said.
“The Ph.D. in health sciences is truly inter-professional in its approach,” said Sherilynn Spear, the NIU professor emerita who facilitated the development of the Ph.D. “It will prepare future faculty in the health care professions who recognize that we can no longer afford to educate the wide range of health professionals as though they provide unrelated services to different client populations. Twenty-first century health care requires that individuals work together to provide a seamless web of health services.”
The program builds on NIU’s faculty expertise in programs such as nursing, physical therapy, speech pathology, public health, nutrition and family studies. To accommodate full- and part-time students, courses will be delivered in a hybrid format, using synchronous and asynchronous online components, as well as periodic face-to-face meetings.
The 45-credit hour post-master’s curriculum includes a candidacy exam; 20 credit hours of core courses; 12 credit hours of an individual program of study in a focused area; and 12 credit hours of dissertation research that flows from the individual program of study and reflects the interprofessional orientation of the program. The dissertation must make an original contribution to the body of research in the health sciences.
Although three comparable programs are available in northern Illinois, all are offered by private schools with different formats and higher tuition.
“The emphasis on interprofessional education helps us build on expertise across the college and furthers our abilities to develop higher-level skills with collaboration and leadership,” Henry said.
“We appreciate that the IBHE supported our goal to offer a doctoral-level program to advance the preparation of faculty and clinical researchers to meet the complex health needs of our community in northern Illinois and beyond,” she added. “We welcome this opportunity to take the next steps and work with faculty, community partners and future students.”
The NIU College of Health and Human Sciences already offers doctorates in audiology and physical therapy. Its 11 accredited programs promote health and well-being through scholarship that integrates teaching, research and service. Students learn, participate in research and work in the community at more than 400 external practicum sites.
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