Attendees at the Health Equity Summit
By Michael Haederle

New Degree

UNM College of Population Health Partners with NMSU to Launch PhD Program in Health Equity Sciences

An admissions committee at The University of New Mexico College of Population Health is considering the first applicants for the new PhD program in Health Equity Sciences, a collaboration with New Mexico State University.

The first cohort of five students at UNM will be offered admission in November, with the program launching in January for the Spring 2023 semester, said Dean Tracie C. Collins, MD, MPH, MHCDS, who expects the program to grow.

We’re going to go low and slow so that we can improve, but ultimately we’ll admit 10 (PhD candidates) each year.
Dean Tracie Collins, MD, MPH, MHCDS

“We’re going to go low and slow so that we can improve, but ultimately we’ll admit 10 each year,” Collins said.

The new PhD program is part of an initiative to transition the College of Population Health, which currently offers a bachelor’s degree and a master of public health degree, to a school of public health accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), she said.

“We need 21 full-time faculty at a minimum and then we have to have at least a date of when we’re going to graduate our first PhD student,” Collins said. She estimated PhD students would spend three to five years researching and writing their dissertations.

“There’s a whole CEPH program we have to go through, because we’ve been an accredited program for 26 years,” she said. “To publicly announce ourselves as a school of public health we’ve got to put in an application to CEPH letting them know of our interest to move from being an accredited program to an accredited school, and that we’d like to start calling ourselves a school of public health. CEPH must approve that request.”

The college will also have to host a site visit and undergo a self-study procedure. Collins estimated the transition might take three to four years to complete.

The new joint program, approved by the State Board of Finance last May, offers PhD students enrolled at UNM concentrations in epidemiology, community-based participatory research, global equity and policy and community health education, Collins said.

The NMSU concentrations include environmental and occupational health, socio-cultural and behavioral sciences, health across the lifespan and health administration and policy. Both campuses offer a biostatistics concentration and students can choose their concentration from either university, regardless of their ‘home’ institution.

In preparing to apply for accreditation as a school of public health, the College is also in the process of hiring 13 new faculty members, Collins said.

That effort is partly supported by two-year $10 million appropriation from the New Mexico Legislature, which is also intended to increase the number of students, increase non-state research funding, create a statewide public education network, expand statewide community health assessments and fund two major public health interventions.

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