Public health school combines policy and management departments

Media Credit: Sara Gleysteen | Hatchet Photographer

The departments of health policy and health administration at the Milken Institute School of Public Health will become one department after a 15-year separation to help faculty collaborate on research and better prepare students for jobs.

Public health policy and management just got remarried.

The departments, which were separated 15 years ago, joined again this semester in a move that will help faculty across the similar fields collaborate more on research and will also likely help the graduate students in those programs better prepare for work in health administration, faculty and administrators say.

Lynn Goldman, the dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health, said the merger will optimize research opportunities and classroom education for all public health graduate students.

“Tomorrow’s public health leaders deserve and need the best education and training possible,” Goldman said in an email. “The net effect will be a positive evolution that will maximize the school’s research and education potential and create dynamic synergies for faculty and students.”

Leighton Ku, a professor of health policy, said people who choose to concentrate in health administration usually plan to work in the field, while those who get graduate degrees in policy plan to work in government. He said the overlap between the two gives students a more holistic approach to public health education.

“We got divorced back then, and we’re now getting remarried,” Ku said about the departments’ separation 15 years ago. “Being in D.C., there’s such a focus on policy and we’ve established that focus now.”

He added that recent legislation creates more jobs and opportunities that require students to be experienced in both fields.

“The worlds are colliding with things like the Affordable Care Act, so managers need to understand how policy is changing,” Ku said. “Overall, there’s a great overlap in subject matter, and we were the only equivalent programs in the country that were still separate.”

The combined department of health policy allows students seeking their master’s or doctoral degrees in public health to take classes in both public health and management, while still concentrating their degree in one of the two options.

By combining two graduate programs into one comprehensive department, the public health school is falling in line with other combined programs at public health schools across the country.

The University of California, Berkeley has a similar combined program in its school of public health and offers other combined degrees across schools, said Joan Bloom, a professor in the school. She said the program’s graduates often enter careers that are overall more policy-oriented than administrative.

“Students are less restricted, and there are sufficient electives and opportunities for internships that they focus the program the way they want it,” Bloom said.

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