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Oct. 20, 2010
TOPEKA A proposed school of public health at the University of Kansas cleared another hurdle today when an oversight panel at the Kansas Board of Regents endorsed its creation.
KU plans to consolidate several existing departments into the school, hiring a dean and additional faculty. It would be the first school of its kind in the state.
“We need a school of public health in Kansas. It’s really important for our state,” said April Mason, provost at Kansas State University and a member of the Regents’ Council of Chief Academic Officers, which signed off on the plan today.
Another council member, Larry Gould, said there’s nothing controversial about the proposal and he believes it will move ahead quickly.
“Whatever KU can do ultimately helps the system. We see it as a good thing,” said Gould, provost at Fort Hays State. “We’re not big enough to have a school of public health (but) the public health initiative, personal wellness, all of that is very much in line with what we’re trying to do at Fort Hays.”
Public health entails improving community wellness through research, public education, disease and injury prevention, etc.. Among those trained in public health schools are epidemiologists, administrators, data and policy analysts and experts in environmental health and industrial hygiene.
KU’s proposal calls for pulling four existing departments into the new school.
Hiring a dean and additional faculty would cost money, an estimated $2 million-$2.5 million more a year, said Dr. Glen Cox, who has played a lead role crafting and advancing the proposal.
KU officials, who have worked on the proposal for at least two years, said the need for a school was urgent because of federal health reform and because the nation's top health concerns now center on public health issues such as obesity, smoking and violence.
Members of the Regents council agreed and expressed interest in working with KU to serve the state on the public health front.
K-State Provost Mason said her school has already begun discussions with KU Medical Center about collaborating on public health outreach activities.
“K-State has extension offices in all counties so we have a network across the state that can be very helpful in reaching communities with important health-related information,” she said.
KU’s proposal now goes before the Regents’ Council of Presidents, a panel of the top executives from the state’s public universities.
Approval from the presidents could put the plan before the Regents' board as early as December, said Kip Peterson, a Regents spokesman.
The goal is to have the new school accredited and functioning by 2013 or 2014.
“It’s a program that, I think, speaks for itself,” said KU Provost Jeff Vitter. “It clearly serves the citizens of Kansas and is in line with both the medical center’s mission and the university’s service to the state. We’re very eager to move forward.”