Incoming Students Look to the Future of Public Health

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By Columbia Mailman School of Public Health

This week, the Columbia Mailman School welcomed 802 master’s and doctoral students with a diversity of experiences and backgrounds. They come from 42 states and 39 countries, the largest portion of international students to date, representing 38 percent of the new cohort.

“This is a moment in history when leadership by public health for the public’s health is critical for our collective future,” said Dean Linda P. Fried in welcoming remarks. “This not just the right field. It is not just the right time. This is the right place.” The School, which is celebrating its Centennial, played a role in a century of gains in health and longevity for millions around the world, she explained. Soon the incoming class will carry the mantle by addressing the biggest challenges of the 21st Century. 

Bob Fullilove, Associate Dean for Community and Minority Affairs, followed with remarks that emphasized community engagement, noting that New York City is not just the biggest city in the U.S.—with a population bigger than those of 38 states—but its diverse demographics represent the future of the country, as a precursor to similar shifts happening nationwide. “You are in the place that is a mirror of the United States,” he said. “We are a majority-minority city. Talk about diversity: you’re right in the middle of it.”

Incoming students agreed that the Big Apple was a big draw. Jasmine Martinez, an MPH student in Epidemiology from Northern Virginia, said, “I chose Mailman to be at the forefront of public health in New York City. It’s an amazing opportunity.” Bilal Asghar, an MHA student in Health Policy and Management from greater Chicago, agreed, adding the city opens the door “to build networks and connections with people.”

Through orientation, students were introduced to the field and the Columbia Mailman community, including the full schedule of upcoming campus events, as well as resources available to help them thrive. Professor Fullilove offered doctoral students a walking tour of Washington Heights. All students received branded tote bags featuring the slogan central to the Public Health Oath they recited on their first day: Health Is a Human Right.

Incoming MPH students will take part in the Columbia Mailman Core, now in its tenth year. After a pilot program last year, the Core’s Leadership course includes a new focus on service learning and student partnerships with community organizations; students will work with leaders in law, medicine, social work, nursing and other fields to learn more about the work they do and how they serve the larger community. Master’s students, in addition to doctoral students, will now have access to Writing Works, a program that provides support for various writing projects, including the culminating master’s thesis known as the Integrative Learning Experience.

Incoming students shared their goals for pursuing a public health education. Theodora Poon, an MHA student in Health Policy and Management from Hong Kong, said, “I’m excited to be living in New York to learn more about the U.S. healthcare system.” Tumi Falode, an MPH student in Sociomedical Sciences from Texas, said, “I want to find a way to make [health care] more inclusive for people from different communities and backgrounds.”

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