PUBLIC HEALTH CYBER-STYLE: Internet-Based Courses Let CDC Staff -- and Others -- Pursue Emory Master's of Public Health from Afar

March 1998

Media Contacts: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 -
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 -

Educational and computer systems experts at the Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University have collaborated with their colleagues in Health Education to take on-line distance learning to a new level.

Through the group's Graduate Certificate Program at Emory (GCPE), students may earn -- via Internet-based courses -- up to one half the credit hours required for a master's of Public Health (MPH) from Emory.

During a typical course, students may ask questions of professors or work with student colleagues on group projects in real-time "chat rooms," listen to parts of professors' lectures in "Real Audio," turn in and receive graded homework via "electronic (E) mail," click onto "The Student Lounge" and "Student Kiosk" for updates on program-wide news, and take "timed tests" -- all in a bathrobe at home.

"The GCPE was designed to be a vehicle to provide public health professionals at the federal, state and local levels with graduate-level training in public health without interrupting their employment," says Tina-Lynn Paul, coordinator of Alternative Education Programs for the school. "This program presents the same content and level of thoroughness as conventional MPH courses."

GCPE came in response to a federal grant charging four schools with designing Web-based MPH courses for Public Health Advisors employed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The program provides the means by which Public Health Advisors working in state and local health departments across the country may earn a Graduate Certificate in Public Health from Emory.

The graduate certificate fulfills half the credit hours (21) required for a master's of public health from Emory. Though originally designed for CDC staff, GCPE is open to all interested public health professionals. And while students are encouraged to complete the program in their cohort, course-by-course offerings also are available.

Core courses in Epidemiology, Health Policy, Health Management, Biostatistics, and Behavioral Sciences and Health Education are delivered in the first half of the program. In the later phase, students focus on one of the following specialty tracks: Epidemiology, Health Policy, Health Management or Health Education.

The first GCPE class began in July 1997. Students attended a one-week orientation and instructional session at the Emory campus in Atlanta and are visiting the campus for five more one-week visits during the 16-month program year. Otherwise, all class syllabi, assignments, lectures and tests are available on-line.

During the on-campus sessions, students get acquainted with professors and fellow students. Computer workshops are specially designed for GCPE students to gain skills in statistical, epidemiological and presentation software. A seminar series brings to campus internationally renowned experts in public health to speak specifically with GCPE students.

The program's Capstone course enables students to apply the principles they are learning in class to solving real public health problems. Teams comprised of GCPE students representing different specialty tracks will assess the needs of a specific community, will work together -- mostly on-line -- to devise a strategic plan for the delivery of public health services to meet community needs, and will outline intervention strategies in presentations to be made during closing ceremonies of the 16-month program.

"The GCPE provides an opportunity to expand the student body to include mid-career practicing professionals," Ms. Paul says. "We're laying the infrastructure for an executive MPH program."

GCPE students comment positively on their experiences with the distance learning interface and courses offered.

"The GCPE web site is very easy to navigate," says Russell Cantrell, after having completed four months of distance learning, and three courses. "It is easy to retrieve information. The Internet has been the easiest thing so far."

With regards to course content, David Lundberg says "The Management course was very applicable to what I do at work. I was able to evaluate theory versus reality. I really enjoyed the Epidemiology course because I work closely with epidemiologists, but I have no formal training in it."

Classes for the 1998-99 school year will begin in July. Interested applicants may contact Beth Braun, Student Liaison, Graduate Certificate Program at Emory, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, 1518 Clifton Rd., N.E., Suite 829, Atlanta, 30322; 404/ 727-3317, E-mail:

"The GCPE is a useful and wonderful program," says student John Keltner.


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