Friday, November 27, 2015

FAMU Institute of Public Health celebrates its 20th anniversary

The Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Institute of Public Health (IPH), housed in FAMU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences (CoPPS), is celebrating 20 years of excellence in public health.

According to IPH Director Cynthia M. Harris, Ph.D. (pictured), the FAMU Public Health Program personifies the mission of the University, to provide service to an underserved community.

The IPH was created by the Florida Legislature in 1995 to address various health problems in low-wealth and underserved communities. As the first accredited public health program in Florida, the FAMU IPH has continued to gain national recognition for its outstanding faculty, student, and alumni achievements including receiving maximum accreditation tenure for every accreditation cycle, maintaining a 100 percent pass rate on the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) Examination, and conferring over 300 Master of Public Health (MPH) degrees since 1999.

Harris said the success of the FAMU Public Health Program can be attributed in large part to the extremely dedicated faculty and staff members who go above and beyond to ensure students are well versed in the competencies they need to know to work as public health professionals. In addition, Harris said student and alumni involvement help the program succeed.

“One of my greatest accomplishments is assembling an A-team faculty who are student- centered and have world-class credentials in the areas of public health,” Harris explained. “However, I think another major accomplishment is that we continue to produce alumni who are great public health practitioners and understand they’re called to serve the underserved.”

She added, “When they graduate, we have something we call Reflection where we assemble the graduates for a kind of roast and toast. One thing I always emphasize is that you are an alumnus of Florida A&M University and you are an ambassador of the program. I tell them people have been waiting for you and now it’s your time to provide the service that is needed.”

Adrienne Hollis, Ph.D., was one of the inaugural faculty members of the FAMU Public Health Program in 1995. Hollis taught in the program until 2004 when she left to pursue her law degree. She is currently working as a project attorney for Earth Justice, a national nonprofit organization, and teaching courses at FAMU as an adjunct professor.

Hollis said it is hard to believe that the IPH is already celebrating its 20th anniversary. She said she has enjoyed seeing the program grow throughout the years, but there is one more major milestone she believes the IPH needs to achieve.

“The good thing is we have students who have gone on in those 20 years to become doctors and scientists and physicians,” Hollis said. “But of course now I would love for FAMU to have a School of Public Health. That’s what we’d all love. I just came back from a meeting in Savannah, Ga. and they knew FAMU and they knew the institute. The next step is the school. It’s needed and it’s necessary.”

Harris agrees that the end goal is for the IPH to stand alone one day as its own school. She said that one way IPH supporters can contribute funding to help make this a possibility is by donating to the FAMU Institute of Public Health Endowment Fund that will begin this year with a special 20th Anniversary kick-off.

“One day we are going to develop a full school of public health,” Harris said. “That takes resources though, and we want to do all we can to help provide assistance in getting those resources. That’s why we started this endowment fund as a way in which alumni can donate. Again, it’s consistent with our student-centered focus.”

Latoya Newby, president of the FAMU Future Public Health Professionals student organization, said she is proud to be a part of the 20th Anniversary Celebration because it represents the program’s ability to produce more competent African-American public health professionals.

“The graduates are helping to reduce the gap of underrepresentation in the profession, and are making major strides to help improve the health of the communities that they belong to. By supporting IPH, we can produce more qualified health professionals to go out and make a difference.

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