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Pacific Opens New Health Programs

Jan 18, 2021
Pacific Opens New Health Programs

By: Angel Zhong and Chelsea Igtanloc

Recently, Pacific has been building upon its reputation for excellence in healthcare education by providing more pathways for students interested in entering health and health-adjacent fields. Two notable examples of this are the newly-established School of Health Sciences headquartered in Sacramento and the incoming Health Studies program at the College of Pacific. Though the two sound interchangeable, there are considerable differences between Health Sciences and Health Studies that students should be aware of.

Soon, Pacific will welcome a new health studies undergraduate program that will focus on non-clinical areas of health care. Preparing students for occupations such as hospital administration, public policy, and many more, the curriculum will consist of core classes and electives in the social sciences and humanities. Students will also be able to choose one out of three career-oriented concentrations: Health Leadership (business oriented, administrative), Health Policy (economics, political science), and Social Services (sociology, psychology, community health). The programs aim to include internships and possibly an accelerated program other than their current three-year Bachelor of Arts degree.

Dr. Sarah Mathis, the Interim Director of the new Health Studies department, shares that careers in non-clinical areas of healthcare are increasing very rapidly right now with a possible shortage in the next five years. “We need a lot of people that are sort of in the middle there that help facilitate good healthy behavior by studying psychology and sociology and political science and looking at how human behavior interacts with health,” says Mathis on the motivation behind starting the program, “Part of it was recognizing this growing need and part of it also was just that right now, a lot of these positions hire people who majored in different social sciences and humanities topics”. Mathis believes that Pacific students will have the advantage in this field since it centers its teaching around both health science and humanities rather than one by itself. Instead of big companies hiring students who major only in one of those fields, they can look to Pacific Health Studies students to kill two birds with one stone.

This past July, Pacific officially opened the doors of its new School of Health Sciences, based in Sacramento. It is the only Pacific school to host programs on all three campuses; among the eight programs it offers right now, two are in Stockton (Speech Language Pathology and Athletic Training), one is in San Francisco (Audiology), and five are in Sacramento (Social Work, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Social Work, and the Physician’s Assistant track). Moreover, in January 2022, the school will include a Master of Science in Nursing to its extensive repertoire. By next fall, the school hopes to institute specialized pre-health pathways that correspond with the above listed graduate programs for undergraduate students at the Stockton main campus.

According to Dr. Nicoleta Bugnariu, Founding Dean of the School of Health Sciences, the School plans on addressing job market trends and increasing demand for healthcare professionals, as well as the healthcare disparities present in the Central Valley: “Right now with COVID, we’ve seen it [the need for] nurses, physician assistants, and all types of therapists. That’s one way for Pacific to fulfill that job market demand and to fulfill their mission of meeting the community needs.” This is substantiated by current labor statistics, as “Health care jobs are expected to grow by 14% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, outpacing all other employment sectors”.

By creating those opportunities for San Joaquin County and Sacramento County residents to give back to their communities, the school aims to induce a “multiplying effect that addresses the market, and the social, economic, and racial disparities [in healthcare],” explains Dean Bugnariu. The School of Health Sciences is placing an emphasis on not only recruiting and transforming the lives of students from local areas, but also allowing and inspiring students to continue their education at Pacific in meaningful ways.

Though the new School of Health Sciences and the Health Studies program both offer students interested in entering the workforce with a focus on health novel opportunities, the two ultimately differ vastly on their concentrations. The School of Health Sciences is primarily a graduate school for those planning to specialize in clinical practice, while Health Studies is preoccupied with equipping students with the skills needed to understand the behavioral aspects of healthcare. Nevertheless, both Health Sciences and Health Studies aim to produce the healthcare professionals of tomorrow.