New Ph.D. in health sciences creates educators

Derryl Block and Beverly Henry

Derryl Block and Beverly Henry

Each year, thousands of students seeking to major in the health sciences are turned away for lack of faculty – a problem that is fueling a staggering dearth of health care professionals in the United States.

NIU’s College of Health and Human Sciences is ready to do something about it.

The college last week earned approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education to offer a new Ph.D. in health sciences that will address the critical shortage of faculty in health care programs.

Administrators expect an initial enrollment of 10 and project at least 50 more students to join the program in the next five years; an estimated 16 degrees will have been awarded by that time.

“Our Ph.D. in health sciences will offer doctoral educational opportunity for individuals from a wide range of health-related professions,” Dean Derryl Block said. “Teaching and learning in an interdisciplinary environment will help develop health science faculty and researchers of the future.”

Development of the degree “relied on the joint efforts of faculty, administrators and partners, and we listened to the requests of our students and alumni,” added Beverly Henry, associate dean for academic affairs.

NIU College of Health and Human Sciences“We also stayed open to designing a doctoral program that meets 21st century needs for education and health care, such as blending learning in a university lab or workplace with research skills and core course work.”

“The Ph.D. in health sciences is truly inter-professional in its approach,” said Sherilynn Spear, the NIU professor emerita who facilitated the development of the Ph.D. “It will prepare future faculty in the health care professions who recognize that we can no longer afford to educate the wide range of health professionals as though they provide unrelated services to different client populations. Twenty-first century health care requires that individuals work together to provide a seamless web of health services.”

The program builds on NIU’s faculty expertise in programs such as nursing, physical therapy, speech pathology, public health, nutrition and family studies. To accommodate full- and part-time students, courses will be delivered in a hybrid format, using synchronous and asynchronous online components as well as periodic face-to-face meetings.

The 45-credit hour, post-master’s curriculum includes:

  • a candidacy exam;
  • 20 credit hours of core courses;
  • 12 credit hours of an individual program of study in a focused area; and
  • 12 credit hours of dissertation research that flows from the individual program of study and reflects the inter-professional orientation of the program. The dissertation must make an original contribution to the body of research in the health sciences.

Photo of a stethoscopeAlthough there are three comparable programs available in northern Illinois, all are offered by private schools with different formats and which charge more in tuition.

“The emphasis on inter-professional education helps us build on expertise across the college and furthers our abilities to develop higher level skills with collaboration and leadership,” Henry said.

“We appreciate that the IBHE supported our goal to offer a doctoral-level program to advance the preparation of faculty and clinical researchers to meet the complex health needs of our community in northern Illinois and beyond,” she added. “We welcome this opportunity to take the next steps and work with faculty, community partners and future students.”

Although the college offers Au.D. and D.P.T. degrees in audiology and physical therapy respectively, this is the college’s first Ph.D. program.

The NIU College of Health and Human Sciences and its 11 accredited programs promote health and well-being through scholarship that integrates teaching, research and service. Students learn, participate in research and work in the community at more than 400 external practicum sites.

For more information, call (815) 753-1891 or email chhs@niu.edu.

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