Global health major being considered

Students interested in global health may soon be able to pursue a major in the field.

A Duke Global Health Institute committee, which draws 16 senior faculty and administrators from various schools and departments, is currently considering the future of the University’s undergraduate global health education. Among the changes being proposed is the creation of a global health major, said Orin Starn, chair of the undergraduate global health education faculty committee and chair of the cultural anthropology department. A proposal for the major would next go before the Committee on Curriculum of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.

“Interest in global health has grown nationwide in the last few years, though no other university yet has a global health major,” Starn wrote in an email Tuesday. “Developing [one such program] could put Duke at the cutting edge of undergraduate education in global health.”

Randy Kramer, DGHI associate director for strategy and a professor of economics at the Nicholas School of the Environment, said the growing student interest in global health and the success of the certificate program to date are the primary impetus of the proposal. Strengthening educational training in global health may help the next generation of leaders better tackle domestic and international health disparity challenges. The possibility of establishing a new major in a budding field is exciting, he said, though the process is complicated and involves discussion with numerous stakeholders.

Although the specific requirements have not yet been determined, the global health major—keeping up with the spirit of the field itself—will be interdisciplinary, Starn added. Students will be required to have a concentration in a particular department, such as cultural anthropology or biology and to complete substantial fieldwork in an existing field. The concept is early in the planning phase, so no specific timeline has been established for its implementation.

The committee is also considering whether a major in global health can measure up to majors in more traditional and established disciplines, Starn noted.

“We don’t want to establish a major in a flash-in-the-pan field, and one worry is that global health may not have the lasting kind of weight traditional fields [have],” he said.

Many of those worries though, will hopefully be addressed in the major guidelines, which emphasize technical training and collaboration with established departments, Starn added.

Lisa Croucher, DGHI assistant director of education and training, said the committee will reconvene this month to discuss curriculum changes. She said faculty members hope to make recommendations to administrators later in the Spring.

Sophomore Visakha Suresh is double-majoring in biomedical engineering and biology, but said she would consider a global health major if it existed.

“[Post-graduate] institutions might see it as a somewhat glorified policy-oriented major with a concentration in global health, but I do think it is something you could bounce back on as an undergraduate degree,” Suresh said. “I know a lot of people who are very global health-oriented and would be interested in pursuing a major in the field.”

Kramer said he is confident changes in undergraduate education will only strengthen the University’s leadership role in global health.

“Duke has [already] established a reputation as a leader in the field of global health,” he said. “My hope is that [the University] will continue to be a leader in global health, not just through our research but also through our innovative education programs.”


Share and discuss “Global health major being considered” on social media.