DLSPH moving closer towards an undergraduate major in Global Public Health Equity and Innovation

September 29/2015

Dear colleagues,

As we begin a new academic year, I am pleased to provide an update on our School’s planned undergraduate program, a new education initiative led by Professors Abdallah Daar and Andrea Cortinois.  The program will be a main subject of discussion at the first General Faculty Meeting of the year on October 5 from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. in room 106 of the Health Sciences Building.

More than 70 students took the Grand Opportunities in Global Health undergraduate course in January 2015, the undergraduate program’s proposed entry-level required course, which was taught in the inverted classroom format with recorded lectures and in-class discussion sessions involving close to 40 DLSPH faculty.

The course was extraordinarily well received with approximately 77 per cent of students finding it “a great deal” intellectually stimulating – the highest ranking. It also confirmed strong interest in global health because it attracted, in less than a week, a long waiting list.

With these accolades in mind, we have begun negotiations with the Faculty of Arts and Science to launch two majors, a BA and a BSc, in Global Public Health Equity and Innovation, in September 2016. If approved, they will include 10 new courses taught mainly by DLSPH faculty and administered by the Faculty of Arts and Science.

Professors Daar and Cortinois are working closely with Professor Alex Jadad, Interim Director of the Institute for Global Health Equity and Innovation (IGHEI), to incorporate student feedback into the curriculum and align it with the development of IGHEI’s educational and research programs. I’d like to extend my appreciation to all students who provided feedback into the curriculum, including undergraduate students: Liya Bibla Eben-Ezra, Tomasz Weinberger, Trillium Chang and graduate students: Navita Singh, Jenny Gatov and Rossini Yue (Doctoral).

The majors will be built on courses that transcend academic silos and reflect the 2014 Global Health Summit themes – including ethics, human rights, politics, power dynamics and health economics – helping educate students on global and local inequities and become effective agents of change.

It is intended that some of the new courses will have a ‘blended’ or ‘hybrid’ format, making the most of digital technology in addition to classroom work that will emphasize peer learning based on group discussions, case study analysis, and other approaches. An eTextbook will be associated to each course and contribute to building a knowledge repository that will act as the central virtual hub for the community of students and faculty involved in global public health, at the School and beyond.

Now is the ideal time to launch the program.  The undergraduate majors will help students identify entry points into the multitude of disciplines that make up global and public health; add to the increasing internationalization of U of T’s student body; and generate a pipeline of undergraduates who are well-positioned to enrich DLSPH’s graduate degree programs.

Discussions with the Faculty of Arts and Science and the Provost’s Office regarding academic programming, finances, and securing the additional faculty and administrative resources to support the program are underway. We aim to launch the two majors next September for 75 students in the first year, with a goal to expand the offering, over time, to 250 undergraduate students per year.

Our long-term goal is to evolve these majors into a full-degree program, and, in the future, offer a five-year combined BA-BSc/MSc-MPH program – the first of its kind in Canada.

In addition to securing new resources, Professors Cortinois, Daar, Jadad and all DLSPH academic leaders will be drawing upon the collective global and public health expertise within our faculty to ensure this undergraduate program has maximum impact.

I look forward to inviting undergraduates into our School as part of the next phase of our development and urge you to contact Andrea Cortinois (a.cortinois@utoronto.ca) and Abdallah Daar (a.daar@utoronto.ca) with questions, suggestions and feedback.

Best regards,
Howard Hu