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March 16, 2017

With $500K grant, Clark starting health master's program

File photo Clark University's Jonas Clark Hall. The school is starting a new master's program in health science this fall.

Clark University in Worcester is starting a new health science master's program this fall, thanks in part to a $500,000 grant, the school announced Thursday.

The Henry J. and Erna D. Leir Master of Health Science in Community and Global Health program will allow students to concentrate in community health or global health, though the school said all students in the program will be exposed to both aspects.

Marianne Sarkis, the master's of health science program coordinator, said the university saw a rise in interest in public health among undergraduates at the school, and also saw a need in the job market, particularly with an aging population.

The program will start small, with about 10 students anticipated taking part for the fall semester. Sarkis said the university wants to keep a small cohort of students, with the number of students enrolled in the program eventually reaching 20 to 30.

Clark has nearly 1,000 graduate students in all among 15 master's programs. There are about 35 undergraduate students studying public health.

The new health science program will enable students to apply what they learn in the classroom and through research to health challenges across the world, Sarkis said. She called the program ideal for those committed to health care "as a right, not a privilege" and are passionate about reducing health disparities.

The new master's program was first proposed last summer but first needed approval from the university's the board of trustees and several other committees.

Students who enroll in the new program's community health concentration will focus on topics including healthy nutrition and active living, mental health, and how community health monitoring and evaluation, as well as national policies, influence how people and communities receive health care.

In the global health concentration, students will study issues in developing countries, such as access to water and sanitation and the spread of infectious diseases. They'll also learn about innovations in health care and in the increase of non-infectious diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

A $500,000 grant from the Leir Charitable Foundations is covering costs of starting up the program, a speaker series and student scholarships. The program is named after the foundation's eponymous donors as the Henry J. and Erna D. Leir Master of Health Science in Community and Global Health.

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