35th Anniversary Spotlight: Health sciences program finds new home at USF COPH

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Have you noticed more students in the lobby and walking around the halls of the USF College of Public Health (COPH) lately? If so, don’t worry―your mind isn’t playing tricks on you. This semester marks the first in which an influx of new faculty, staff and students from the Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (BSHS) program call the COPH home.

The major was first introduced in 2012 and has become wildly popular on campus because of the flexibility it offers.

The major gives students who don’t want to pigeonhole themselves into a medical school oriented curriculum in the biomedical sciences an opportunity to explore the multitude of careers in the health care field. Those careers include everything from occupational therapy to social work to behavioral health.

“There are a lot of other professions in the health field outside of medicine, such as physical therapy, physician assistants, management and health information sciences,” said Dr. Claudia Cooperman, longtime director of the health sciences program and new assistant dean of undergraduate studies in the College of Public Health. “This major was designed for students who want to go into a health profession and are interested in an interdisciplinary program of study with a curriculum that can be applied to a wide variety of fields.”

Claudia Cooperman, PhD, assistant dean of undergraduate studies at the COPH, has headed the transition of BSHS majors into the College of Public Health. (Photo courtesy of the Institute for Health Science Information at USF)

The BSHS, which formerly resided in the College of Arts and Sciences, has moved in order to integrate itself more into the USF Health community and streamline opportunities for majors.

“There are so many students interested in health and health care, but we were missing the link between main campus and the USF Health side of campus, where students could see all the opportunities available to them,” said Cooperman.

As the program continued to grow, it made sense for classes to be held in an environment where students would meet professors and be introduced to field experiences that could open doors and prepare them for their future careers.

“Now, our majors are able to build more direct links to USF Health and our students are able to gain additional mentorship from the graduate programs.”

The COPH’s new t-shirt featuring public health and health sciences together. (Photo by Caitlin Keough)

Students within the major will be exposed to a variety of great field experiences as well. The BSHS offers a multitude of programs to its students, ranging from internships at the VA to volunteer opportunities at health clinics and even opportunities in health sales and insurance.

“We’ve also developed a program with Nova Southeastern University where bilingual students work as translators for physical therapists in a free clinic where many migrant workers in the area are treated,” said Cooperman. “This has been an extremely valuable opportunity for our students because, as middlemen, they are working with a health professional while also gaining experience with patients.”

The relationship will bring new programs and opportunities to the college while also putting a cohort of USF students in contact with faculty and opportunities that better align with their career goals. It’s this type of collaboration and initiative that continues to put the COPH and USF Health at the forefront of health care.

“The College of Public Health has been so supportive and welcoming of us throughout the entire process,” said Cooperman. “We are truly fortunate and excited to be able to relocate and call this nationally ranked college home.”

Story by Cody Brown, USF College of Public Health