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Inaugural class will meet for the first time August 25

Southern Miss to debut EMPH program this fall

Hattiesburg — The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM’s) graduate catalog just grew a little thicker. In March, the university announced that it would begin offering the executive master of public health services administration degree, better known as executive MPH (EMPH), this fall. The inaugural class will meet for the first time August 25.

The EMPH is a new emphasis area in USM’s Department of Community Health, which is housed in the College of Health. (USM was already offering a master of public health, but not in an executive format.) The program is designed for those with at least three years’ experience in health services administration, a health profession or those who have obtained a doctoral-level degree in a health field. Prospective students include hospital administrators, pharmacists, dentists, nurses, therapists and nursing facility administrators and consultants.

According to program director Gordon Whyte, MSHCA, Ph.D., it is the only program of its kind in Mississippi that meets all accreditation standards of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and Council on Education for Public Health.

“The EMPH is a rigorous and demanding graduate education program,” Whyte said. “It is a wonderful vehicle for those who have reached a point in their career where they need the skills and the knowledge to manage staff members, organizations and health systems.”

Tough yet convenient

The curriculum, which Whyte describes as rigorous, includes courses required for public health education accreditation — biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health and social and behavioral aspects of health. A sampling of other courses includes health economics, healthcare organizational behavior/human resources, healthcare accounting, healthcare financial management and health law and justice.

In addition, each student is required to take a “capstone” course in his or her final semester in a case-study approach. At the end of this course, the student will submit in writing and give an oral presentation of an approved case to a panel of faculty members. This written case and oral presentation serves as USM’s required comprehensive examination.

A mix of existing USM faculty and public health professionals recruited from across the Gulf South region and even as far away as South Carolina will lead the classes. Whyte said the classes would be less instruction and more of an open give-and-take on public health services administration issues.

The EMPH program will stretch over five semesters — four regular semesters and one summer semester — for a total of 22 months. Three classes are required per semester. Classes will meet approximately one weekend (Friday and Saturday) per month with the remainder of the coursework offered distantly via the Internet. In order to graduate, a student must complete all courses with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, and no more than one “C” is allowed.

The non-traditional scheduling is not the only convenience the program offers its working students. The cost of the program includes tuition and all fees, including group tutoring for select courses, graduation fees, even parking. The cost also includes all class materials and textbooks. (Textbooks for the upcoming semester will be distributed at the end of the preceding semester.) And, the cost also includes breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks served each day the class meets.

The total cost of entering the EMPH program in the fall of 2006 is $19,500. Fees are payable in five equal payments of $3,900, payable at the beginning of each semester.

Louisiana connection

Whyte’s journey to USM and EMPH director is an interesting one. A native of Thibodeaux, La., Whyte has worked and managed in the adoption/foster care field, at a community health center and an acute care hospital and served as a public health consultant.

His career includes more than 25 years of teaching experience, including a decade at Tulane University. There, Whyte met Peter Fos, Ph.D., D.D.S., M.PH., who was Whyte’s colleague in the university’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and is now the dean of USM’s College of Health. When USM decided to go forward with an EMPH program, Fos called Whyte and asked him to take the reins.

“I’m honored and excited by the opportunity,” Whyte said. “I’m having a great time.” He added, “There is an untapped need in Mississippi in particular, and across the entire Gulf South region, for public health care managers and public healthcare professionals who want to be managers. We want to tap into these professionals.”

The EMPH only recently secured approval from USM, so marketing efforts are just now starting. (Classes will be limited to 25 students.) Whyte said marketing efforts would include such traditional avenues as direct mail and radio, as well as personal meetings with public health organizations and word-of-mouth.

The EMPH program was originally to be offered on USM’s Gulf Park campus in Long Beach. However, that campus was severely damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Thus, USM has shifted the venue to its main campus in Hattiesburg. Whyte said the university plans to relocate the EMPH program from Hattiesburg to Long Beach once the Gulf Park campus is rebuilt. For obvious reasons, Whyte could not say when that relocation might take place.

Applications for the fall semester are due by July 15, 2006. However, submissions will be accepted throughout the year. For more information about the program, including admission and graduation requirements, all required courses and more, contact Whyte at (601) 266. 5435, or visit http://www.usm.edu/chs/ exmph_hpa.html/.

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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