School of Medicine

Wayne State University School of Medicine

New master of public health in biostatistics program to start in fall

Victoria Neale, Ph.D., M.P.H., is vice chair of public health sciences in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences.

Victoria Neale, Ph.D., M.P.H., is vice chair of public health sciences in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences.

The Wayne State University School of Medicine is accepting applications for its new master of public health in biostatistics concentration, with classes beginning in fall 2014.

The program appeals to students interested in using math to have real world impact in health-related areas. Mathematics, engineering, computer science, physics and biology undergraduates and other students should consider this new program, said Victoria Neale, Ph.D., M.P.H.,  professor and vice chair of public health sciences in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences.

“With the high volume of cutting edge research currently underway at WSU and other major academic medical centers, there is a growing need for biostatistical support. This is a high-growth profession, and biostatisticians are in high demand,” she said. “The Affordable Care Act provides a changing health care landscape and increasing emphasis on population level health, and disease prevention. With the growing use of electronic health records, there is a wealth of health data newly available, and again, a scarcity of biostatisticians to conduct analyses that inform health care policy.”

Biostatisticians work as part of interdisciplinary teams to design studies and make sense of the resulting data. Associate Professor Robert Podolsky, Ph.D., is among the faculty helping to develop the program, including organizing coursework. He also will direct student research projects and teach Generalized Linear Models, a class aimed at teaching students a general approach for conducting analyses that involve categorical outcomes such as disease severity and whether a person has a specific condition.

“From my perspective, the new program will help WSU develop its public health credentials. One of the important features of the program that we think distinguish our program from other MPH biostats programs is the practicum that students will have to do,” he said.

The practicum will provide hands-on training in which students can begin to use their developing statistical skills working for health departments, non-profit organizations, insurance companies and businesses.

“I especially hope that we will have students involved in working in Detroit or the local area, helping to improve the health of those living in the city and surrounding areas. Further, I hope that this new program will contribute to developing interdisciplinary research teams at Wayne State that are focused on translating research findings into real world solutions,” Dr. Podolsky added.

Students will receive fundamental training in the public health sciences, core biostatistical theory and core biostatistical methodology to eventually apply statistical methods to biological and public health research.

“Students graduating from our program will not only have a strong academic biostatistical training, they will also have real experience applying these skills in an actual research setting,” said James Janisse, an assistant professor and the departmental lead for the new concentration. “Having these students in the School of Medicine will not only enhance their employment skills, it will also strengthen the ongoing research at WSU and provide a pipeline within WSU for researchers needing to hire this type of person. Finally, adding this concentration will also enhance our current MPH degree. Students from this concentration will take some of the same core MPH classes with the current MPH students. This will allow these two sets of students to interact, share ideas and challenge each other.”

The program is accredited by the Council on Education for Health, an important quality indicator, Dr. Neale said. There is only one other similar accredited program in Michigan.

“Although we considered this new graduate program concentration for several years, it took approximately two years of active work to achieve the approval of this new concentration in our MPH program. This included developing a curriculum plan, identifying core competencies and course objectives and recruiting faculty to develop course syllabi,” Dr. Neale said.

Students will graduate with a broad knowledge and understanding of statistical methods used in public health studies and investigations, skills and knowledge in core public health principles, including coursework in epidemiology, environmental health and the social basis of healthcare.

For application requirements and more information, visit, email or call 313‐577‐1051.

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