UAB School of Public Health Adds Courses, Public Health Minor

The two new undergraduate courses are "Our Global Environment: Issues and Challenges" and "Nature vs. Nurture: Genes, Environment and Health," which will be taught for the first time in spring 2012.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Public Health recently added two undergraduate courses and also a public health minor to complement its fifth-year master's program, in a bid to give students a more comprehensive look at global health challenges. The new courses in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences are "Our Global Environment: Issues and Challenges," being offered for the first time this fall, and "Nature vs. Nurture: Genes, Environment and Health," which will be taught for the first time in spring 2012.

"You really can't look at a disease or person without understanding the context in which it occurs," said Melissa Galvin, Ph.D., associate dean. "If you tell someone to quit smoking but everybody in their family smokes, you're not working on the problem from a comprehensive perspective. The problems we have are multifaceted and will take multiple perspectives and disciplines to effect change."

Dale Dickinson, Ph.D., assistant professor of public health, is teaching both courses. The school said demand by undergraduates to learn more about how everyday environmental exposures affect human health and cause disease drove the decision to launch the courses. "As a campus, training in health-related professions is one of our strengths," said Dickinson. "We know there are a great many science undergraduates who come here looking to go to medical school or a health-related profession. Understanding how the environment contributes to human health is essential regardless of the career a student pursues. These new courses are a great way to educate the undergraduate student body about the ways in which the environment interacts with us to affect our health."

The second class will look at environmental exposures, including nanoparticle exposure, smog, drugs and alcohol, pesticides, noise pollution, indoor air pollution, contaminants found in plastics, vaccines, and sexually transmitted infections. According to the school, it also will examine positive environmental exposures, including nutraceuticals and functional foods such as soy, green tea, and garlic.

"We're going to use timely, real-world examples to study the gene-environment interaction and how it might best explain why some people more disease prone than others," Dickinson said. "We're going to look at what is the underlying evidence of the genetic component, what we know about the medical consequences of the environmental exposure, and how these work together to determine health. There are lots of interesting and contentious topics we can explore."

For more information on the courses, the public health minor, and other programs, visit www.soph.uab.edu.

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