Partnership between School of Public Health and Minnesota Department of Health aims to increase Minnesota’s public health workforce

The three-pronged approach includes a seminar series, internship program, and case-study competitions.

Virgil McDill | March 7, 2024

Like many states across the country, Minnesota’s governmental public health workforce was depleted by the COVID-19 pandemic — further eroding a workforce that had already been in decline. To address these challenges, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) formed a partnership to broaden pathways to careers in governmental public health.

In a commentary published in Public Health Reviews, SPH and MDH partners described the collaborative program, which hopes to bolster Minnesota’s governmental public health workforce by encouraging undergraduate and graduate students to enter the field. With a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention focused on emergency preparedness and response (EPR), SPH and MDH partners together developed a program to help students prepare for careers in public health.

Kinsey Mannebach

As outlined in the commentary, the SPH/MDH program has three pillars:

  • A seminar series aimed at undergraduate students with the goal of inspiring them to consider careers in governmental public health. The seminar series — called “Stories from the Field” — features public health emergency preparedness professionals describing their backgrounds and why they enjoy working in the field.
  • A paid internship program to help with hands-on COVID-19 response and recovery work, that provides experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate, graduate, and MPH students. Interns in this program have several projects including COVID-19 storytelling, journal article writing, qualitative data analysis, inventory management, community engagement, and emergency plan revision.
  • Case competitions in which interdisciplinary teams of health sciences students develop response strategies to a hypothetical community health challenge. Participating in this activity allows students to start thinking like public health professionals by asking them to provide recommendations and propose actions to address the emergency.

Responses to the program so far have been positive.

“The short-term outcomes of this program are promising,” says Kinsey Mannenbach, SPH internship project coordinator and lead author.  “Surveys indicate that the students gained knowledge of — and interest in — careers in governmental public health through the seminar series, internships, and case competitions. Going forward, we plan to track the interns to determine how many opt for careers in governmental public health.”

SPH co-authors of the commentary include Project Coordinator Kinsey Mannebach, Morse-Alumni Distinguished University Teaching Professor and Associate Professor Ruby Nguyen,  Associate Dean of Education and Student Engagement Elizabeth Wattenberg, and doctoral student Isabel Ricke. MDH co-authors are public health emergency preparedness manager Deborah Radi, and preparedness and response coordinator Mickey Scullard.

The program is scheduled to last through June, 2024.

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