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SUNY Potsdam gains approval to offer master’s degree in community health


POTSDAM - The State University of New York at Potsdam is proud to announce that its first Master of Science degree, a master’s in community health program, has been approved.

SUNY Potsdam is now accepting applications for the college’s newest graduate program, which will launch in fall 2014.

The SUNY Potsdam community health master’s program is the first in the Northern New York region to focus specifically on rural health. The program was designed to offer students a unique opportunity to explore health concerns specific to those living in rural and impoverished or medically-underserved areas.

“We are excited to be offering our new M.S. in community health program next fall. This program further demonstrates Potsdam’s strength in offering master’s programs that are unique and outcome-oriented, with an emphasis on serving communities, small and large,” said Director of Graduate Studies Joshua LaFave. “Potsdam’s position in offering education on rural health issues is distinct. This unique strength is a proud tradition at Potsdam, and one that we look forward to continuing for years to come.”

The M.S. program prepares public health professionals to address public health issues in diverse populations. The curriculum will foster development of core public health competencies, training students to plan, implement and evaluate rural health initiatives. Through coursework, research and community engagement, students will acquire practical skills necessary to respond to public health needs in rural settings.

“The SUNY Potsdam graduate program in community health is geared toward our local community, but the research we will do and the skills we will teach will have nationwide impact. We have developed a full-time and part-time curriculum and plenty of opportunity for hands-on experience through internships and field projects,” said program coordinator Dr. Kelly Bonnar, an associate professor in the Department of Community Health.

This program will help students interested in promoting health at the community level navigate current issues in rural health, such as the impact of healthcare reform on rural health disparities. Students in the program will learn about the collection and interpretation of health data, the natural history of disease, environmental and social factors that influence community health, development and evaluation of public health programs and policies, management of health organizations, and how to solve local health problems.

“The new M.S. degree in community health is quintessential Potsdam. This program is a natural extension of our strong community health department, and adds tremendous value to the profession, with its unique focus on rural health. The curriculum will serve our community and similar communities across the Northeast,” said LaFave.

With the approval of the community health program, SUNY Potsdam is now able to develop and offer other Master of Science degrees, which the college is actively pursuing, as it diversifies its graduate studies offerings.

One of the overall goals of the community health field is to be proactive, creating a sense of overall wellbeing within communities, by providing programs that focus on illness and injury prevention. The SUNY Potsdam Department of Community Health offers both a Master of Science and a Bachelor of Science degree in community health, as well as minors in community health, fitness, nutrition, sexual health, therapeutic recreation and wilderness education. To learn more, visit

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