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Today@Sam Article


New College, Programs Address 'Changing' Landscapes

Feb. 5, 2014
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt
Story By: Flori Meeks

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Michael Lacourse posing at desk
Dean Michael Lacourse is helping the College of Health Sciences settle in as the newest college on campus. The CHS comprises the School of Nursing, the Office of Medical and Allied Health Programs, and the Department of Health and Kinesiology, which will divide next year into the Department of Kinesiology and the Department of Health Services and Promotion.  —Photo by Brian Blalock


With the already high demand for health care professionals in this country on the verge of skyrocketing in upcoming years, Sam Houston State University is acting now to prepare students to fill the gaps.

The university launched its College of Health Sciences in the fall in 2013 in response to the rapidly growing need in Texas (and the nation) for more qualified health professionals and the increasing student interest for degree programs in the health sciences.

The college comprises programs from several existing schools and departments, and it will be adding more programs in the upcoming year.

A snapshot of health indicators in Texas illustrates the pressing need for this college, according to COHS Dean Michael Lacourse.

According to a study recently released by the American College of Emergency Physicians, Texas emergency medical services earned an overall D+ grade, falling in the past five years from No. 29 to No. 38 nationwide. Texans also have less access to emergency care, receiving a grade of F from the ACEP and ranking No. 47 in the nation, and ranks No. 49 (receiving an F) in the nation for public health and injury prevention.

The state’s citizens aren’t doing so well either.

Texas ranks No. 42 in the U.S. in obesity, No. 42 in physical inactivity, No. 36 in preventable hospitalizations, No. 34 in the number of adults with diabetes, No. 30 in cardiovascular deaths, and No. 40 in overall health.

At the same time, 24 percent of Texans do not have health insurance, ranking the state at No. 50 in the nation for insured residents.

By some estimates, those figures mean Texas will require 400,000 new healthcare professionals across all levels of education during this decade, according to Lacourse. But the need is even more immediate.

Texas's Growing Need

In national health care statistics, here's how Texas stacks up to other states:

  • Obesity: 42nd
  • Physical inactivity: 42nd
  • Preventable hospitalizations: 36th
  • Adults with diabetes: 34th
  • Cardiovascular deaths: 30th
  • Overall health: 40th
  • Uninsured Residents: 50th

“With the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act, many of the 24 percent of Texans who are uninsured will become suddenly eligible for coverage,” he said. “They need providers, and there aren’t enough in most specialties to accommodate the sudden increase.

“A number of people will need to be educated as healthcare providers in a relatively short period of time, so we need to get involved in providing students with access to health professions careers while making it possible for them to continue coming to SHSU.”

To keep up with this demand, the university created the COHS, with the School of Nursing, the Department of Health and Kinesiology and the Office of Medical and Allied Health Programs as the college’s founding academic units. The COHS also has its own advising office.

By this time next year, however, the Department of Health and Kinesiology will further divide into the Department of Kinesiology and the Department of Health Services and Promotion.

Those programs will be complemented by several degree programs under development now, including a new Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree, which is being designed specifically for students who will seek admission to postgraduate health and medical programs, including medical and dental school.

“At my previous university, the largest degree program, by far, was a bachelor’s in public health,” Lacourse said. “It’s very attractive to students and is becoming increasingly popular across the country for students preparing for post-graduate health and medical education.”

Also coming is a Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Administration degree.

“Less than a decade ago, entry into administrative or supervisory roles in healthcare organizations usually required a master’s degree in health administration or similar, but entry is moving down to the bachelor’s degree level because of the increasing amount of administrative work to be done and an insufficient number of people with a master’s degree,” Lacourse said.

“At my previous university, it was the most rapidly growing undergraduate degree program, so we anticipate something similar may happen here as well.”

The COHS’s new Bachelor of Science in Wellness Management degree is being developed in response to an increasing need for corporate wellness programming, Lacourse said.

“More and more companies are adopting wellness programs and providing wellness services that, in turn, can improve the health of their employees and reduce their health insurance costs,” he said.

Lacourse said he expects this trend to continue, especially in light of the Affordable Care Act’s emphasis on preventative medicine.

Also in the works, the COHS is elevating the existing bachelor’s degree in athletic training program by seeking national accreditation. With the accreditation in place, students graduating from SHSU will be eligible for athletic training certification that is portable to other states.

For nursing students, the college is creating new degree pathways, including a Bachelor of Science program for students with an associate’s degree in nursing. A bachelor’s degree pathway is being designed for Licensed Vocational Nurses, too.

These developments are important, Lacourse said, because 80 percent of nurses are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree by 2020 and currently, only slightly more than 50 percent of working nurses have bachelor’s degrees.

SHSU plans to offer the new nursing pathways at its main campus and at its location in The Woodlands, which will strengthen the university’s relationships with area community colleges and provide a seamless transition for university students with associate degrees.

Junior Kayln Driggers, a biology major in the Dental Early Admissions Program, said she’s already impressed with the COHS and its advising services.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Driggers, who’s been working with an academic adviser from the Office of Medical and Allied Health Programs. “They’ve helped me a lot with the application process (for dental school). They knew what schools are looking for on an application.”

Driggers said she expects the new college to be extremely beneficial for students.

“There is a need for it,” she said. “They can help us a lot with direction and help us get where we need to go.”

In addition to working on bachelor’s degree programs, the COHS is conducting feasibility studies on the creation of Doctor of Physical Therapy and Master of Occupational Therapy programs.

Eventually, Lacourse said, the COHS will acquire the resources to implement 15 to 20 high-quality, accredited degree programs in clinical health care, health services and health promotion through a variety of delivery formats.

“The university gets calls all the time about these kinds of programs,” he said. “Students who want to come to SHSU should have that as an option, considering the healthcare industry comprises 10 percent of all jobs in Texas.”




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