New Doctoral Program to Focus on Urban Health

The CUNY Graduate Center has established a ground-breaking doctoral program in public health that focuses on urban health issues. The program is scheduled to begin in September of 2007 and will draw faculty from both the Graduate Center and the CUNY colleges.
The new program’s focus on urban health comes in response to a global escalation in city dwellers. The United Nations Habitat Conference estimates that two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in cities by the year 2030, according to the written proposal for the program. “Increasingly, what happens in cities will have a big influence on the health of the overall population both here in the United States and around the world,” explains Nicholas Freudenberg, Distinguished Professor of Public Health at Hunter College, who was instrumental in setting up the new program.
The program would also be New York City’s only doctoral program in public health to be offered by a public university. The affordability of a public university will allow those who can’t pay the tuition of elite private institutions—which includes many of the graduates of CUNY’s master’s programs in public health—to continue their studies. Dr. Freudenberg points out that “health professionals who come from the most disadvantaged communities have a capacity to both understand the problems in those communities and to enlist the residents of communities in solving the problems.” The lower costs offered by a public university are also likely to encourage diversity, which is especially lacking at the research level, he adds.
The new Public Health program joins a stable of recently established CUNY clinical doctoral programs, including audiology, nursing, and physical therapy. “This gives a natural home and a governance structure for the Doctor of Public Health (DPH),” says Professor Barbara Weinstein, who serves as Executive Officer of the Clinical Doctoral Programs. The program will also be the linchpin of plans for a CUNY School of Public Health, which was announced by Chancellor Matthew Goldstein last fall.
An interdisciplinary approach to public health will be another distinguishing feature of the proposed program. Faculty from different disciplines and a curriculum that prepares students to bridge multiple sectors of society and knowledge will equip graduates to solve today’s public health problems, according to Freudenberg. For example, to combat diabetes, public health professionals must be trained to work in the areas of nutrition, physical activity, health care and the financing of public health care. An interdisciplinary approach also takes advantage of CUNY’s natural strengths, says Professor Susan Klitzman, who is Director of Urban Public Health Programs at Hunter College. “We have so many faculty members who do work in urban health even though they might be in departments like sociology or history or psychology or working in environmental sciences or even biology,” she explains.
Designed to attract applicants already practicing in the field of public health, the 60-credit program requires three years of professional public health experience and a master’s degree for admission. The program is also intended to enable students to continue working while pursuing their doctorate degree. Noting that the program would foster a working relationship with city government, Freudenberg expects that students of the program might be working simultaneously as employees of municipal agencies.
For more information about the DPH program, please contact Robert Biondi, APO of the Clinical Doctoral Programs, at 212-817-7980.
The Graduate Center is the doctorate-granting institution of the City University of New York (CUNY). An internationally recognized center for advanced studies and a national model for public doctoral education, the school offers more than thirty doctoral programs, as well as a number of master’s programs. Many of its faculty members are among the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, and its alumni hold major positions in industry and government, as well as in academia. The Graduate Center is also home to twenty-eight interdisciplinary research centers and institutes focused on areas of compelling social, civic, cultural, and scientific concerns. Located in a landmark Fifth Avenue building, the Graduate Center has become a vital part of New York City’s intellectual and cultural life with its extensive array of public lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical events. Further information on the Graduate Center and its programs can be found at