Morgan to create school of health Graduates would tend to inner-city residents

September 12, 1996|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

Due to an editing error, an article in last Thursday's editions about a proposal to create a school of public health at Morgan State University may have wrongly left the impression that the university would be the first to establish a school from a program. The second paragraph should have read:

"Morgan State's move -- first to build a doctorate-granting program and then to create a separate school -- comes at a time when many campuses are under political and financial pressure to scale back their program."

The Sun regrets the error.

Morgan State University officials said yesterday that they intend to create a school of public health to address the health care needs of inner-city residents in Baltimore and throughout U.S. urban centers.


Morgan is the first to build a doctorate-granting program and then create a separate school. The move comes at a time when many campuses are under political and financial pressure to scale back their programs.

But Morgan State's aspirations -- using a two-year, $264,000 grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation as a starting point to plan the graduate program -- are based on the belief of campus officials that their proposed school is needed to produce health care practitioners for blighted city areas.

"It seemed ironic that here in Baltimore and Atlanta and New York and other communities -- places where you probably have some of the best health care facilities in the country -- the problems were rising rapidly," said Jay Carrington Chunn, Morgan State's associate vice president for academic affairs.

The university, in Northeast Baltimore, does not intend to compete for research grants with established centers such as the Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland.

Hopkins' School of Public Health receives 27 percent of federal grant and contract dollars given to U.S. public health schools. Although it does not have a separate school, UM conducts extensive research through its School of Medicine.

But Morgan officials said they hope to train health care practitioners who would work with underserved populations and to offer additional training to people already in the field.

The school's graduates would "do advanced work in health prevention and health education. They'll work intensely with high-risk families," Chunn said. "This will be a unique group of professionals."

He said the school would try to help address problems such as drug abuse, acquired immune deficiency syndrome and heart disease in the city's African-American population.

Blacks and Hispanics are far less likely to have health care insurance and they generally receive significantly less preventive care than the population at large.

Those problems are magnified in urban centers, health professionals say.

The proposed "program at Morgan is really community-focused, community-based," said Everard O. Rutledge, president and chief executive of Liberty Health System in Baltimore.

"I am very, very enthusiastic about it, and it will meet an unserved need. To give it to a historically black school will give it even more value and credence," Rutledge said.

If approved by the Maryland Higher Education Commission to grant degrees and accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, a private Washington organization, as a distinct school, Morgan State would be the only historically black campus in the country with a public health school.

There are 27 accredited U.S. public health schools, which generally train researchers, educators, administrators and policy-makers in public health.

The university has hired Dr. Bailus Walker, former dean of the School of Public Health at Oklahoma State University, as a consultant to lead the planning.

"I think this is a good thing, in terms of having a quality institution with underrepresented minority focus," said Scott Becker, assistant director of the Association of Schools of Public Health.

Morgan's bid to start a school appears to face tough odds.

First, it would not be allied with a health sciences center or medical school, as are most public health schools.

Second, Gov. Parris N. Glendening's administration is scrambling to offer modest increases in higher education funding, and most public campuses are limiting programs, not creating new ones. (Morgan State, while a state-subsidized university, is not a part of the University of Maryland System.)

It is not clear, Chunn acknowledged, how the university would pay for the proposed school's faculty or facilities. A Glendening spokeswoman said yesterday that the administration has yet to hear of the university's plans.

Third, Morgan State has an uneven record in maintaining major projects. In 1994, for example, state and federal officials chastised university officials for their handling of the development of a $5.5 million federal transportation center.

And fourth, Morgan State would be seeking to establish HTC second public health school in a city that already boasts the world's best-known public health school, at Hopkins.

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