Public health students surge at UAB, epidemiology students nearly double

The number of students enrolled at the University of Alabama at the Birmingham School of Public Health rose 61 percent in 2020, reflecting the “Fauci Effect” and the importance of public health professionals during the pandemic.

Enrollment in epidemiology, the study of the spread of disease, rose 92 percent at UAB.

“It’s no surprise that a global pandemic has sparked public health interest,” said Dr. Paul Erwin, Dean of the UAB School of Public Health.

According to US News and World Report, the UAB School of Public Health ranks 17th in the country. The school offers bachelor’s and master’s programs in epidemiology, biostatistics, health behavior, and politics.

The increased interest in public health professions was greater in Alabama than in any other part of the country. According to the Association of Schools and Degree Programs in the Health Care System, applications for graduate programs rose by only 23 percent nationwide in the past year compared to 2019.

Across the country, interest in health professionals rose during the pandemic. Applications to medical schools also increased in 2020 as health professionals battled the spread of COVID-19.

The virus made Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to a celebrity. Local and state health officials also emerged as key figures during the pandemic, often imposing drastic restrictions on businesses and individuals to control the spread of COVID.

Haley Greene, an epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health, graduated from the UAB School of Public Health in 2020. She said the pandemic had shaped the interests of several students in her class.

“I have found that several public health students have switched their interests in chronic diseases to infectious diseases, along with an influx of people interested in careers in public health,” said Greene. “I think this is an exciting time for young professionals in public health as there are many opportunities now and in the future.”

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