Meet Regan Johnson- Program Director of Bachelor of Public Health

The field of public health is growing, thanks to an abundance of medical advancements, including new medicines and technologies. The pandemic plays a huge role in the surge, as well, with more opportunities opening up for those who want a fulfilling career in this specialized healthcare field.

Today, many public health professionals interested in furthering their education and earning a new position choose

an online degree. This popular learning format allows them to easily blend their study time with their day job and family demands.

We recently spoke with Regan Johnson, the University’s Director of Public Health for the online bachelor’s degree, to learn more about her work here, the program and the field’s career outlook.

How long have you worked for the University? And how long have you had a connection to the Bachelor of Science Public Health (BSPH) degree? 

“I have been at the University of Cincinnati for almost 16 years. The first 10 years I spent working in the Student Wellness Center, where I served as the Director. I worked to address health and wellness issues affecting the campus community in that role. I have been a faculty member working with public health students for six years.”

What’s involved in your role here?

“I serve as a faculty member and Program Director for the BSPH program. I teach junior- and senior-level coursework related to developing and implementing health promotion programs within communities. I also oversee internships and professional development opportunities, where I help students prepare for their future careers in public health. As a Program Director, I work with faculty, staff and students to make sure we offer the best experience possible for students.”

What type of people are attracted to the BS in Public Health program?

“In general, students in public health have a passion for helping others and making their communities a better place. Students are often attracted to the degree because it allows them to address “lived experiences” within their communities. For example, a student may come from a low-income area with little access to good nutrition or live in a community with a high number of substance abuse issues. Public health allows people to take their knowledge and skills back to their communities to make a meaningful difference.”

What’s included in the bachelor’s degree curriculum? Is there a course students find particularly enjoyable or relevant to their public health work? 

“Students enjoy the HPE 1020: Foundation of Health Promotion and Education course. This course gives them a better understanding of what they can do with their degree and provides them the chance to learn from others who do this type of work. The instructor also requires a one-on-one meeting with each student to explore their interests with a faculty member and become more connected to the program.”

What’s involved in the program’s Internship: Health Education course? 

“Students complete a 3-credit hour internship in their last semester of the online program. They can choose their internship site based on their interests. Our students have interned at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, American Heart Association, Cradle Cincinnati, Closing the Health Gap, TriHealth and local health departments.”

What type of positions could a BSPH graduate get? 

“A bachelor’s degree in public health allows an individual to do various jobs that benefit where they work and live, including conducting community needs assessments, developing health interventions, organizing health-related initiatives and public health advocacy.

A prospective employer could be a local and state health department, insurance company, healthcare system, health-related agency, college or corporation. Job titles include health educator, disease prevention specialist, health advocate, program coordinator, worksite wellness education and community outreach coordinator. ”

Can a bachelor’s degree help someone move into a public health management role?  

“After working in the field for several years, a graduate may seek to move into a management role. They may also consider obtaining a graduate degree in public health or a related field to focus on leadership or health services management. These degrees can typically be done part-time while working.”

What are the top advantages of being able to earn a degree online?

“It allows students the freedom to complete the public health coursework remotely and at their own pace. This gives students the ability to balance work, life and school as they see fit.

In many of our courses, students complete projects that allow them to create programs and interventions to address community health needs. Students can build projects that focus on their areas of interest, and many have used the outcome of their efforts at their jobs or within their communities. One of our students developed a health-and-wellness program for her co-workers as part of her class project.”

That sounds beneficial, being able to immediately apply what students learn to their jobs. How has working in public health evolved?

“Over the last few years, I have seen a shift in the field of public health. The importance of this work has become more evident, particularly with the COVID pandemic. The biggest change I witnessed is using technology to conduct public health work. Public health professionals use technology to educate their communities through social media, conduct online educational workshops and reach out to their communities in innovative ways through telecommunication.”

What makes UC Online’s program a better option when a student compares it to another BSPH program? 

“UC Online’s program is extremely transfer-friendly for those students bringing in credit from other colleges. We also work hard to build a sense of community among our online students by engaging them in professional development opportunities outside the classroom. Our hands-on approach to advising helps students maneuver through the program successfully.”

We know that program graduates are eligible to sit for the national certification exam to become a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). What’s the benefit of sitting for the CHES exam — does it open more doors for our graduates? 

“First, the CHES credential is nationally recognized, and many public health jobs require you to have the certification or sit for the exam within a certain period of being hired. Also, many health departments will prefer or require you to have a CHES.

This credential gives you an advantage over other people with a similar educational experience. Our program prepares students for this exam by covering content in the classroom and offering a study group several times a year.”

We know that your role as Program Director and the instructing work you do keep you quite busy. When you’re away from the University, how do you like to spend your free time?

“I enjoy camping with my family and traveling when possible. I particularly love going to a warm place near the beach! I also enjoy attending concerts and music festivals. And when I get the chance at home, I like to escape to my craft room and be creative.”

Talking with you today has been great, Regan. Before we end our conversation, is there anything else you would add that people should know about the public health field? 

“There is no better time to get a degree in public health. There are more and more jobs for professionals, no matter what setting or population you want to be part of or where you live. Public health issues affect everyone. The need just might look a little different depending on where you live.

Some of the current public health challenges we experience nationally include heart disease and stroke, alcohol-related harm, food safety, unintentional injuries and prescription drug overdose. We need more public health professionals who can focus on these critical areas.”

Ready to learn more about the BSPH program and study with Program Director Regan Johnson and other public health instructors? Start your journey here

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