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Meeting the Challenge to Create Healthy Communities

March 2015

female golfer in lab

Kinesiology student and golfer Casey Ward tests the symmetry of her body during a golf swing in the golf research lab.

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While we have all benefited from a steady march of significant advances in health care, the pace and complexity of these changes have been a challenge to those in health care education to also evolve and progress. But it has been a challenge that, throughout its history, Cal State Fullerton has embraced and met head-on.

The University's College of Health and Human Development is at the center of this change — educating the next generation of nurses, physicians, allied health and public health professionals, kinesiologists and researchers, who will not only tend to those with mental and physical health conditions and injuries, but conduct important work in prevention.

A signature component of the college is the School of Nursing. Now in its 40th year, it offers a range of comprehensive programs from pre-licensure and nurse practitioner programs to a doctorate of nursing practice (D.N.P.) implemented in 2012. Nursing students can choose to specialize in such areas as nurse midwifery, nurse anesthetist, leadership, school nursing and more.

"Nurses are central to the health care system," said Penny Weismuller, coordinator of graduate programs and associate professor of nursing. "Our focus is on evidence-based research. For a D.N.P., students not only focus on practical nursing skills, but must demonstrate the ability to research and anticipate potential problems.

"Nurses who are better educated develop into change agents and advocates," Weissmuller said. "They are often on the front lines of health care delivery. Our goal is to make sure nurses are prepared and in the right place to influence change."

Stretching beyond nursing, the University's cadre of other highly regarded health professions programs has a long history of preparing students for careers as physicians, pharmacists, physician assistants and more.

"More recently, about 30 students have chosen to become physician assistants," said Christina Goode, professor of biochemistry and director of the Health Professions program. "These professionals provide many of the services that doctors offer — and growth in this field is significant.

"We have many first-generation students so this is an attractive option," she continued. "They can be involved in family medicine and earn a degree without accumulating a staggering amount of debt.

"While we do, of course, have students who go on to medical school, we also work with students who want to become physical therapists, occupational therapists, audiologists — the whole range of health care professions. Because we adapt to changing demographics and health care needs, we are ahead of the curve in anticipating and meeting the needs of the community and our students."

Kinesiology students look at how the body moves and operates.

"We have many sub-areas in kinesiology," said Lee Brown, professor of kinesiology and director of the University's Human Performance Lab. "For instance, in the area of strength and conditioning, we look at how the body changes when pushed to be faster, bigger, stronger. Our work underlies important information that strength coaches need to make smart decisions for athletes.

"This type of work becomes increasingly important as we live longer," Brown continued. "We're also dealing with rising levels of obesity and diabetes. Our research provides insight into how your body responds to physical demands and how to minimize injury."

In fact, a new golf research lab can assess functional movement during a golf swing. By observing the swing and imbalances/asymmetry in the body, movement disorders and more can be assessed.

"We can prescribe corrective exercises that can return symmetry and lead to a better golf swing," said Guillermo Noffal, professor of kinesiology. "We don't provide tips — we aren't coaches. But our high-speed cameras operate much like X-ray machines that tell you what's wrong. A golf pro or coach can then look at this data and determine what changes need to be made."

Joshua Yang, assistant professor of health science, focuses on global health concerns.

"We understand the importance of preventing illness and disease," he said. "No one likes having the flu or a more severe or chronic condition. But prevention has other important benefits for society. Illness can be socially disruptive by limiting interactions, altering family dynamics and changing the way people live. Many undergo significant financial strain while managing a serious or chronic health condition. This can have devastating effects on entire communities.

"So we equip our students with the knowledge to prevent disease and promote health, not only to avoid illness, but to enable individuals and whole communities to lead vibrant, productive lives."

Jasmeet Gill, associate professor and graduate adviser in the master of public health program, stresses the dangers of infectious diseases.

"Understanding infectious disease prevention is critical because it affects all of us, directly or indirectly. The recent measles outbreak linked to visitors at Disneyland is a great illustration of why we need to educate our students on infectious disease transmission and prevention."

"Our college offers a host of programs that integrate classroom education with best practices, technology, research and real-world experiences," said C. Jessie Jones, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Development. "Most importantly, we are preparing a rich, diverse workforce to improve the health and well-being of our communities."

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