Healthcare Studies Major Enrolls More Than 200 Students in 2nd Year
Customizable Degree Program Prepares Students for Advanced Study, Employment in High-Need Medical Areas

As a student pursuing a career in physical therapy, Harjoat Gill was growing concerned that the classes he was taking weren’t on track with his future plans.

Dr. Kathleen Byrnes

Dr. Kathleen Byrnes is director of the healthcare studies program.

Although he was a senior with only three classes remaining when UT Dallas launched its Bachelor’s of Science in Healthcare Studies last fall, he immediately knew the degree was perfect for him.

“This degree helped me tailor the classes that I needed for my degree plan,” Gill said. “Previously, I was minoring in healthcare studies and wanted to take any health class that I could take. I was elated when it was changed into a major.”

The healthcare studies curriculum consists of existing courses offered by various schools across campus repackaged into one multidisciplinary program. After its first year, the major boasts more than 200 students.

Students take biology, chemistry and physics classes through the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Students also take health care foundation courses offered by the School of Interdisciplinary Studies and courses specifically related to their career paths, said Dr. Kathleen Byrnes, healthcare studies director.

The program enrolls entering freshmen and transfer students, as well as post-baccalaureate students who are changing careers and seeking second degrees.

Dean George Fair

Dean George Fair said the School of Interdisciplinary Studies is responding to the nation’s demand for health care professionals.

The major provides preparation for entry into professional schools of medicine, dentistry, optometry or pharmacy. It also is beneficial for students planning to enter graduate programs in health areas such as occupational therapy, physical therapy and physician assistant studies.

Senior Lucas Simonitch is pursuing a career as a physician assistant. Most of the prerequisites for the program are similar to pre-med, but he appreciates knowing he is taking the specific math and science courses he’ll need for his career plans.

“Instead of having a one-size-fits-all approach to a degree, healthcare studies helps the students choose the path that best fits the programs they are entering,” he said.

Health professional schools like students to have a combination of training in specific and appropriate science coursework and practical preparation to work in health care, Byrnes said.

“Any health profession wants to see evidence that the student knows what they’re getting into before they apply,” she said.

The school’s internship program offers that practical experience. Students can try out the career while earning academic credit and experiencing a professional work environment.

Students of healthcare studies are often pursuing:

  • Medicine
  • Dentistry
  • Pharmacy
  • Optometry
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Physician assisting
  • Prosthetics and orthotics

“The experiences that you get through the internship are very valuable because this is giving you first-hand experience so you have something to talk about in your professional school interviews,” said Gill, who graduates in August with dual degrees in healthcare studies and interdisciplinary studies.

Nearly 250 students are enrolled in the major for the fall semester, the first term that the program has benefitted from recruiting, said Dr. George Fair, dean of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Health care is one of the sectors expected to gain the most jobs between 2010 and 2020, according to projections released in February 2012 by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau projects the health care and social assistance industry will gain 5.6 million jobs during the 10-year span.

“We’re responding to the national need for health care that exists in our nation and around the world,” Fair said, “and as the University grows, there is an increasing number of students who are interested in the health care profession.”

For more information, contact Dr. Byrnes at (972) 883-4368 or [email protected].

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

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