UNK-UNMC partnership creates pipeline for public health professionals

There’s a need for more public health professionals across the state and country.

These in-demand individuals work in a variety of settings, including government agencies at all levels, nonprofits, private companies, academia and advocacy groups. Their areas of expertise are equally diverse, ranging from behavioral science, disease prevention, education and environmental health to occupational safety, public policy and nutrition.

Instead of treating individual patients, public health professionals promote and protect the health of entire populations – improving society and creating a safer world both today and for future generations.

For students like Bailey Reigle, it’s a rewarding career with endless opportunities.

“I chose public health because I loved that it focused on helping a group of people, instead of just one person at a time. I felt as though I could make a big difference in the community and help a lot of people improve their quality of life,” Reigle said. “I also really like how there are hundreds of different jobs that I could get with a public health degree. It was nice to know that I still had time to figure out exactly what area of public health I wanted to work in. Another nice thing is that public health relies a lot on interdisciplinary work, so I would have the opportunity to work with other health care professionals.”

Bailey Reigle
Bailey Reigle

An Albion native, Reigle graduated from the University of Nebraska at Kearney in spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in family science and minors in public health and health care management. She was part of the Public Health Early Admissions Student Track (PHEAST) program, a partnership between UNK and the University of Nebraska Medical Center designed to create a pipeline of public health professionals in the state.

Open to Nebraska residents with two years remaining at UNK and a cumulative GPA of 3.3 or higher, the program gives undergraduate students an opportunity to take a graduate-level public health course from UNMC and visit the Omaha campus to connect with faculty and students there. Students accepted into the program receive a full-tuition scholarship during their junior and senior years at UNK and guaranteed admission into the UNMC College of Public Health if all requirements are met.

“It’s a really special program because you get to know professors and students who are at UNMC while you’re still an undergrad. Having these connections before moving to Omaha made the transition a little less scary and it was nice to see some familiar faces on the first day of classes,” Reigle said. “Another thing I really appreciated about the program was being able to take a UNMC course as an undergrad to help get me prepared for the course load at the graduate level.”

UNMC offers a Master of Public Health in seven different concentration areas: biostatistics, emergency preparedness, environmental and occupational health, epidemiology, health promotion, maternal and child health and public health administration and policy.

Reigle is currently pursuing her Master of Public Health in health promotion at UNMC. After graduation, she wants to support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in a position that combines policy, administrative and hands-on work.

“The pipeline from UNK to UNMC is strong. I’m always running into fellow Lopers on the UNMC campus,” she said. “UNK sets students up for success because it offers small class sizes covering high-quality material. All of my professors were great; you could tell they really cared about the success of all of their students. I felt very prepared for graduate school after receiving a degree from UNK.”

Applications for the PHEAST program are open through March 15. Students can apply online by visiting the UNK Public Health page.

For more information, contact Todd Bartee at 308-865-8260 or barteet2@unk.edu.