Students don’t have to postpone their lives to get ahead. For those looking to become tomorrow’s leaders in Public Health, McAllen has become a true leader by educating those seeking to serve rural and underserved populations through education, research, service, outreach and creative partnerships.
For Olga Gabriel, MPH, Director of Texas A&M’s Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health in McAllen, Public Health is part science, and part art. It’s the ability to prevent disease, and prolong life through the collective efforts of numerous public and private entities, communities and individuals.
“We are graduating students with a Master of Public Health (MPH). They are students who will be leaders of organizations, CEOs of clinics and hospitals, and top administrators,” said Gabriel, who is a 2003 graduate of the school. “Some of our students are established professionals, coming back to school after many years, and others are recent graduates. All are learning the significance of managing an organization, how to implement programs to improve health, and how changing policy can enhance the health of those living in the community.” Students are able to pursue a Master of Public Health in several areas at the McAllen Campus: Health Policy & Management; Health Promotion & Community Health Sciences; and Environmental & Occupational Health.
Founded in 1998 and launched in McAllen in 2000, the Health Science Center’s School of Rural Public Health is a nationally ranked, fully accredited public health research, service and training program. The School has been ranked by U.S. News and World Reports as one of the Top 25 Graduate Schools in Public Health by providing future public health leaders with a learning environment focused especially on program development, evaluation, and teaching by stellar faculty.
The McAllen Campus, built in 2004, is home to faculty, staff, and students with classrooms, a computer lab, videoconference rooms and a biosecurity and environmental health lab. Housed in the 23,000 square foot facility, the Campus has been the venue for national, state and local seminars, conferences, and trainings.
“McAllen is among the fastest growing areas in the nation. Now is the time to pursue a graduate degree and the Rio Grande Valley is the perfect area with an opportunity to do so,” Gabriel said. “In addition to providing the MPH programs, faculty at the McAllen Campus are helping to meet local needs through funded projects with a focus on public health prevention. Our area has high rates of asthma, diabetes and obesity.”
Four full time faculty collaborate with clinics, hospitals, school districts and organizations to improve public health by implementing programs that are culturally appropriate and effective. “Faculty proactively partner with local community organizations to reach a larger population and effect change that can result in improved quality of life,” Gabriel said. “These partnerships benefit everyone and assist in identifying and implementing solutions to unique health care needs in the Valley. The programs are a valuable asset to the community as they not only serves to collect data, but more importantly to positively impact the health and well-being of residents.”
A McAllen native, Gabriel has been Director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center McAllen Campus since 2010. She is a former director of the Children’s Defense Fund Texas-Rio Grande Valley and was the founding director for U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s district office in McAllen. She received an undergraduate degree in health education from The University of Texas-Pan American and a Master of Public Health degree from Texas A&M Health Science Center’s School of Rural Public Health in Community Public Health and Management.
“I think it’s important for the community to know that we are here and that our graduate program is accessible and affordable,” Gabriel said. “You can continue your education without leaving the area or workforce. Our students are working professionals with full-time jobs and families, who want to continue their education. We make that possible by offering classes in the evening, online and web-based, allowing flexibility for students with busy schedules. I think it’s important to know, you don’t have to stop working to get ahead. You can make this work for you. That’s our goal and we work very closely with students to help make it happen. We are Bringing Learning to Life! Come and see how we can make this program work for you!”