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U of M School of Public Health Will Offer New Ph.D. Program in Social and Behavioral Sciences University News
For release: August 12, 2010

For press information, contact Curt Guenther, 901/678-2843

A new doctoral degree in social and behavioral sciences will be offered beginning this fall in the School of Public Health at the University of Memphis. Final approval was received this month from the Tennessee Board of Regents and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

This program will prepare graduates for university-level teaching and research careers, as well as senior public health positions in government, in the private sector, and with non-profit organizations. Graduates will be prepared to conduct innovative, interdisciplinary, and translational research in the community, and to design, implement, administer, and evaluate public health interventions and policies.

Dr. Lisa Klesges, interim dean of the School of Public Health, expressed excitement about the program. “One of the core missions of the new School of Public Health,” she said, “is to provide excellence in education, research, and outreach to improve public health by generating knowledge and translating research discoveries in our community. Offering this degree is certainly an important part of that mission.”

The potential for the School of Public Health to help the local community has received incredible support, said Dr. Shirley Raines, president of the University. “Generous support from local foundations is critical,” said Raines, “and the School of Public Health has already received substantial private donations, including, $2.5 million from the Assisi Foundation and $1.32 million from the Plough Foundation.”

According to Klesges, “The program is especially committed to health equity and social justice, and it will emphasize urban health issues in Tennessee and in the Mid-South region.”

Added Dr. Ken Ward, director of the Division of the Social and Behavioral Sciences in the SPH, “There is an immense need at the local and state levels for public health professionals to combat a myriad of health problems. In overall health rankings of all the states in 2009, Tennessee ranked 44th. Behavioral factors such as poor nutrition, sedentary lifestyles, and tobacco and substance use are major contributors to increased risk for major chronic diseases, including type-2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and many forms of cancers. Yet, we rank 5th nationally for childhood obesity and other issues related to excessive weight, with 36.5% of our population meeting this criterion. Additionally, Tennessee has the 5th highest rates of infant mortality, low birth-weight babies, and pre-term labor.”

Doctoral students will work closely with faculty mentors in such research areas as aging, child health promotion, health disparities, HIV/AIDS prevention, obesity, social network analysis, substance abuse, tobacco use, international health, and physical activity. Dr. Ralph Faudree, University provost, said, “I am very pleased that the students will be trained by a team of interdisciplinary faculty with established programs of nationally funded health research and recognized leadership in their areas of expertise.”

“The students will be prepared to assume academic and leadership roles in public health by building and sustaining community partnerships to promote healthy behavior,” added Dr. Satish Kedia, coordinator for the new doctoral program. “This degree will definitely build a solid foundation for a stronger public health focus in our community. Through this program, we envision strengthening our civic engagement in addressing public health problems.”

Information about the new program is available online at

For more information about applying to the program, contact Dr. Satish Kedia, Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 232 Browning Hall, University of Memphis, Memphis Tenn., 38152, or via email at

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