Rachel Reimer, Ph.D., has a proven track record of excellence in teaching and research. After serving DMU’s master of public health (MPH) program as an adjunct faculty member in 2008, she was appointed a full-time assistant professor in 2009 upon completion of her Ph.D.; she has received the program’s Faculty of the Year Award four times since then. Her published research topics range from racial disparities in smoking knowledge to the effects of parental monitoring on their children’s media use.
In the University’s recent search for a new MPH program director/chair, however, Reimer’s views on the program’s future were as compelling as her past achievements.
“Amid a very strong slate of candidates for the position, in the end it was Dr. Reimer’s vision for the program; her strong skills as an educator, researcher and communicator; and her passion and dedication to the program that impacted my decision to appoint her,” notes Jodi Cahalan, Ph.D., M.P.H.’01, M.S.’93, PA-C’89, DFAAPA, dean of the College of Health Sciences.
Reimer took over for retiring program director/chair Mary Mincer Hansen, Ph.D., R.N., on July 1. Her vision for the MPH program centers upon excellent public health training, with specialization opportunities and potential curricular changes; a vibrant research environment; and expanded partnerships with other universities, colleges, residency programs and public health agencies.
“I really want us to take on these key initiatives,” she says. “I have such a clear idea of where we could go that I felt strongly I could be the one to lead us there.”
Her vision is designed to address several realities: Competition for students among public health programs is high. Public health has evolved from an offshoot of primary care to a discrete body of knowledge. The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) recently issued a report listing “key considerations for a 21st century M.P.H. degree,” including “rigorous, applied and skills-based education” and interprofessional training that prepares graduates to function in a wide variety of roles and settings.
“DMU needs to respond to these considerations to remain competitive and relevant,” Reimer says. “One of the ways we’re working to build the public health workforce is to offer our courses to people not seeking the degree. For example, we want DMU clinical alumni to consider taking some of our courses for continuing education.”
More immediately, DMU’s MPH program is up for reaccreditation review by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Reimer collaborated with Simon Geletta, Ph.D., associate professor of public health, to develop a reaccreditation plan and timeline before she interviewed for her new position.
“She came into the search process very prepared,” says Taylar Antolik, an MPH student, vice president of the MPH Student Club and a member of the search committee. “You could tell she’s passionate about the program and what she wants to do. She understands the evolving nature of public health.”
Reimer has set goals for the first five years of her tenure that reflect her vision, from reaccreditation and curricular review to new specializations, research support and expanded partnerships.
“If we do all that, I think we can become a truly elite program,” she says.