PEMBROKE — A College of Health Sciences has been formed at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, campus leaders announced Friday.
The new college becomes the sixth at the campus, joining the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business, School of Education, Maynor Honors College and The Graduate School. It is first new college to be formed at UNCP since 1999.
“The College of Health Sciences is part of our mission to build upon the foundation in place at UNC Pembroke, and to serve as an engine, a driver to strengthen our communities and meet southeastern North Carolina’s economic and health care needs,” Chancellor Robin Gary Cummings said.
The College of Health Sciences initially will consist of four pre-existing departments — counseling, health and human performance, nursing, and social work – with about 100 faculty and 1,400 students.
“With the experienced leadership in place, and the unwavering support of our regional partners, our new college will begin immediately to produce highly skilled health professionals for a region where they are greatly needed,” Cummings said. “We have enjoyed unprecedented success in our existing healthcare programs but the demand is only going to grow. We know the need is there and we know we can meet it.”
Angela McDonald, associate dean of the School of Education, will serve as interim dean of the new college. McDonald joined the faculty in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program in 2008.
“This is a new chapter of UNCP history,” she said. “You feel it when you are out on campus with all the construction and activity. It is incredibly exciting and a huge turning point for UNC Pembroke.”
As interim dean, McDonald will lead the transition efforts of the departments, programs and students to the new college and build the foundation while a national search for a founding dean is conducted, according to a UNCP news release.
Health-related undergraduate and graduate programs presently offered by departments being combined to form the new college will include nursing, social work, school counseling, clinical mental health counseling, athletic training, and exercise and sports science, according to the release.
Further development plans for the college include a three-phased approach adding additional bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs, such as nurse practitioner, optometry, occupational therapy, physical therapy, public health, nutrition and dietetics, health informatics, and health administration. University leaders say they also envision a two-year degree completion program in rural health equity for people working in patient support roles who wish to transition to leadership positions in the health field.
David Ward, UNCP provost, has been tasked with implementing a strategic vision for the growth of the new college. Ward has served as dean of the College of Health Sciences at Armstrong State University and the Westbrook College of Health Professions at the University of New England. He has 30 years of teaching, health care practice and administration in higher education.
“By taking strong existing programs and strategically developing new high-demand programs, the new College of Health Sciences will be able to focus directly and singularly on educating and training the high quality, team-oriented health care workforce of the future,” Ward said.
The expansion represents a new era in the approach to health care for the region, said Dr. Cheryl Davis, chief medical officer for Scotland Healthcare System.
“It creates alignment between the university and the front line of patient care within our surrounding communities,” said Davis, a member of UNCP Board of Visitors. “Our community has some of the challenging and complex patients and some of the greatest provider needs. Therefore, this endeavor marries a supply of students with one of the best learning environments in the state, a rural community.
“Together, we will help solve a critical piece of the puzzle of health care for this region.”
Studies have shown the residents of Southeastern North Carolina have significantly less access to health care providers in every measurable health profession, and Robeson County is recognized as having some of the worst population health outcomes.
“The challenges that our faculty are training students to tackle as professionals are really complex societal problems,” Angela McDonald said. “Working within teams out in the field, combined with the research students and faculty do on campus, matches the model that we are preparing our students to work in.
“I am excited to be a part of this. This is going to build on our connection with the region in a meaningful way.”
McDonald said the new College of Health Sciences raises the visibility of the health-related programs and gives them a collaborative identity that will benefit students.
Alex Tutts, a graduate student in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, said the new college will add to the university’s marketing tools in attracting prospective students.
“This is a great opportunity for the health science and social science fields to collaborate during our training phase,” she said. “This collaboration will strengthen our ability to serve our clients holistically.”