UNMC College of Public Health to add master's program in emergency preparedness

One of only 20 such programs in the country

Disasters can happen any time.

That’s why hospital and public health workers and businesses must be prepared to deal with a number of injuries that could overwhelm local resources.

Now, that training will be available next fall at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health. It will be the Midwest’s first master of science degree program in emergency preparedness and one of only about 20 such programs in the United States.

The new program was approved by the University of Nebraska Board of Regents at Friday’s board meeting. It joins the master’s of public health degree as the second master’s program in the College of Public Health.

Co-directing UNMC’s program are: Philip Smith, M.D., professor of infectious diseases and special director of biosecurity and biopreparedness, and Sharon Medcalf, instructor of health promotion, social and behavioral health, and  associate director of the Preparedness Education program.

“After 9/11, health care professionals became more tuned into the need for disaster preparedness planning,” Dr. Smith said. “They are planning and communicating more with each other and with others in the community to enlist additional resources, if needed.”

A train derailment, gas leak evacuation, a tornado – any of these disasters could easily overwhelm a hospital and a community, Dr. Smith said. An emergency preparedness plan will help hospital workers know how to respond.

The 36-credit-hour program is based on the Public Health Preparedness and Response Core Competency Model as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The core courses are structured based on the four mission areas for the Department of Homeland Security – prevent, protect, respond and recover. It will focus on the general principles of planning and practice for public health and medical response and will be available through distance learning.

Dr. Smith said the master’s program is the latest outgrowth from UNMC’s Center for Biosecurity, Biopreparedness, & Emerging Infectious Diseases.

He said it has a different focus from emergency management courses that train first responders, such as fire and police.

“This program will teach about all hazards, from pandemics and infectious diseases, to natural and man-made disasters,” he said. “Emergency preparedness is a complex and evolving field. It’s a matter of ‘when,’ not ‘if’ a disaster will hit. We all have to be prepared.”

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at unmc.edu.


Liz Kumru
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-4691

Tom O'Connor
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-4690 (office)
(402) 650-7063 (cell)