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UCF Health Sciences Major Supports Growing National Interest in Other Health Care Careers

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By Karen Guin

In keeping with a national trend, a growing number of undergraduates at the University of Central Florida is seeking preparation for careers in health care other than the traditional areas of medicine, dentistry and nursing. The students have found that the university's major in health sciences provides the background necessary to pursue a broad range of career options.

"When I started at UCF, I wasn't sure what career path I wanted to take, but I knew I wanted it to be in health care," said senior Tammy Useman from Orlando. "So I selected the health sciences major. I knew that whatever avenue I took, the major would be applicable.""

After taking courses in her major and observing occupational therapists work with two family members, she decided to specialize in occupational therapy. When she completes her bachelor's degree in health sciences in May, she will be well-prepared to enter a graduate program in occupational therapy, a step that is now essential to become a board-certified practitioner.

A revised allied health programs curriculum that will begin this fall requires the basic sciences courses in biology, chemistry and physics that are prerequisites for clinical health science programs such as occupational therapy, physical therapy and physician assistant. And it offers an enlarged set of electives that allows students to tailor the program to their specific interests in health. For example, students can use the major to prepare for graduate study in areas such as public health, environmental health, nutrition and exercise physiology.

Enrollment in the health sciences major at UCF has grown from 55 students when it was first offered in 1999 to 190 in fall 2005. Diane Jacobs, professor and chair of the Department of Health Professions, anticipates considerable growth in enrollment as incoming students are told that the revised major will prepare them for graduate-level study in both clinical and non-clinical areas of health care.

"There is a trend in some disciplines, such as physical therapy, to require more advanced degrees than previously required," Jacobs said. "You used to just need a bachelor's degree. Now a master's degree is required.""

Many students are attracted to careers in health care because they know it's a growing industry with good employment opportunities, according to Jacobs. She points to data released by the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation that predicts a high demand for allied health professionals, including physical therapists, occupational therapists and physician assistants, over the next seven years.

"We've responded to a growing interest in health care that's occurring nationwide," Jacobs said.

Students are also drawn to the excitement of scientific advancements in diagnosing and treating diseases. Some also view a career in allied health as a chance to work in a respected health-related profession without having to go to medical school.

And for most students, including Useman, a career in health is appealing because if offers an opportunity to help other people.

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The health care informatics master's program at UCF really helped me connect with the industry, meet people at conferences and sit for the most-desired certification exams."
— Michael Neimann M.S. in health care informatics ('14)
My internship with the District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I gained an excellent understanding of the medical examiner’s office and the criminal justice field in general."
— Adam Stubley B.S. in criminal justice, criminal profiling certificate ('11)
UCF provides its physical therapy students with an excellent education and prepares them to work in the most challenging of settings."
— Jamie Dyson Rehabilitation Supervisor, Orlando Regional Medical Center
UCF's program provided me the opportunity to expedite my student experience while attaining practical experience working within local health systems."
— Daniel Barr V.P. at National Children's Hospital; M.S. in health sciences, health services administration track ('04)
My master's education helped me see the big picture of the nonprofit industry. UCF showed me how to see the different fundraising tools within the Central Florida area."
— Krysti Griffith Executive Director of Growth from Grief; Master of Nonprofit Management ('12)
The course opened my eyes to grant writing ... I learned a great deal and you [Barbara Howell] are truly an excellent instructor."
— Deborah Reith Master of Public Administration student who secured a $10,000 federal grant through a course project; B.S. in criminal justice ('86)
The skills I learned during my time at UCF are what made my transition to law school so seamless."
— Jacqueline Iaquinta Touro Law Center student; B.S. in legal studies ('10)
As an inaugural graduate of the M.R.A. program at UCF, I can attest to the outstanding curriculum developed for research administrators. "
— April Heyward Post Award Services Coordinator, University of South Carolina; Master of Research Administration ('13)
It was at UCF that I first learned many of the skills that I’ve since honed, including mapping with GIS software - an ability I found invaluable to my search for internships, graduate-level coursework, and employment."
— Richard "Ben" Hagen Research and Communications Associate, New Economy Project, New York City; B.S. in public administration ('10)
I am excited to be able to give back to the program that invested so much in me. It is truly and honor and a privilege."
— Carlos Gual Instructor of Athletic Training; B.S. in athletic training ('09)
The faculty advisor [at my medical school] was amazed that I had the opportunity to truly participate in the full spectrum of research as an undergraduate. "
— Chase Cavayero, medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicince, B.S. in health sciences - pre-clinical ('13) 
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