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UM-Dearborn Media Release

CONTACT: Terry Gallagher
PHONE: (313) 593-5518
DATE: July 19, 2002

New master's degree program in health psychology to be offered at UM-Dearborn

DEARBORN---The University of Michigan-Dearborn will launch a new master of science degree program focusing on health psychology, to meet the needs of physicians, nurses, public health officials and other healthcare workers, as well as other non-health professionals.

The new degree program, which was approved by the U-M Regents at their July meeting, will begin offering classes this fall.

"To treat patients most effectively, medical professionals need an education that extends beyond traditional biomedicine and looks at the social and psychological factors in illness and treatment," according to Richard Straub, professor of psychology at UM-Dearborn who was instrumental in developing the program.

"This new degree program will allow students to look at issues including the kinds of medical treatment people seek and get, how patients handle illness, why some people don't follow medical advice and the most effective ways to control pain or change poor health habits," Straub said.

He said that graduates of the program will be better able to work within the health care system to develop strategies to foster social and physical well being among patients.

"They may help medical personnel understand the psychological problems that arise from the pain and stress of illness," he said. "They also may work in the public health system to develop responses to medical issues affecting a large segment of society, like teenage pregnancy, substance abuse, smoking, risky sexual behaviors, lack of exercise and poor diet."

Straub developed the program in consultation with clinical faculty at Henry Ford Health Systems medical residency training program who helped define relevant areas in the behavioral sciences.

The program also draws on existing strengths of UM-Dearborn, Straub said. The campus has long had an undergraduate program in health policy studies, and faculty members have achieved national recognition in areas including alternative medicine, social and cultural factors in human growth and development, family violence and other topics. Straub is the author of a widely used college textbook on health psychology.

"This campus has special strengths in this field, and our region has world-class health care facilities," Straub noted. "But we also have a population that suffers from serious and chronic medical issues, many of them linked to life-style variables and environmental factors."

Enrollment in the program is likely to draw heavily from health-care professionals, including medical residents. High school science teachers are another potential audience for the program. "Because the core curriculum is strongly grounded in the foundations and methodology of the behavioral sciences, non-health professionals working in the field of psychology will benefit as well," Straub said.

Students will be able to pursue the degree on a part-time basis, and courses will be primarily offered during the late afternoon and evening to meet the needs of working professionals. In addition, a substantial number of courses will be available through distance-learning technologies, allowing more flexibility for students.

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