Skip to main content

Partnership establishes Idaho’s first academic health department

The School of Public and Population Health is partnering with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Division of Public Health to create the state’s first academic health department. 

The partnership kicked off with a meet and greet event where members from each organization learned about new opportunities for connecting public health initiatives with Boise State students, faculty and the community. 

Mac McCullough, School of Public and Population Health

Mac McCullough, associate director for community engagement and impact, hopes this academic health department will build upon the long-standing ties between Boise State and the state’s agency and provide structure to further enhance collaboration already underway. 

“Big goals like this sometimes start with smaller steps such as a public health leader at IDHW knowing who to call at Boise State or vice versa where SPPH faculty are connected to additional experts to provide guest lectures throughout our courses,” McCullough said. “ We are focused on building the infrastructure and relationships to make the smaller stuff possible to ensure that we can make good on larger goals.” 

Building this infrastructure, McCullough says, will make it possible for every student who wants a public health internship to find one and provide crucial student and faculty research capacity for Idaho Department of Health and Welfare programs and projects. 

“There is strong evidence that academic health departments benefit universities and health departments,” McCullough said. “These experiential learning opportunities can provide huge returns for students, host organizations and eventually the public health workforce.”

Establishing an academic health department has been in the works for quite some time, McCullough says. The school’s recent growth in new leadership, new faculty and new doctoral-level programming made it possible to establish Idaho’s first such agreement.

Traci Berreth

Division of Public Health Deputy Division Administrator and Affiliate Faculty member Traci Berreth says involving students in the state agency’s projects and initiatives stretches the impact programs can have on their respective communities.

“I think the academic health department is a model for how work can get done and how partnership can exist beyond a financial agreement,” Berreth said. “ It’s really about benefiting the organizations and the communities we serve.”

The school also aims to integrate the experiences and needs agency programming into its coursework so that courses prepare students with the skills needed for public health careers.

“For our programs, having fresh-minded students come into the work with questions and ideas brings energy to what we do day to day,” Berreth said. “Students represent the future and they have a unique opportunity to influence by putting their education into practice.”

McCullough says this partnership has already provided a better understanding of the needs and priorities of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare — helping prepare students for internships and careers and open up the possibilities for faculty research.

“Initiatives like this can help ensure that scholarship and teaching from SPPH is visible and impactful beyond the Boise State campus and that the work and needs of IDHW are known as well,” McCullough said. “We’re excited for this academic health department and everything we think can be accomplished by partnering.”