A Proposed School of Population and Public Health is Planned to Be an Interdisciplinary Hub

Kamiar Alaei

Dr. Kamiar Alaei

Dr. Kamiar Alaei, Chair of Health Science, and Erlyana Erlyana, department chair of Health Care Administration are joining forces to propose a brand new umbrella of interdisciplinary collaboration called the School of Population and Public Health. The proposal will go to the Academic Senate this fall.

“In relation to public health, the point is how we can bring different sectors and disciplines to work together to facilitate innovative ideas and bring about new technology,” Alaei says.

Efforts such as this are part of the newly forming School of Population and Public Health, which will serve as an organizing center or umbrella for college and campus disciplines to work together to solve health problems.

“The plan is to create a hub for all faculty from different disciplines, regardless of department appointment, to be able to affiliate with the School of Population and Public Health to focus on and tackle the current and future public health challenges we face,” Alaei says.

The School of Population and Public Health will undergo an approval process with the University Academic Senate this fall. According to Health Care Administration Chair Erlyana Erlyana, who is working closely with Alaei to form the School of Population and Public Health, it will operate differently than the other CHHS schools and departments. Erlyana adds that she would like to see more interdisciplinary efforts because she says the health care field today needs this.

“Unlike the other schools in CHHS that operate with one director or chair, the School of Population and Public Health is proposing to have shared governance structure,” Erlyana says.

“The School of Population and Public Health will foster collaborative spirit that mirrors the real world. For example, if you’re in social work, case managers work and talk with hospital administrators – it’s not like we are each in our own world. You manage a hospital, you manage a community as well.”

That intersection between the facility and community, Erlyana says, is reason for the use of the term, “population health.”

Erlyana Erlyana

Dr. Erlyana Erlyana, Chair of Health Care Administration

“The [health care] field is changing, and we need our education to adapt; education is supposed to feed that interconnectivity. That’s what I like about this -- that collaborative spirit is going to make a big change. We are stronger when we are working together.”

“I think the key message is, it’s essential to have an interdisciplinary approach [in relation to public health] and bring different disciplines to work together,” Dr. Alaei says. “I think the College of Health and Human Services and Long Beach State is a great example of this work.”

Using the COVID-19 pandemic as a proxy to bring about more interdisciplinary efforts, Dr. Alaei says, is already bringing new innovative ideas and new technology to the forefront of public health.

“The most affected population is minorities,” says Alaei in reference to exacerbated health disparities as a function of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The point is to build up a culturally sensitive approach to healthcare, and to have discussions from different angles on health and human rights.” 

In the short term, while the School of Population and Public Health is being proposed, some activities are budding within the department of Health Science. In the long run, Dr. Alaei foresees potentially having a new building to house this hub of interdisciplinary work, relying on fundraising and endowments to champion this new school, which, according to Alaei, will have a new center for Global Health as well as expanded opportunities for research in International Health and Policy.

Enter Lucy Huckabay, who is moving to Health Science from the School of Nursing, where she served as director for 21 years. When Dr. Huckabay moves to the Health Science Department this fall, she will work with Dr. Alaei to create the Western Regional Collaborative Center for the World Health Organization (WHO). She will also help Dr. Alaei with developing the curriculum for the new doctorate program proposed for the School of Population and Public Health.

“With my years working on the doctorate program for nursing, I have all that expertise to take there [to Health Science for the School of Public Health],” Huckabay says. “I was going to retire completely and do my own international work because I have been a WHO consultant. Then Dr. Alaei said, ‘Lucy, you have an empire here [at the School of Nursing] -- come and do the same for us at our new school.’”

Lucy Huckabay

Dr. Lucy Huckabay, joining forces with Dr. Kamiar Alaei this fall in Health Science

Adds Dr. Alaei, “Everyone at the College of Health and Human Services has been extremely supportive – from Dean Lounsbery, to all faculty in Health Sciences and Health Care Administration -- to facilitate this new hub of learning,” Alaei says. “There is no limit to what we can achieve.”

Dr. Kamiar Alaei was recently featured on a podcast entitled "Lessons from a Global Health Hero" where he  shares lessons learned both in the trenches of public health and the corridors of Harvard, Oxford and other top universities with Futuro Health CEO Van Ton-Quinlivan. Chief among them is the importance of collaboration: Listen Here