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    American University
    Jul 15, 2024  
American University Catalog 2022-2023 
American University Catalog 2022-2023 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Health Studies


Chair  Anastasia Snelling
Associate Chair  Jolynn Gardner
Director, Public Health Scholars Program  Martinique Free 
Director, Undergraduate Programs  Melissa Hawkins

Full-Time Faculty

Professor  R.C. Karch, A. Snelling
Associate Professor  E. Cotter, K. Holton, C. Kuo, E. Mereish  
Assistant Professor  J. Young
Senior Professorial Lecturer  J. Gardner, M. Hawkins
Professorial Lecturer  L. Callender, A. Chrisler, D. Ford, M. Free, J. Gan, E. Margolin, A. Panzera, E. Reister, C. Ronzio

Emeriti Faculty

Professor Emeritus/a  M.J. Safrit
Associate Professor Emeritus/a  B.G. Coward, L.G. Nyce, B.J. Reimann
Assistant Professor Emeritus/a  P. Mehlert

Department Overview

The commitment and mission of the Department of Health Studies (DHS) is to educate and empower future leaders in the health professions to improve the health status and well-being of individuals, communities, organizations, and societies. This mission is achieved through innovative education, transformational research, creative partnerships, and policy change advocacy. Health issues are of universal interest and relevance, transcending the boundaries of race, religion, culture, and national origin. Educating others about promoting health-enhancing activities and providing health-supporting environments is of vital importance to improving health outcomes and overall well-being. DHS is committed to improving health and reducing health disparities among those living in this country and around the globe.

The faculty’s research activities emphasize the linkages among multiple determinants of health. The faculty approach health issues from a variety of perspectives including health promotion, public health, health sciences, epidemiology, psychology, and policy. Faculty members are committed to advancing knowledge through research to achieve optimal health for all. Further, community-based participatory research initiatives provide faculty and students an opportunity to identify, research, and establish strategies that advance the health of people, especially underrepresented and disadvantaged populations. DHS is committed to social justice, which is evident in the department’s scholarship and teaching activities.

Students have the opportunity to complete internships and community service projects in both the Washington, DC area and around the world. There are many agencies of the federal and local government that address health-related issues in the Washington, DC area, and provide numerous internship and cooperative-education opportunities for students. These include the Office of the Surgeon General, National Cancer Institute, Department of Health and Human Services, and the District of Columbia Department of Health. Nonprofit agencies in the area are also a rich source of internships, and include the Center for Science in the Public Interest, American Heart Association, Action Aid USA, the Capital Area Food Bank, La Clinica del Pueblo, March of Dimes, A Wider Circle, and many others. Students who study abroad are also able to complete internships at international governmental and nonprofit agencies in countries such as Kenya, India, Great Britain, and Spain.

Students enrolled in this department benefit from a strong alumni network that provides many opportunities for students. Many alumni are employed locally, making networking opportunities highly accessible to students. These connections, coupled with the department’s strong network of interdisciplinary affiliate faculty, provide extensive possibilities for community engagement, informational interviews, internship opportunities, and future job opportunities. Students are also engaged in active faculty research projects, both in traditional laboratories or in the DC environment.

Health Promotion

American University has been a leader in educating students in the fields of Health Promotion and Health Promotion Management since 1979. Health Promotion is the science and art of helping people, organizations, and communities change lifestyle behaviors to move toward a state of improved health resulting in decreased health care costs and reduction in chronic disease. To accomplish this objective, students learn the science of health through the study of nutrition, biology, anatomy and physiology, and psychology. By combining the study of health science with program planning for health promotion, students learn how to assess, implement, and evaluate programs that effectively achieve improved health outcomes. The Department of Health Studies offers a Health Promotion (BS)  and a Health Promotion Management (MS) . The Graduate Health Promotion Management program is offered entirely on campus and online.

Public Health

Maintaining and improving public health is one of the great mandates of our time. Public health is a highly interdisciplinary field and the Public Health (BA)  and Public Health (BS)  degrees which are accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, include courses from all schools and colleges at AU, taught by an extensive network of interdisciplinary faculty members in the US and abroad. Aging populations, global pandemics, environmental degradation, mental health concerns and an alarming increase in childhood obesity are just some of the many challenges to which the field directly responds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, public health is “the science of protecting and improving the health of families and communities through promotion of healthy lifestyles, research for disease and injury prevention, advocacy for efforts to limit health disparities and improve healthcare equity, enhancement of health-supporting environments, and detection and control of infectious diseases.” Overall, public health is concerned with protecting the health of entire populations. These populations can be as small as a local neighborhood, or as big as an entire country or region of the world.

Public Health Scholars Program

The Three-Year Public Health Scholars Program is a specialized course-of-study which provides an extraordinary opportunity for highly motivated incoming first-year students who have decided to prepare for a career in the field of public health. The program allows a cohort of College of Arts and Sciences  (CAS) first-year students to enroll in a Public Health program geared towards completion of the degree in three years. The three-year program accentuates experiential learning through study abroad experiences, service learning, and internship options, and also encourages full participation in student life on campus.

In this program, students:

  • engage in a specially developed study abroad experience as a cohort
  • apply public health skills and knowledge through service learning opportunities
  • work with public health professionals in internships locally or globally
  • receive support from program faculty, staff, and public health alumni with career/internship placement
  • take core public health courses as a cohort
  • engage in meaningful service activities outside the classroom as a cohort

Students interested in the Public Health Scholars Program must apply to the program as incoming first-year students. Details on applying are available from the Office of Admissions.

Honors in Health Studies 

The Honors in Health Studies  program allows outstanding students in the major the opportunity to pursue their majors in greater depth through advanced coursework and an independent scholarly research project with a faculty mentor. The program is designed to be a mark of distinction for undergraduate students, in all majors within the department, with outstanding academic performance and to promote scholarly development.

Nutrition Education 

The online Nutrition Education (MS)  provides candidates with focused theoretical and practical training in the field of nutrition. Graduates develop programming and intervention skills related to nutrition education, which allow them to design and implement nutrition education programs in corporations, government organizations, community organizations, schools, and universities. The program provides an education that balances the scientific principles of nutrition with education principles and program planning to assist people with improving nutrition behavior.

Health Fitness Classes

The Department of Health Studies also offers a variety of health and fitness electives that are open to students campus-wide. These electives provide enjoyable opportunities to engage in physical activity through courses such as yoga, salsa dancing, golf, tennis, weight training, and many others. Exploratory courses within the field of health promotion such as Introduction to Nutrition , Sports Psychology , and Strategies in Stress Management  are also open to all students.


    Major Program (UG)Minor (UG)Master’s Program (GR)Certificate (GR)