GVSU expanding health programs to Traverse City

GVL / Luke Holmes
Melissa Perla helps strectch out Grant Fall in the Physical Therapy room in the Center for Health Sciences Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes Melissa Perla helps strectch out Grant Fall in the Physical Therapy room in the Center for Health Sciences Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016.

Meghan McBrady

Giving back and serving the community, offering quality care services and acting as a resource for eliminating health disparities are the goals of many health professionals.

In order to provide immediate relief to residents in Northern Michigan, Grand Valley State University’s health professions programs are expanding toward Traverse City, Michigan.

GVSU at Northwestern Michigan College University Center in Traverse City currently provides selected undergraduate and graduate degrees in Traverse City and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. The charter college will now offer a master’s of public health program and bachelor’s of allied health sciences program to the northern residents of the state.

Heather Wallace, an assistant professor for the public health program at GVSU, is leading the expansion. The expansion program is the first of its kind to be offered to students and health professionals in the Traverse City area.

“Working with the rural population in a variety of community settings will give students within the area the opportunity to pursue a graduate-level education in our public health program,” Wallace said. “It is important for those people living in their community that we can enhance their education so they can give back and benefit the community’s overall health.”

According to the Michigan Community Action Agency Association, a network service dedicated to reducing poverty in the state, Michigan’s rural communities are affected by poverty much more than large urban counties.

Because of this, northern counties like Clare, Lake and Roscommon counties have high child poverty rates, at well over 32 percent. Aside from those rates, there are also other kinds of health disparities within rural Michigan – such as individuals that have a variety of special health needs or are part of a migrant population – that can be addressed with a well-equipped public health program.

“One particular issue that we have noticed is that the older adults living in rural areas are multi-generation residents, going back to several generations,” Wallace said. “People in Northern Michigan want to age in place and (there are) not a great deal of resources for that and their specific health needs or problems.”

Ranelle Brew, director of the master’s of public health program at GVSU, said that while the expansion for the program is moving quickly, there are no new courses, just the chance to expand the Grand Rapids program into Traverse City. Enrollment for the allied health sciences program is now open, with classes beginning in fall 2016.

Brew said the quick move will give the university the opportunity to act as a force of good in serving and helping the community in any health-related issue.

“We really aren’t creating any new courses, but we are spreading the knowledge gained from the program in Grand Rapids so that we can meet the need for a public health program in rural communities,” she said. “Essentially, we are creating something that will benefit a lot of students and residents in Northern Michigan.”

For more information about GVSU’s Northwestern Michigan College University in Traverse City, visit www.gvsu.edu/traverse.