First cohort with faculty

Tackling the Future of Healthcare Through Research

September 26, 2022

Lehigh’s College of Health Growing to Meet Demand

Lehigh University College of Health (COH) is well positioned to blaze trails.

Against the backdrop of a global pandemic, and the worst public health crisis in more than a century, Lehigh opened the COH in August 2020 –- its first new college in 50 years.

Recruiting talented faculty and attracting ambitious students passionate about addressing 21st-century health issues and disparities are among its leadership’s achievements over the past two years.

“Knowing that the health sector was growing so quickly, we wanted to be able to offer students access and to grow into areas we didn’t currently offer. Opening the doors was a big accomplishment,” says Elizabeth A. “Beth” Dolan, interim dean.

Nathan Urban, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Lehigh, says that faculty recruitment is going well with talented and committed professors who are “…clearly leaders in their field and who also are embracing this task and opportunity to create a new college.”

“We’re not doing something that is following a well-worn path,” he continues. “If we were starting a new college of engineering or business, there would be a recipe for that.”

The COH is committed to improving health equity using both data and technology along with community-based research approaches. “Not every community in this country, or the world, has equal access or is treated equally by our health systems. One area where we can have the greatest impact is by looking at inequities and vulnerable populations. That’s where application of new technologies and use of data can make the biggest difference,” Urban says.

“We have strength in data analytics and in community-based health research,” Dolan states. “To have a distinctive research impact, the College of Health will draw on Lehigh’s traditional strength in technology along with our rapidly growing faculty expertise in community and population health to reduce health disparities.” 

Lehigh students and faculty will be in a position to explore and develop meaningful health solutions in collaboration with marginalized communities, which can include Indigenous peoples, Latino, Hispanic and African-American populations. The goal to close health disparities is the College of Health’s priority for developing new apps or ground-breaking tech.

In addition to contributing to the work of governmental agencies, nonprofit organizations and global NGOs, COH graduates will be in a position to help the corporate sector in meaningful ways before the next public health crisis. By understanding how to structure work in a variety of industries – from corporate to manufacturing to distribution or service jobs – COH graduates are poised to play a critical role in keeping employees safe and informed by navigating future pandemics or health crises. 

“How many companies or other institutions, if they knew the pandemic was coming, would have wanted to have someone on their staff who understood what was coming and what they should be doing?” Urban says. “The College of Health is training students to be that person in an organization, to provide that insight.”

A passion for health equity, and the personal experiences around it, are among the motivating factors for students pursuing COH majors and they’re learning to use their skills and talents to make a profound difference when they return to some of those communities, Dolan explains. 

“I think our focus on health equity is resonating,” Dolan says. “Many of our students are pre-health because they want to become physicians, dentists or vets. The College of Health is a great place for them to start.”

The COH increases Lehigh’s number of women in STEM programs and fields, Dolan says. Currently, 75 percent of students are women and about 12.5 percent of anticipated incoming fall students will be international.

Dolan adds that 18 professors will be hired as COH faculty by fall 2022 with future growth predicted to reach 55 faculty serving 500 undergrads and 250 graduate students. Faculty expertise ranges from predicting infectious disease outbreaks to creating artificial intelligence to aiding in recovery, among other specialized areas. For example, there are candidates doing cutting-edge research in asthma treatment that could identify a “sub-species of asthma” and revolutionize asthma therapies.

“Our faculty’s research is already improving people’s lives,”  Dolan says.

Bachelor’s and master’s degrees, graduate certificates and a doctoral program round out COH offerings. Undergraduate program curricula currently include courses to satisfy a Bachelor of Science (BS) in population health and a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in community and population health, plus six undergraduate minors. Graduate opportunities include a Master of Public Health (MPH), an MS in Population Health, a Ph.D. in Population Health plus graduate certificates in population and global population health are highly flexible and offered as hybrid, in-person and remote classes, she adds.

Collaborative graduate programs mean that a joint MBA/MPH is possible to achieve in just 18 months – the fastest MBA/MPH in the country, according to Dolan. Plus, a Flex MBA with a concentration in public health management is available to students on a part-time basis.

Among the undergraduate program’s minors are population health, global health, community health, Indigenous peoples health, maternal and child health and health policy and politics - all buoyed by three interdisciplinary research institutes. Aligned with the COH are the Institute for Indigenous studies, the Institute for Health Policy & Politics and the Children's Environmental Precision Health Institute.

Dolan says that through the Institute for Indigenous Studies, students connect with members of Tribal Nations to forge partnerships with them around health disparities research. At the Institute for Health Policy & Politics, students work together editing a health policy journal including essays by leading health experts around the world. Urban says impacting public policy and influencing people’s behavior can help to create more of a willingness to do things to promote everyone’s better health.

“The pandemic forced us and caused us to realize how important these issues are,” Urban says. “Whether you are a company, a school district or a state government, getting policy right around health issues will be key to your success.”

And, students working with members of the Children’s Health Institute can minor in environmental health and participate directly in research projects investigating asthma clusters in Pennsylvania, Dolan adds. To meet the challenges of ever-expanding health data, the BS is geared toward training students to understand how to assemble, interpret and effectively articulate data findings. 

“Many institutions in the health sector have mountains of health data that they need people to analyze,” Dolan says. “Graduates of our BS program will bring to the problem their data analytics skills as well as an understanding of the determinants of health.” The insights gained from data will improve health care delivery and health outcomes across populations, she adds.

The BA degree, geared toward community and global health, is a more people-driven approach, she says. Students pursuing this degree learn how to collaborate with members of community organizations and to understand their priorities around the specific health needs within those communities to create interventions – whether in the United States or elsewhere in the world.

Collaboration with other Lehigh programs such as bioengineering, computer science engineering, business, education, health medicine and society provide interdisciplinary collaboration. Urban says that forging these connections and relationships between colleges could have an important and broad impact on the future of healthcare and services. 

“For example, we have some great health economists who are very interested in using data to understand the marketplace for products and economic data,” Urban says.

Students taking majors in other Lehigh programs have found the College of Health to be an opportunity to take complimentary classes or to add a minor to their degree. 

“About 50 percent of students in our minor programs have found us [from other colleges at Lehigh] and we love that,” Dolan says. “The COH is a start up nestled within in this well-established institution…with strong resources. We have students who are helping to guide the growth of the college including recruiting the incoming class, which is fantastic,” Dolan explains.


“How many companies or other institutions, if they knew the pandemic was coming, would have wanted to have someone on their staff who understood what was coming and what they should be doing?” Urban says. “The College of Health is training students to be that person in an organization, to provide that insight.”

Nathan Urban, Lehigh University Provost and Senior Vice President