University of Maryland leaders announced Tuesday that they are creating a collaborative school of public health that will bridge campuses in College Park and Baltimore, enabling faculty and students from the two locations to work together more closely.
The joint effort comes after state university regents in December rejected a proposal to merge the flagship U-Md. in College Park with the University of Maryland, Baltimore. UMB has nationally ranked law and medical schools. College Park has neither.
The concept of a larger merger drew significant opposition, especially from Baltimore, which might have been seen as a junior partner even though UMB is a major research institution in its own right. Instead, the watchword now is “collaboration.”
The public health venture will bring together a 2,200-student school of public health in College Park with a 72-student master’s in public health program based within the School of Medicine in Baltimore. (About 100 master’s students among the 2,200 are at College Park.) The first master’s degrees from the collaborative school, assuming it wins accreditation, would be awarded in 2014. As of now, only three collaborative public health schools exist in the country.
Already, officials said, two professors from College Park have been given joint appointments on the UMB faculty, and students from College Park have worked on projects in Baltimore. Such teamwork will expand and flow in both directions. Joint research grant applications are also in the works.
College Park’s faculty has expertise in social epidemiology, health education, biostatics and other public health topics, said U-Md. President Wallace Loh, which complements UMB’s strengths in clinical research, epidemiology, global health and other subjects.
“This was a way for the two campuses to immediately engage,” said UMB President Jay A. Perman, who made the announcement with Loh at the University System of Maryland headquarters in Adelphi.
State university officials, eager to show that Maryland’s public universities are not balkanized, say more joint projects are in the works.
“This is a great first step,” said state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who had advocated a larger merger. He urged more teamwork among public universities in engineering, public policy and other fields.
Eventually, Miller predicted, “a complete merger” of UMB and the flagship school will take place. “It might not happen in my lifetime,” he said, “but it’ll happen.”