Kristi Storti, a faculty member in Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Kinesiology, Health, and Sport Science and dean’s associate for Administration in the College of Health and Human Services, has been selected by IUP Provost Timothy Moerland to serve as the director of IUP’s Public Health program.
The bachelor of science degree in public health was approved by Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education Board of Governors in October 2016.
The program in Public Health is interdisciplinary, leveraging faculty, existing coursework, and infrastructure from three IUP colleges: Health and Human Services, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences and Mathematics. Students in the major may focus in four academic areas: Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Environmental and Occupational Health, Global and Rural Communities, and Behavioral and Mental Health. Faculty in more than 20 departments contributed to the development of the program.
This fall, there are 52 students in the public health program, including 12 freshmen, an increase from the fall 2019 enrollment of 43 students. Two majors will graduate in December; another senior is currently completing an internship.
Diane Shinberg, a faculty member in the IUP Department of Sociology, served as the first director of the program from August 2017 to August 2020.
“Dr. Shinberg did an excellent job as the inaugural director of the program,” Moerland said. “She brought a great deal of experience and research expertise to the position, and I want to thank her for laying a great foundation and getting the program firmly established at IUP.
“I feel very confident that Dr. Storti will continue to build on the groundwork that Dr. Shinberg has done and will continue to lead the program on its upward trajectory. Public health has always been an important field, but it’s become even more critical as we face this national pandemic,” Moerland said.
Storti is a physical activity epidemiologist with expertise is public health research, more specifically physical activity assessment, methodology, and analysis. Her research interests include physical activity assessment and promotion of physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices to prevent and/or manage health-related outcomes such as obesity, diabetes, and subclinical cardiovascular disease.
She joined the IUP faculty in 2014. Prior to her career at IUP, she served as a visiting assistant professor, epidemiologist, and director of the Physical Activity Resource Center for Public Health in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. She is a certified exercise physiologist by the American College of Sports Medicine and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, the American Heart Association, and the American Public Health Association.
Storti currently serves on the American College of Sports Medicine Ad-Hoc Health Fitness Content Advisory Committee and the ACSM Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference Research Committee. She has also served as an invited member on the Expert Review Panel for the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research; the Measures Registry Working Group; the American Heart Association Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism Council Early Career Committee; and the Measurement of Active and Sedentary Behaviors: Closing the Gaps in Self-Report Methods conference hosted by the National Cancer Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health Office of Disease Prevention, American College of Sports Medicine, and National Collaborative of Childhood Obesity Research.
She has a bachelor’s degree in physical education/exercise science from Slippery Rock University and a master of science degree in exercise physiology, a master of public health in epidemiology, and a PhD in epidemiology from the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health.
Scott Decker, assistant professor in IUP’s Department of Employment and Labor Relations and graduate coordinator, Health Services Administration, will serve with Storti as the assistant director of the Public Health program. Decker began as a faculty member at IUP in 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA from IUP, a master’s in public health degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and his JD from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. His research interests include labor and employment law, employee benefits and compensation, health care policy and reform, and labor history.
“I believe in the team approach to this program,” Storti said. She recognized the work that Shinberg did as the first director, and all of the ongoing work done at IUP.
“IUP has been on the forefront and has been a major contributor to the field of public health for a very long time in so many disciplines—through the Center for Rural Health and Safety, Nursing and Allied Health, Safety Sciences, and many others,” she said. “Our work in public health is like a painting. IUP has already created a very beautiful picture, and we continue to add to the painting.
“We view the public health degree as one more opportunity for students to find their passion and seize new opportunities and new connections,” she said. “This program is so needed, especially in light of current events, and we want to prepare students to go into the world to address all types of public health issues—not just the epidemiology of the coronavirus, but the ramifications of addressing a pandemic like this: people working from home, what happens to children who cannot be in schools, what results from a lack of physical activity. There are so many layers to public health, and all of these consequences need to be understood as part of the discipline.
“The interdisciplinary nature of our program is a great advantage,” she said. “Our program gives students a strong understanding of public health, but allows them to specialize in the field that interests them the most. Because of the number of electives, students have a great deal of flexibility, including seeking out a double major—for example, one of our students came to us as a safety sciences major and wanted to add the public health major because she realizes the increased opportunities for her career,” Storti said.
While the traditional way of presenting guest speakers in classes in person has changed, Storti and Decker are using technology to their advantage, bringing in speakers from all types of backgrounds, locations, and professional positions to expose students to the many career options related to a public health degree.
“I trained as an EMT and paramedic at IUP more than 30 years ago,” Decker said. “That was the start of a lifelong love affair with health care and public health, and it opened the door to many exciting experiences. I am pleased to note that IUP continues to train EMTs and paramedics for the community and am proud to be a part of IUP’s continuing commitment to the field of public health. Hopefully these current public health students will find as much personal fulfillment as I have since IUP first opened the door to public health for me back in 1983.”
The degree in public health is designed to meet a growing commonwealth workforce need in public health and related healthcare fields. Students will study the science of human health and the epidemiology of infectious and chronic diseases, as well as the complications of the United States and global healthcare systems with regard to access and ethics of the disparities in healthcare delivery.
Professional jobs related to public health are projected to increase in number from 2014 to 2024 by at least 23 percent. The US Department of Labor and Statistics predicts that by 2016 the need for counselors and those that train them (PhD counselor educators) will increase by 34 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
For more information, visit IUP’s program in Public Health.