zoom image of College of Health Class of 2024

The College of Health’s Inaugural Class of 2024 gather over Zoom. Photo: Christa Neu

At a Time of Global Health Crisis, Lehigh Opens an Innovative College of Health

The College of Health is the first new college to open at Lehigh in the past 50 years.

On Aug. 21, Lehigh officially welcomed the College of Health’s Inaugural Class of 2024. The opening of the College was an important step forward in the history of the university, as it celebrated its first new college in 50 years.

With COVID-19 continuing to impact communities the world over, the College stands ready to take on both the pandemic and other emerging health problems. The College is the first in the world to offer undergraduate, graduate and executive degrees in population health, with a focus on innovation. 

Inaugural Dean Whitney P. Witt said, “Opening this College amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic underscores the importance of leveraging data to improve the health of millions of people at a time. Health crises like COVID-19 are precisely what the faculty research and students will learn about.”

 

A Unique College

Driven by innovation and technology, students studying at the College of Health will have opportunities for leadership and impact. They will engage in influential research, policy and practice to improve the health and well-being of our local, national and global communities.

“Talented students and researchers eager to innovate and collaborate will be drawn to Lehigh because of the College of Health and its potential for impact,” said Lehigh President John D. Simon. “Because of this college, Lehigh people will be leaders in industry and positioned at the forefront of innovative research. We'll be influencing policy and practice, and we'll be helping to improve the health of people in our community, as well as nationally and globally.”

diagram  on multiple determinants of health

A Dean’s Transformative Vision 

The College’s inaugural Dean, Whitney P. Witt, PhD, MPH, started her career working with people living with HIV/AIDS, and is now leading a College through the COVID-19 pandemic. Dean Witt expressed her deep commitment to innovation to improve health outcomes.

Inaugural College of Health Dean Whitney Witt

Inaugural College of Health Dean Whitney Witt

“The spirit of innovation and technology will be woven into all aspects of the educational and research programs. Machine learning and virtual reality environments will augment understanding and decision-making. Vigorous humanist perspectives will make data science outcomes accessible, telling the stories of lived human experience through verbal and visual narrative, inspiring action and change,” said Dean Witt.

With its focus on health innovation and technology, the College is the first to pursue population health as a convergence science, aiming for deeper, more intentional integration of substantive, methodological and technical expertise.   

Path to Prominence

Under President Simon’s leadership, Lehigh in 2016 embarked on a bold plan to expand the university’s impact on its students, its community and the world. Simon’s “Path to Prominence” strategic plan grows and diversifies student enrollment, invests in faculty to broaden Lehigh’s academic footprint, reimagines some of its iconic buildings and created the new College of Health.

“Our ambitious plans are designed to grow the impact of the university, so we can continue to prepare students to lead in rapidly changing fields and disciplines,” Simon said. “The College of Health will unlock new opportunities for students and researchers at a time of great evolution in health and the healthcare industry.”

Figure: Path to Prominence

Figure: Path to Prominence

New Home for the College of Health

The Health, Science, and Technology (HST) building is the future home of the College of Health, and will incorporate purpose-built resources to support interdisciplinary population health research. The facility will foster innovation between the College and other researchers across the university. HST will also be a community health space, allowing Lehigh to forge partnerships with local organizations, schools and churches. HST is expected to be completed in 2021.

 “HST will immerse faculty and students in an environment designed to catalyze interdisciplinary research and fundamentally change the way we pursue new knowledge at Lehigh,” said Simon. “It also has collaborative spaces and a new welcoming gateway from the South Side of Bethlehem. This new infrastructure will advance Lehigh’s research culture, fuel groundbreaking discoveries and usher in a new era of research prominence for the institution.”

Rendering of the Health, Science, and Technology (HST) building

A rendering of the Health, Science, and Technology (HST) building, which is expected to be completed in 2021. Follow along on Lehigh's live web cam as the university continues work on the future home of the College of Health.

Plentiful Opportunities for Jobs

The launch of the new College of Health comes at a time of change in health and health care–one during which leaders in health care, academia, government and industry are thinking more broadly about the concept of “health.” The demand for professionals with expertise in population health and data science is growing at a pace that exceeds the supply of graduates.

figure that shows career paths in population health

Figure: Plentiful Opportunities for Jobs

According to a 2016 IBM report, jobs specifying clinical data analysis increased by 54% with the need for clinical data systems specialists expected to increase by 24% by 2020. The 2018 NIH Strategic plan specifically calls for efforts to “enhance the nation’s biomedical data-science research workforce through improved training programs and novel partnerships.”  

The College will help create a pipeline of talent for these critically important professions through its undergraduate, graduate and executive education programs in population health data science. Students will solve real-world problems through organized research activities with faculty and external partners. 

“I think that the approach of the College of Health of facilitating and really providing students opportunities for experiential learning through internships and other connections and partnerships with outside entities will make graduates of the College of Health extremely competitive for outstanding opportunities in the future,” said Provost Nathan Urban.

Said Dean Witt: “This is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Lehigh University and the College of Health. This is a one-of-a-kind and groundbreaking College, like no other in the world, and will prepare the next generation of population health innovators and positively influence health.”

Zoom image of College of Health's Class of 2024

Lehigh's College of Health will prepare 'the next generation of population health innovators,' said Dean Whitney Witt. Photo: Christa Neu

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