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Providence launches health science program

By: Jordan Ross

Posted: 07/13/2019 9:00 AM

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Dr. Rebecca Dielschneider, assistant professor of biology at Providence University College, pipes coloured fluid into a capsule in a laboratory space on the college’s Otterburne campus.

JORDAN ROSS | THE CARILLON Enlarge Image

Dr. Rebecca Dielschneider, assistant professor of biology at Providence University College, pipes coloured fluid into a capsule in a laboratory space on the college’s Otterburne campus.

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Post-secondary students aspiring to a career in health care or health research now have a new option right here in the Southeast.

This fall, Providence University College will launch a bachelor’s program in health science.

"We know that careers in health care are growing. There’s an incredible need for that, so this program is trying to add qualified workers to that workforce," said Dr. Rebecca Dielschneider, an assistant professor of biology who coordinates the four-year B.Sc. program.

Graduates may use the degree to find work as a lab assistant, researcher, or technologist, or as a springboard into a master’s program in fields like occupational therapy or physical therapy. Course credits are also transferrable, for those pursuing a career in nursing or medicine.

"The nice thing about it is that it checks off a lot of the prerequisite boxes for more advanced professional programs," Dielschneider said.

Alongside standard units on biology and chemistry, students will take a blend of laboratory and lecture-based courses in subjects like genetics and cell biology, taught by Dielschneider and a small team of adjunct instructors.

A new sociology of health course will cover socio-economic factors affecting human health.

"It’s a big goal of mine to make a lot of our science programs here multi-disciplinary," Dielschneider said, explaining the college’s small size means it often attracts students who want "a little bit of everything."

A cell biologist who specializes in immune and cancer cell research, Dielschneider became Providence’s first full-time faculty member in the natural sciences when she arrived on campus in 2016.

One year later, she helped roll out the college’s first three-year B.Sc. program. Its first cohort will graduate next April.

About two dozen science majors currently study at Providence. Dielschneider expects that number to grow now that there’s a second program offering on the books. She also hopes to develop additional science programs.

"Even though this is a small institution, I know that we can compete with the larger ones," she said.

According to Dielschneider, Providence’s foray into the natural sciences is a good fit for a 95-year-old institution with a history of broadening the traditional definition of Christian higher education.

"I think our mission now, to train leaders of character, is really trying to train leaders in all areas of the workplace, science included," she explained.

She drew a line between the work of health science graduates and the Bible’s greatest commandment.

"Anyone would say that they want a nurse, a doctor, a therapist that cares, that truly works with love. We’re trying to train people to meet those needs."

Some need only recall the culture wars of the 20th century to be reminded of the checkered relationship between evangelical Christianity and scientific inquiry. It’s a tension Dielschneider acknowledges, but slowly disarms in her students.

"I think whenever there is a hot topic, it’s better to enter into that than to ignore it," she said. "A college environment—an educated, welcoming environment—is one of the best places to talk about these things."

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