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Executive Master’s Degree in Public Health Scholarship Named for Distinguished YSPH Alumna

June 18, 2021
by Colin Poitras

The Executive Master’s Degree in Public Health (M.P.H.) scholarship at the Yale School of Public Health is being named in honor of Irene Trowell-Harris, a distinguished school alumna known for her barrier-breaking accomplishments and generous support of education.

The $10,000 scholarship is available to every person who enrolls in the new online Executive M.P.H. program regardless of financial need. The program is designed for professionals interested in acquiring a strong public health education and hands-on leadership and management training. The inaugural class begins on July 2.

“The school is honored to name the scholarship after Dr. Trowell-Harris, one of our most distinguished alumni,” said Martin Klein, Ph.D., M.P.H. ’86, director of the Executive M.P.H. program. “Her professional accomplishments have added to the health and well-being of millions, and her personal story of perseverance and commitment serves as an inspiration to our students, current and future.”

Trowell-Harris, R.N., M.P.H. ’73, Ed.D, FAAN, was the first African American woman in the history of the U.S. Air National Guard to be promoted to brigadier general and subsequently, in 1998, to two-star major general. She was also the first nurse and first woman to command an Air National Guard medical clinic when she was appointed commander of the 105th U.S. Air Force Clinic in Newburgh, N.Y., a position previously held by physicians.

During her 38 years of service in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard, Trowell-Harris received numerous commendations including the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal; Legion of Merit award; Meritorious Service Medal; National Defense Service Medal with service star and Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

A lifelong leader in health care for veterans, Trowell-Harris served two presidents as director of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Center for Women Veterans, which monitors the welfare of more than 1.9 million women who have served in the Armed Forces.

Trowell-Harris’ journey as a trailblazing African American woman in the Armed Services is captured in her most recent book Bridges: A Life Building and Crossing Them.

She was one of 11 children who grew up on a South Carolina cotton farm that belonged to her grandfather, Jim Trowell, a former slave. Trowell-Harris was the first member of her family to attend college, using $61.25 in coins collected by her local church congregation to pay her initial tuition when she was admitted to a segregated nursing school.

She went on to become a flight nurse in the New York Air National Guard and served as a medical crew director during the Vietnam War Era. Trowell-Harris decided to pursue a master’s degree in public health administration at Yale in 1971 and furthered her education at Columbia University where she earned a health education doctorate.

Recognizing how the kindness of others helped further her own education, Trowell-Harris has paid it forward, establishing several funds to support the education and training of future nurses.

Trowell-Harris said her commitment to supporting others is guided by a famous quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

Said Trowell-Harris, “My career has been defined by leadership, collaboration and mentoring coupled with giving back and paying it forward for current and future generations. Investment in education provides student benefits for a lifetime.”

Trowell-Harris has been a longtime supporter of the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) and the YSPH Alumni Fund. In 2016, she established the Irene Trowell-Harris Endowed Scholarship Fund at YSPH, which supports students enrolled in the school’s joint degree program with the Yale School of Nursing. As a class agent for the Yale School of Public Health, Trowell-Harris inspires others to give so that more students can benefit from a YSPH education, regardless of their ability to pay.

She is a charter member of the Military Women’s Memorial and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. She was honored with a Fellowship in the American Academy of Nursing in 2018.

About the Online Executive M.P.H. Program

Designed for working health professionals, the online Executive M.P.H. provides a broad foundation in public health, specialized instruction in areas critical to health promotion and disease prevention and a year-long integrative capstone experience that enables students to apply what they have learned to a real-world public health problem.

Top faculty within the Yale School of Public Health, Yale School of Medicine and from outside Yale serve as instructors for the program.

Most of the coursework is completed remotely three semesters a year – summer, fall and spring – over two years. The course also includes three five-day in-person intensive sessions on the Yale campus.

The program offers four tracks:

  • Health Informatics
  • Environmental Health Sciences
  • Applied Analytical Methods and Epidemiology
  • Critical Topics in Public Health

Program participants also have full access to the Yale School of Public Health’s Career Management Center, which offers expert individual guidance and assistance for those seeking new jobs. Graduates become Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) alumni, joining an academic community of more than 6,400 alumni in all 50 states and 71 countries around the world.

Each online course consists of one-hour pre-recorded lecture and one hour of real-time class discussion in the evening. The curriculum is 16 credits and is built around four themes – management and leadership, core public health knowledge, specialization and integration.

Within these themes, students can learn such essential skills as:

  • Evidence-based decision making
  • Applying and interpreting biostatistics
  • Fundamentals of behavior theory
  • Public health ethics
  • Health informatics
  • Toxicology
  • Public health modeling
  • Leading transformational change
Submitted by Ivette Aquilino on June 18, 2021