Bernard Saliba has been involved in the creation, development and teaching of the Bachelor of Health Science since it started in 2016.
In this blog, he explains what exactly health science means and talks about what it’s like to be a student in this degree.
How would you describe Health Science?
I always tell students that Health Science is the non-clinical side to medicine and health. You are not treating disease and injury; instead, you are preventing disease and injury. You are working behind-the-scenes, through policy or health promotion; or even through changing laws or influencing policy, gathering and analysing data to create programs with relevant stakeholders to create public health campaigns – this is what goes on behind the scenes.
The degree is very varied, which is helpful to students who are uncertain about where they want to take their tertiary education. As part of Health Science, we have different majors that are tailored to students’ interests. Students don’t even have to do a specified major and can choose the option of ‘no major’.
Health Science also creates pathways to undertake postgrad study in areas such as Speech Pathology, Orthoptics and Health Information Management. There are a lot of options that are available to students in Health Science, from human rights to epidemiological research.
Beyond study and career choices, the degree gives students a sense of what the world is like behind-the-scenes from a health lens. We look at trends to understand why people behave in certain ways. It makes for good humans, because you graduate with an appreciation for other people’s decisions and lifestyles.
Why is it important to emphasis choice in this degree?
In society, especially in Australia, we place so much pressure on high school students in Year 11 and 12 to find out “exactly what they want to do when they finish high school”. There’s so much pressure on these teenagers, who almost always have no idea what they want to do.
However, with the world becoming more connected and multidisciplinary, doing a degree like Health Science gives students the option to choose and flexibility to change direction.
They can develop a diverse set of skills that they might not develop through a more specialised degree. A Bachelor of Health Science degree is great for those who are unsure of what they want to do but are open to having different options to choose from.
How has the degree continued to develop and grow?
Based on feedback from students, we’ve implemented new initiatives to help students. For example, we have developed a careers-focused program for first-year students. The idea behind this is to target them in early stages of their tertiary education. By doing this, we can introduce career options from the beginning as a way to motivate them and to guide them to the right pathway. For one week, in both Autumn and Spring sessions, we give students the opportunity to learn about possible careers from professionals who are in the industry.
During this week, we invite industry partners and professionals to talk to students. We’ve had speakers from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) and many more.
It is still an early initiative but a lot of students have already told us how informative these sessions have been and how much they appreciated it. If we’re able to inspire a large number of students in their first year, then we are guaranteed to have more positive morale and more motivation among the students. They will come to class, not just because they have to, but because they are working towards a goal or a career that they learned about.
We have also started the student representative committee. Students can raise their concerns to us through this committee, so it is great to have a student body representing the cohorts. Another initiative I started, because I know how stressful uni life can be, was running optional mindfulness sessions for 5 minutes at the start of all my tutorials.
One of the strengths that we have is that all of our academics come from different backgrounds, from general practitioners to statisticians to epidemiologists to social workers. We have people from all sorts of backgrounds who are involved in teaching within the Bachelor, so students are exposed to diverse content and new and different ways of thinking. Lecturers and guest lecturers all come from very different disciplines and walks of life, which brings value to the students as well.
Find out more about Health Science at UTS
Read more: Getting to know: Bernard Saliba