New WBU Health Studies Degree Emphasizes Gerontology

A new degree program at Williams Baptist University will help students prepare for careers related to healthcare, with an emphasis on those who are aging. WBU is launching the Bachelor of Science in Health Studies: Gerontology this fall.

The hybrid degree program includes courses from several academic disciplines, and it is intended to provide students a well-rounded background for careers related to health care.

“This interdisciplinary degree includes courses in biology, psychology, business, physical education and Christian ministries and could be suitable for a student whose primary interest is in any of those areas, not just someone interested in health professions,” said Dr. Ann Paterson, Nell Mondy Chair of Natural Sciences at WBU.

The new degree program is intentionally flexible, aimed toward students whose desire is working with senior adults across a variety of career paths. Paterson, who helped design the curriculum, said that is one of the strengths of the hybrid program.

“There is a wide range of options, and students will tailor the degree to their specific interests,” Paterson said. “For example, someone interested in medicine would need electives in chemistry and physics and may want additional upper level science classes. Someone interested in a career in psychology, such as counseling, will need psychology electives. Those interested in Christian ministries need to tailor their degree for future careers or further study.”

Biology/pre-medicine is the single most popular major at WBU, due to the large number of students who are preparing for health related fields. Paterson noted that the new major is distinct from the biology degree in a number of ways, but she said it could still be a great course of study for those interested in a career in medicine.

“Many students are highly interested in health professions and may want to focus differently, including other relevant areas such as psychology. For example, a medical professional needs to know how to work with all sorts of patients. Some may want to know about running a business or about healthcare administration, which are not requirements for a biology degree, even though all degrees offer electives,” she said.

Paterson added that such a health studies program is a natural fit for a Christian university like WBU. “We attract students who want to serve and to make their world a better place,” she noted.

“We hope that students graduating with this degree will be well-prepared with expertise that helps them help people in multiple ways, with knowledge about how healthcare works, about unique needs of the elderly, about psychological needs at different stages of development, and with a solid foundation in Christian ministries and teachings from which they can help others face the most difficult times in their lives with hope and support.”

Dr. Stan Norman, president of Williams, said he is enthused about the health studies: gerontology program because it embraces a growing career field, and because it is an ideal extension of WBU’s mission.

“We want WBU graduates to be equipped to serve and to make a difference where they are needed most,” Norman said. “With an aging population, the need for professionals in the field of gerontology is going to be great. We believe this new program will help educate a new generation with academic excellence and Christ-like compassion to meet that need.”

The new program will be available at WBU starting this fall.

Williams is a private, Christian university in Walnut Ridge, Ark.