A student putting on a rubber glove.
A heart monitor.

NYU’s combined Global Public Health and Nursing major, hosted by both the School of Global Public Health and Meyers College of Nursing, pairs traditional nursing education—including rigorous clinical experiences in community and hospital settings—with an in-depth perspective in public health approaches. Students also have the benefit of NYU’s liberal arts core curriculum. The core builds students’ critical thinking skills through exposure to the humanities, arts, and social sciences.

“Public health allows you to impact people in a very systematic and coordinated way.”—Fatmata Barrie

Putting People First and Examining Inequities

The joint major is how students like Fatmata Barrie can gain the comprehensive knowledge and skills they need to address inequities in patient care around the world. In high school Fatmata interned as an emergency medical technician in Washington, DC. Oxygen tanks were a standard part of her supplies. They were easily accessible and always available. However, when her great aunt in Sierra Leone needed an oxygen tank to help with her congestive heart failure, her family couldn’t find one. “They drove for miles and miles to find a tank,” Fatmata explains. “Meanwhile, we had expired tanks in DC that had never been used.” The fact that oxygen tanks are so readily available for use at home in the United States but not in Sierra Leone is one example of the health inequities that drew Fatmata to the Global Public Health and Nursing major at NYU.

This combined major has been around for years, but interest has increased recently, especially due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Fatmata, whose mother is a nurse, was drawn to the one-on-one nurse–patient relationship. But she also wanted to find a way to address health problems more holistically. “I want to be a part of more large-scale change,” she says. “Public health allows you to impact people in a very systematic and coordinated way.”

Jennifer Agmon, who is interested in working in a community health setting, says choosing the combined major at NYU was “the best decision” for her. “The nursing program itself is incredible,” she says. “And when you add on the global public health aspect, you really get this stronger sense of how you need to consider every different facet of somebody’s life to understand their health needs.”

A student training at NYU’s nursing facilities.

Experiential Learning and Research Opportunities Are Key

Fatmata says she didn’t expect to be able to get significant public health experience as an undergraduate student. “I thought that was too lofty a goal,” she laughs. But through the Research Education in Cardiovascular Conditions Program, she’s already been involved in a National Institutes of Health–funded study on racial disparities in high blood pressure rates. She’s now working on a paper about the effects of perceived discrimination on blood pressure among African American mothers. What’s more, for her honors capstone guided by Associate Professor Victoria Vaughan Dickson, she will study the impact of mindfulness interventions on students with chronic diseases. Fatmata says those experiences have been invaluable. “This is something you do when you’re a PhD student,” she says.

Jennifer has also benefited from the Global Public Health and Nursing major’s emphasis on experiential learning. While studying abroad in Ghana, she analyzed an electronic waste site as part of an epidemiology class. When she returned to New York City, she wrote a paper about how best to mitigate health effects associated with the site for an environmental health class. “It’s a transformative experience to take what you’ve been studying and figure out how you can make a difference,” she says.

Students in a lecture hall.

Room to Be Your Whole Self

Both students have valued the flexibility of NYU’s curriculum. Fatmata took Spanish and courses on child and adolescent development outside her prerequisites. Jennifer enjoyed her writing and humanities classes, through which she explored philosophy and social justice issues. “Those really helped me hone in on my ideas and become a more critical thinker,” she says. “I got a much more well-rounded education than I would have if I had just stuck to the sciences.”

Fatmata says people used to ask her why she chose the combined Global Public Health and Nursing major. But, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, nobody asks her that anymore. “They go, ‘Oh, that’s so relevant,’” she says. “There’s more of an appreciation for public health efforts than ever.”