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School of Nutrition's interdisciplinary PhD program second to none

Researcher reviewing samples in a lab
August 08, 2011

ASU's interdisciplinary Ph.D. program in Physical Activity, Nutrition and Wellness (PANW) is one of only a handful of programs in the U.S. that fully integrates both exercise and nutrition research with health promotion research. In contrast to similar programs, the ASU School of Nutrition and Health Promotion’s Ph.D. blends research and disciplinary/concentration courses in Nutrition and Physical Activity to prepare research scholars who contribute to public health through the delivery of effective health promotion, physical activity and nutrition programs to all segments of society.
According to Pamela Swan, associate professor and director of the PANW Program, ASU is the only university in the nation that offers a doctoral degree emphasizing health promotion and combining core courses in physical activity (i.e., exercise and wellness) and nutrition. “Baylor University offers the only program similar to ASU.” Swan also pointed out that the PANW program is classroom based while Baylor’s program is mostly online.

Ahead of the Times

The integration of wellcare and healthcare was not as prevalent when ASU’s interdisciplinary Ph.D. in PANW was launched in 2005. Today, the healthcare reform act calls for more preventive health education and holistic care to lessen the incidence and expense of obesity, type II diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. The doctoral program in PANW is well positioned to educate health professionals to address these and other disease risks. The PANW program is designed to foster research and promote healthy lifestyles in order to reduce the physical, social and economic costs of unhealthy living for Americans.
Director of the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, Linda Vaughan, feels the school has the right PhD program at the right time for the right need. “Our commitment to the PANW doctoral program was strengthened by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey that ranked Arizona 50th in the proportion of adults who were living sedentary lifestyles,” Vaughan said.

Purpose and Mission

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Physical Activity, Nutrition and Wellness is an interdisciplinary program designed to prepare research scholars, academic faculty and professionals who study physical activity promotion, nutrition science, healthy eating and lifestyles and exercise sciences. The program integrates graduate courses from several academic units to provide a sound foundation for research leading to a dissertation. The program focuses on issues that contribute to healthy living through the reduction of disease risk, quality of life promotion, enhancement of well being, and understanding mechanisms that underlie disease processes. Additionally, the program emphasizes community or clinical practices that promote physically active living, sound nutrition, and disease and injury risk reduction/prevention.

Graduates are prepared for research careers in higher education, governmental agencies, and health-related positions in private industry. Students may tailor a course of study that focuses on active living and wellness, nutrition science, or exercise science.

Research Intense

Students are actively involved in research at all stages of their doctoral study through their participation in research courses, independent research projects, research technical and skill building experiences, seminars and colloquia. Each student is expected to complete first and second year skill building research experiences, or mini-theses, and research projects leading to the dissertation.

Final Assessment

Professor Emeritus Charles Corbin, the architect of the original interdisciplinary program on which PANW is based, is in a unique position to assess the current degree program. He has maintained close contact with the program and its faculty since retiring in 2004.

“It is very satisfying to witness the refinements and growth of the Physical Activity, Nutrition and Wellness PhD program,” Corbin observed. “It is testimony to the vision and efforts of Pam Swan, Carol Johnston, and other PANW faculty that the program meets the ever growing health promotion research needs of these times.”