New BA in Health & Science Communication to prepare students for today’s challenges

New BA in Health & Science Communication to prepare students for today’s challenges


Two years ago, no one foresaw the novel coronavirus and worldwide spread of COVID-19, but many knew, sooner or later, that a global contagion was coming.

Anticipating health and science challenges – and the often difficult task of communicating about them – faculty and administrators in Rowan University’s Edelman College of Communication & Creative Arts began work on a program to train aspiring journalists, bloggers, public relations professionals and others to tell science and medical stories with authority, clarity and conviction.

The result, a new Bachelor of Arts in Health & Science Communication, will be available to students starting this fall.

“The B.A. in HSC will prepare students for STEM employment opportunities in a variety of fields, including media relations, public relations, health and science journalism, social media, new media, advertising, advocacy, technical communication and medical writing,” said Dr. Joy Cypher, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies who helped develop the new degree. “It will also provide students with a solid foundation for which to apply for graduate and professional programs in areas such as science communication, public health, scientific writing, pharmaceutical writing, medical school, health or environmental advocacy and genetic counseling.”

Among courses created to support the new program are Introduction to Health and Science Communication and Developing Health and Science Literacy, both of which are offered this fall, and students interested in the program are encouraged to take one or both of them.

Health communication is hardly new, but Cypher said a longstanding public interest in health and wellness, the worsening climate crisis, an aging populace and a burgeoning need to explain these and other medical/scientific issues fueled the new program’s development.

“In the field of communication, health and science is big,” said Cypher, who is also the coordinator of the new program. “There are a lot of jobs.”

Though plans for the new degree program began at least two years before the COVID-19 outbreak, Cypher said the deadly pandemic, in which as many as 25 percent of those affected worldwide reside in the U.S., exemplifies the need for communication professionals who speak science.

“With COVID, we see how knowledge is a moving target,” she said. “When we’re dealing with something like climate change or a new drug, it’s not often that we know everything. How we talk about science or environment helps demystify some of the things that science is and is not. Communicators need to clarify for their audience what is known and what is not known.”

Dr. Sanford Tweedie, dean of the Edelman CCCA, said while the new program was not created in response to COVID-19, the outbreak is expanding a need for communicators who understand science and who can explain medical, wellness and scientific issues to others.

“I can’t imagine much that is more relevant than health and science communication these days,” he said.

Students interested in pursuing the new program should discuss degree requirements with their academic advisor or Dr. Cypher.