By Emily Olsen, SOC Website Reporter
For most Loyola students, thinking about health care means considering a trip to the Wellness Center. The School of Communication’s new elective Health Communication (COMM 311) aims to educate students about the growing field of health communication and what careers are available.
Health communication has been one of the fastest growing communication specializations for decades, but a lot of students don’t recognize the career potential in the field, said SoC Associate Professor Marjorie Kruvand.
“Unless students have experienced a serious illness themselves or had a relative experience a serious illness, health care issues are not on their radar,” said Kruvand.
The course counts as elective credit for Journalism, Advertising and Public Relations and Advocacy and Social Change majors. As American health care changes, the course will give students basic information on how health care works in our country, what roles health communicators play and provide hands-on experience creating a public health campaign.
Kruvand knows the career opportunities in health communication first-hand, leading health care communication practice in the headquarters office of global communications firm FleishmanHillard and working as a health care reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“This is something that is near and dear to my heart, but I don’t just teach the class because I enjoy the subject. I think it’s very important for our school and any school to offer opportunities where there are robust career opportunities,” said Kruvand.
When the class was last offered in Fall 2012, students went on a tour of Lurie Children’s Hospital with their chief of public relations, listened to guest speakers from the AIDS Foundation and the American Hospital Association and were able to make their own statewide public health campaign.
Their campaign I’LL Be Healthy was created for the Illinois Maternal & Child Health Coalition and aimed to make Illinois residents aware of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.
“I was blown away by what the class came up with,” said Kruvand, “They did a fantastic job, they ended up feeling really good about their project and they had real world materials to put into their portfolios.”
Ericka Reyes, a senior Advertising and Public Relations and Psychology double major who took the course in Fall 2012, felt the campaign was her favorite part of the course.
“It gave me so much experience and so much knowledge about the Affordable Care Act and how to effectively communicate it to others,” said Reyes.
Though Reyes was not initially interested in health communication as a career option, she considers it a viable option now.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s very, very rewarding as well,” said Reyes.
Junior Advertising and Public Relations major Nicoletta Straub was initially pre-medicine and took the course as a way to combine her interest in health care and public relations.
She felt an important part of the course was seeing that a similar public health campaign based in Missouri contained a lot of the same elements as their campaign.
“It was rewarding to see that we were doing these things as undergraduates,” said Straub.
Kruvand said the course would be valuable for any students who are curious about the field, from working as a medical reporter at the Chicago Tribune, working in marketing at Lurie Children’s Hospital or doing public relations for a non-profit.
“I think anyone who’s open to exploring an interesting career opportunity or career path,” said Kruvand, “To succeed in health communication you don’t need to know a lot about medicine or health, you don’t have to be a science whiz, you just have to have the interest and be willing to learn.”