Young academics are impressionable and I was no different. As I conversed with senior professors from the University of Michigan and University of Utah, I was puzzled by their collective animus toward accrediting bodies. The acronyms flew fast and furious as these leading researchers bristled with contempt for the considerable effort required to achieve and maintain accreditation status. Their enemy lists were extensive as they disparaged accrediting bodies that included the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), National Environmental Health Science & Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC), and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
I experience goose flesh upon reflection on my 18 years in academia as I rose from assistant professor to dean of a nationally-accredited school of public health (SPH). The journey was rewarding and I'm overwhelmed each time I encounter my students working in environmental and public health. They seem to be doing well because of, or more likely despite, my classroom prowess. I digress, however.
The ecological dominant in this accreditation conversation is CEPH, arguably the most important accrediting body for public health education in the world. Established in 1974 and located in Silver Spring, Maryland, CEPH is formally recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, governed by a 10-member board, and supported by 10 staff. They dispatch their stable of 100 trained academic and practitioner site visitors to public health educational institutions to assess conformance to established standards.
A dramatic increase in the number of CEPH-accredited schools and programs has occurred over the last 20 years. When I joined Loma Linda University as an assistant professor in 1992, there were 28 CEPH-accredited SPHs, fewer than 60 CEPH-accredited programs, and no CEPH-accredited baccalaureate programs. Today, over 200 schools and programs are accredited: 67 schools, 122 programs, and 15 stand-alone baccalaureate programs. Of the accredited institutions, six are outside the U.S.: Canada, Grenada, Israel, Lebanon, Mexico, and Taiwan. In full disclosure, I am a CEPH site visitor and have participated in or chaired site assessments throughout the U.S. and at two universities abroad.
Why is CEPH relevant to us? In 2016, CEPH published revised accreditation criteria that sent ripples across the...