Tobe Gillogly and Melanie Solano

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Unique major a 'godsend' for CHSP graduate

When an aspiring nursing student had her dreams dashed, she was crushed and lost. For the first time in her adult life, Melanie Solano had to find a new path, one that would still allow her to put her knowledge of the health industry and her passion for helping others to use.

Now, Solano is a graduate of Ohio University’s Department of Interdisciplinary Health Studies in the College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP) and calls the Bachelor of Science program in IHS a “godsend.”

Solano graduated from high school in 2015 and planned to follow her mother’s footsteps into the field of nursing. She decided to attend the University of Kentucky. However, after a year, the distance was too much for the Cleveland native and she opted to transfer to OHIO. That decision put her behind on her nursing courses but the timing ultimately worked in her favor.

Despite having grades far from failing, Solano did not meet the academic requirements to continue in the nursing program and was told she would have to start over. Doing so would essentially nullify the first two years of her college academics and push her graduation date to 2021.

Through tears, Solano turned to advisors for help. Rebecca Zuspan, CHSP’s assistant dean for student services, suggested a newly created major in integrated healthcare studies. Originally designed for working healthcare professionals who wanted to pursue a bachelor’s degree, the BSIHS program found it could also be an option for those in Solano’s situation or other students in their junior year who decided another healthcare path would be more beneficial.

Working with her father, an engineer for NASA, Solano was given three days to decide her academic future. They went through spreadsheets of pros and cons. Skepticism arose around the BSIHS due to its newness and how general it was but those factors, combined with the fact that Solano would be able to graduate on time, are what drew her to choose that path.

 “Most professions here are very prescribed,” said Tobe Gillogly, Chair of IHS. “You take this path, you do this. You study nursing to be a nurse. You study physical therapy to be a physical therapist. It’s hard for some people to grasp that sometimes it’s a general degree that opens doors.”

“With a lot of programs, if you don’t finish that path, you’re stuck with what you have and you can’t do anything with it,” Solano added. “I feel like this is a great alternative that gives you options.”

The flexibility of the program worked perfectly for her. Seven-week courses combined with online classes allowed Solano to work 25 hours a week in addition to her course load, an option she doesn’t believe would have been possible in a more traditional major.

Solano did not end up graduating on time … she graduated early, walking through the Convocation Center in December, 2018. The month prior, she received a job offer. Less than an hour later, she received another. Solano was able to negotiate her own salary and is now employed as an independent randomization trials programmer in Cincinnati.

“The BSIHS gave me the option to continue what I wanted to do in healthcare without reprogramming my life,” said Solano. “Thankfully, I didn’t have to start over because I do feel like I have heart and soul and I want to be in healthcare.”

“I really believe in this degree,” added Gillogly. “It not only meets the educational needs of the student who is a working professional, but the fact that we can offer options to traditional students is also part of our responsibility as quality educators. There’s nothing worse than being halfway through college feeling it’s not working out and not knowing what to do. This type of degree is important and gives people choices.”

Solano hopes that more people will take advantage of the BSIHS given the “saving grace” it was for her.
“There’s risk but there’s great reward and that can be hard to see at the beginning,” she said. “I’m lucky that I found it. I hope others find it too. This program … It makes me satisfied to know that people aren’t going to feel the same way I felt when I was so lost.”

“Everything happens for a reason. I think it’s evident now,” said Solano.