Profile: The public health and homeland security connection—How a deployment works with the College of Medicine and World Campus

Lt. Col. Guy Moon

Lt. Col. Guy Moon

You would be hard pressed to find a student more perfectly suited for a Penn State Master’s Degree in Homeland Security—Public Health Preparedness (MHS-PHP) than Lt. Col. Guy Moon. A full-time active duty officer with the Nebraska Army National Guard, Moon completed part of his degree while on a deployment in Afghanistan. He formally received his degree from Penn State College of Medicine at its 2013 commencement today.

Moon’s position as the guard’s statewide education services officer put him in a unique position to know exactly what he wanted in an online program and, more importantly, how such a program should work. “I fully understand the value of education for military personal regardless of where they are in the career,” Moon says. He consulted higher education rankings that named Penn State as a military-friendly school and looked for an online program that offered homeland security programs. Moon narrowed his search down to three to four different schools, which he studied closely before make his choice.

So, why Penn State?

“There were only a few schools in the country that offered anything similar, but the PHP program at Penn State is the only one in the country that I found that falls under a college of medicine,” Moon says. “Being a part of the College of Medicine at Penn State was something that was very special and gave me an indication as to the program’s level of instruction. Most of my instructors were either physicians at Penn State Hershey Medical Center or other professors at Penn State, so I knew the level of instruction would be the best in the country.”

The College of Medicine and the Penn State World Campus began offering the specialized program in 2006. What makes it different from other programs is that its goal is focused on preparing homeland security professionals to respond to natural and man-made disasters and their aftermath. This interdisciplinary program draws from the expertise of eight academic departments in six colleges across Penn State.

After serving 30 years in the National Guard, Moon knew how important public health preparedness was. It was something he saw firsthand during his first two deployments. Since 9/11, Moon’s career has been primarily focused on homeland defense, but his experience also showed him the connection between food safety issues and homeland security. “Protecting our food sources has a lot of applicability in public health preparedness,” Moon says. “As a country, food safety issues were an afterthought, but our agriculture, such as beef production, has international implications because of our exports. If we lose our beef industry, we would take a dramatic drop in our gross domestic product (GDP), which would indirectly affect our entire nation.”

Moon put the definition of a “world campus” to the test in fall 2012 when he learned about an upcoming deployment to Afghanistan. Three years into his PHP degree, he only had to complete his capstone project to graduate. Penn State worked closely with Moon leading up to his deployment, allowing him to gather research in the field and complete his project upon his return. His final paper, “An End-of-Mission Review of the Agribusiness Development Team Program in Paktya Province, Afghanistan: A Program Evaluation,” was completed last month, enabling him to graduate this semester.

“I was deployed to Afghanistan as the office-in-charge of an agribusiness development team focused on food security issues, so I wanted to merge that work with the public health aspect of my master’s program,” Moon says. Moon and his team were focused on helping the Afghanistan communities establish themselves as self-sustaining in agriculture production. This, in turn, helps to solidify the economy of the country, making it more stable. “We are trying to literally help their farming communities feed their families,” Moon says. “I don’t think there is a better way to address a counter-insurgency mission than getting into the community and building trust with the people you are trying to help.”

As Moon prepares to retire from the military in the next year, he sees plenty of opportunities to use his degree from Penn State. “It’s definitely increased my marketability nationally,” Moon says. “I would like to do development work at the program management level where I can have the most impact. The Penn State program is doing exactly what I wanted it to do, which is to provide me with additional background for my post-military career.”

-by Holly Swanson

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