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Health sciences programs, partnerships fill Seton Hill dorms, pave way to careers

Debra Erdley
| Tuesday, May 30, 2017, 10:45 p.m.
Seton Hill University student Elizabeth Ginter, 19, of Homer City, hopes to be among the first Seton Hill University graduates admitted to Salus University accelerated doctor of optometery program under a new agreement Seton Hill inked with the suburban Philadelphia school.
Seton Hill University student Elizabeth Ginter, 19, of Homer City, hopes to be among the first Seton Hill University graduates admitted to Salus University accelerated doctor of optometery program under a new agreement Seton Hill inked with the suburban Philadelphia school.

The name change was just the beginning.

When Seton Hill College became Seton Hill University in 2002, no one knew just how stunning the changes would be 15 years later.

Then a small women's liberal arts college, the Greensburg university has tripled its enrollment to about 2,400 as a coed institution with an emphasis in health sciences. Programs in that area, including its pre-professional studies and physician's assistant program, account for more than 40 percent of its students.

The university hosts a 400-student branch of the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine on its Greensburg campus, and it inked another partnership last week to expand its footprint in the health sciences.

The new articulation agreement with Salus University in suburban Philadelphia calls for Seton Hill to launch pre-professional programs that will sync with requirements for admission to Salus' doctoral programs in audiology and optometry.

Founded in 1919, Salus is a graduate university specializing in health sciences.

Seton Hill's agreement reserves two seats a year out of 32 seats in each class in Salus' four-year doctor of audiology programs for qualified Seton Hill graduates. It also provides a smooth transition for qualified students seeking admission to the four-year doctor of optometry program after completing three years of classes at the Greensburg school.

The three-plus-four optometry program caught Elizabeth Ginter's attention the moment she heard about it last fall.

Ginter, 19, of Homer City said she has scheduled 19 credits this fall and plans to take heavy courseloads over the next two years to get a shot at the Salus optometry program.

“Not only because it is one less year of college to pay for, but being connected to the grad school is good. I read somewhere that only one in three students gets in the program. I have to test pretty high on the entrance exam and meet all the prerequisites at Seton Hill before they'll accept me. But I'm excited,” she said.

Optometry caught her eye early because her mother has a genetic condition that can cause blindness.

“That has been a pretty big part of my life,” she said.

Seton Hill Provost Sister Susan Yochum said the Salus programs sync well with Seton Hill's mission. Audiologists and optometrists are in demand and serve vital human needs.

“It fits right in with our initiative career readiness effort — that each student should have a four-year degree that is marketable,” she said.

Salus Communications Director Alexis Abate said the school considers agreements with universities such as Seton Hill important because they lay the groundwork for student success in post-graduate study.

The Salus partnerships follow a template Seton Hill pioneered in 2009 when it welcomed LECOM to its campus under the terms of an agreement that reserved up to 26 seats a year in the osteopathic medical program for qualified students.

Yochum said LECOM reserves up to five seats a year in its dental school for Seton Hill graduates and 10 spots in its doctor of pharmacy program.

While colleges and universities in the region struggle to fill classrooms and dormitories, Seton Hill has seen enrollment swell as ambitious students line up for such opportunities.

“It has attracted a very well-prepared student. It has our name out there,” Yochum said.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996, derdley@tribweb.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.

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