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Quality Enhancement Plan: Q&A with QEP Committee Chair Patrick Hopkins


Dr. Patrick HopkinsDr. Patrick D. Hopkins is chair and professor of philosophy at Millsaps and an associated faculty member at the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. He is chair of the steering committee for the College's Quality Enhancement Plan, a component of the College's Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation renewal process.

Q: What is the College's QEP?
A: The QEP is a new program to enhance student learning in a specific measurable way. Our QEP is called "Major Health: Enriching Students' Lives through Health Education."

Q: How will the QEP be instituted?
A: Using the Foundations course, freshmen will be divided into two groups; the control group will use the regular Foundations curriculum, and the experimental group will use the regular Foundations curriculum with a health education component. The effect of the program will be determined by a pre-test assessment and a post-test assessment over a four-year time period starting in 2013. The desired outcome is for the experimental group to show a statistically significant improvement in health knowledge and skills.

Q: How does Major Health differ from what alumni might have experienced?
A: My understanding is that at various times Millsaps has had physical education requirements. Colleges across the country are instituting, or re-instituting health and fitness requirements in order to deal with the problems of obesity, depression, heart disease, and diabetes. We are not talking about dodgeball or calisthenics in the Bowl. We are talking about the important factual information that health and fitness are indeed crucial to the good life.

Q: What has been inspiring about this project?
A: The fact that a student who is planning on making her career healthcare, Holly Irwin, B.S. 2012, was the person who submitted the original QEP proposal is particularly inspiring. But what has also been amazing is how many people think that health is a major aspect of our campus life that has gone underserved. I am constantly getting emails from students, staff, and faculty who have come across some new bit of data, or a new program, or a piece of fitness equipment, or a grant opportunity for health promotion. There is especially a lot of interest in changing our meal options. This is really on people's minds.

Q: What do you personally want to see accomplished through Major Health?
A: If Major Health is successful then I would like to see it continue as a permanent and wider program. We focus a lot on intellectual, spiritual, and community development here at Millsaps but interestingly, much of what our outreach programs are about have to do with the body. Feeding people. Getting people healthcare. Improving their shelter and sanitation facilities. Improving their economic situation so they can afford food, shelter, and healthcare. Those all have to do with the body and health. If the College could make health as central for our own students as we think it is for those to whom we reach out, that would be a success.

Q: Tell us a bit about the submission process and how a student's submission was chosen for the formal QEP.
A: Following a very common procedure in QEP development, a committee was formed in March of 2010 composed of members of every segment of the college community. The purpose of the committee was to inform the community about the QEP, to solicit proposals, and eventually to select the official QEP. The purpose of the committee and the procedure for QEP selection was posted on the QEP website in August of 2010 and was also explained in a large, 2-page ad in the P&W on August 26, 2010. The committee shepherded the process of publicizing and soliciting proposals for the QEP until the proposals were narrowed to three. Then the committee, based on their best understanding of QEP requirements, using numerous pieces of information gathered from attending SACS conferences, and incorporating feedback from the college community, selected the QEP topic.
Q: What do you think we can all learn from a focus on enriching our lives through health education?
A: There is a lot of good information out there about how important health is to our quality of life, financial stability, personal relationships, and general mood. There is also a lot of depressing information about how much damage poor health behaviors and lack of knowledge does to our region of the country. Hopefully, we can simply learn how to make our lives better.

Q: What do you do when you are not working? Hobbies, etc.
In a combination of things that might seem at odds with each other, I cook, play computer games, and spend a lot of time in the gym lifting weights.
Q: What are your areas of expertise or research interests?
-My degree is in Philosophy and I specialize in ethics, applied biomedical ethics, and the relationship between neurobiology and moral cognition.

Q: What are the next steps for QEP?
A: Millsaps currently is accepting applications for the position of director of health promotion, a position that will oversee the QEP. Read the full job description here.