Texas Needs Physicians Trained in Public Health (Abstract)

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Abstract of Journal Article - April 2010

Tex Med . 2010;106(4):71.

By Sharon P. Cooper, PhD; Joseph B. McCormick; Cynthia L. Chappell; Nanette Clare, MD; Leonel Vela, MD, MPH; Tatjana Walker; Mary Ann Smith; Lynne P. Heilbrun; Debra L. Stark; Reed Schoenly; Ximena Urrutia-Rojas, RN, DrPH; and Claudia S. Miller, MD, MS

Traditionally, medicine and public health have not worked as synergistic disciplines because they are based on fundamentally different models. However, a number of very recent imperatives emphasize the need for dual training in these fields to address major public health problems facing society as well as the documented and forecasted workforce shortages. In response to this need, two University of Texas institutions based in San Antonio, Texas, partnered in 2007 to offer a dual 4-year Doctor of Medicine/Master of Public health (MD/MPH) degree program, one of a handful in the nation. Approximately 65 students (or 10% of three consecutive medical school classes) are currently enrolled. The dual-degree program meets the requirements of both degree programs while giving shared MPH credit for relevant courses taken in the medical curriculum and medical school credit for some courses in the public health curriculum. However, 75% of the MPH coursework originates at the School of Public Health.

Initial results from focus groups conducted after the first year showed a high degree of student satisfaction, with frequent comments that the program was broadening their perspective on medicine and influencing their career and life goals. A dual MD/MPH degree is an important option for all medical students as a means of addressing pressing health issues in our society through combined training in medicine and the broader areas of prevention and population health. The four-year MD/MPH program, while posing challenges for faculty and students, attracts community- and prevention-minded medical students, reduces training costs (housing/living costs and lost time and wages before entering residency), and allows students to progress with the rest of their class.


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