April 20, 2004
Phone: (504) 865-5714
When the medical school's class of 2004 graduates this spring, 27 students will receive a master's degree in public health along with their medical degrees. And in the class that will graduate in 2007, 57 medical students have enrolled in Tulane's MD/MPH combined degree program.
All-in-all, more than 175 students are currently enrolled in the program that allows students to get both degrees in four years. Many universities with both a medical school and a school of public health allow medical students to take a year off to get a degree in public health.
But Tulane is one of the few that integrates both degrees into a four-year program. Students take public health classes during the summer and during the school year.
In most cases they finish the coursework during their first two years. It isn't easy--the program adds an additional 30 hours to their already demanding course load, in addition to a required capstone project.
"Many of them say that's why they came to Tulane," said Tonette Krousel-Wood, assistant dean and director of the program. "They're hardworking, incredible students and I think they are sincere in their desire to make an impact."
Established in 1971, the program depends on support and cooperation between both schools. In the early years, a handful of students from each class enrolled. But it grew steadily.
Under the direction of Krousel-Wood, the program underwent administrative restructuring. Now, more than a third of each new class in the medical school enrolls in the program.
"A key goal of our program is to provide students with a tool kit they will be able to use in their future practice," said Krousel-Wood. "In the current era of healthcare, physicians have to understand not only patient-specific issues, but also how these issues impact public health and population-specific healthcare approaches."
There are seven fields of study in public health on which students can focus. The advent of managed care spurred interest in health systems management, which is the most popular field of study for Tulane MD/ MPH students. Tulane's Department of Tropical Medicine--the only one in the nation--and the Department of International Health and development draw medical students who hope to have international careers.
Others study community health sciences or epidemiology. Students say their education in public health gives them a depth of knowledge and expanded perspective that builds on the education they receive in medical school, as well as practical skills and the foundation necessary to integrate and adapt to Developments and changes in healthcare.
"Most of the students say that the capstone, which is usually a 'real-world project,' is when it all comes together and they truly make the connection between public health and their clinical training," said Krousel-Wood.
They have excellent advisers and role models in the many physicians with public health degrees who are on the faculty, and they benefit from interaction with the diverse and experienced student body at the public health school.
"The students from both schools learn a lot from each other," said Krousel-Wood. Graduates of the program have pursued a variety of careers including clinical medicine and research, international health, public health administration, healthcare administration and practice management.
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