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Mix and Match MPH

By Greg Rienzi

“Flexibility” and “customizability” are the words that best describe changes in store for the Master of Public Health (MPH) program, the School’s bedrock and largest academic offering, says Ron Brookmeyer, PhD, professor of Biostatistics and chair of the MPH program. 

The revamped MPH curriculum emerged from a review committee chaired by Brookmeyer, which examined the strengths and weaknesses of the existing program. The committee conducted two surveys of current students and alumni, asking them for feedback on proposed changes.

Once the revamped curriculum is up and running for July’s entering class, Brookmeyer predicts that students will opt to mix and match and customize their own MPH program.

“Basically, they want flexibility in trying to meet their career goals, and we are trying to meet their various needs with these changes,” he says. “Some need a specialized program with a smaller cohort academic group, while others prefer the broad and general. Still others come here not sure what they want. Now they have a choice.”

For those who prefer the traditional path, the 11-month, full-time, intensive program remains virtually intact, save for a few tweaks. The refurbished summer curriculum includes a new course, “Tracking the Health of Populations,” and more foundation subjects like epidemiology and biostatistics. With the “meat and potatoes courses” offered in the summer, Brookmeyer says, full-time students can better take advantage of the nearly 400 elective courses offered during the regular academic year.

Students can also combine paths of study, crossing over from the full-time, part-time, and distance education programs. This option, available previously, is becoming increasingly popular among students—and will only become more so, Brookmeyer predicts.

“This way students on the full-time track, for instance, can take Internet courses along the way, and those who choose the part-time track will have up to three years to complete their degree, opting either to take courses in bunches or to stretch their stay out,” says Brookmeyer. “Why are we doing this? A lot of MPH candidates are returning students, many are older and have jobs and families that they can’t leave for 11 months.” These changes will enable the School to serve more students, he says.

Brookmeyer’s review committee found that nearly 75 percent of students and alumni surveyed expressed interest in electing a concentration. So, in addition to a general public health degree, students can now choose from a system of 10 concentrations. A sampling includes child health, health policy and financing, public health practice, and preparedness (which will focus on emergency response to events such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and coach students on how to speak to the media).