Miller School’s New M.D./M.P.H. Program Awarded $2.2 Million

The Miller School has received a $2.2 million five-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to support innovative components of a newly created M.D./M.P.H. program. The new educational track will award the student both an M.D. and an M.P.H. (Master of Public Health) after four years of school. The program will respond directly to a severe shortage of physicians trained in public health and health care delivery.

The first two years of the program will be taught on the Miami campus of the Miller School, integrating public health coursework and research experiences from the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health with the medical education experience. Years three and four will take place predominantly in Palm Beach County at the clinical teaching sites currently affiliated with the University of Miami’s regional medical campus. In addition, the Palm Beach County Health Department and the Florida Public Health Institute will be important sites of clinical and public health education.

“The strength of the grant is our connection with the Palm Beach County Health Department, which is one of only a few academic health departments in the country,’‘ said Mark O’Connell, M.D., senior associate dean for educational development, and principal investigator of the grant at the Miller School. “By that I mean they not only provide public health services, but they do so with an academic approach by sponsoring a residency in preventive medicine and public health and educating the public health workforce of the future. The department also has a long history of providing primary care services to the underserved population of Palm Beach County, so we truly could not have a better partner to carry out the new educational track.”

The new Public Health Physician curriculum combines the Continuity Medical Curriculum developed and validated by UM during its joint program with Florida Atlantic University with a series of required and innovative courses and experiences in public health. The Continuity Medical Curriculum has been fully accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and emphasizes small-group instruction throughout. The public health program, which opens in June 2011, will start earlier in the year than the traditional medical curriculum and include public health courses and experiences throughout the four years.

“The awarding of this grant is validation from the federal government and outside reviewers that our program is recognized as a truly innovative way to integrate the M.D. and M.P.H. curriculums to educate a well-trained physician to care for patients in the rapidly changing health care environment of today,” said Laurence Gardner, M.D., executive dean for education and policy at the Miller School.

In 2007, the Institute of Medicine published a comprehensive study examining the shortage of public health physicians. The Miller School program is designed to address the problem by providing medical students with the skills to approach health problems from a population and prevention perspective by integrating the roles of the biological sciences and clinical practice with a broader knowledge base of practices used in public health.

“The Miller School was already committed to beginning the dual degree program next year, but this funding will allow us to further strengthen our curriculum and provide a truly integrated educational experience merging the basic generalist physician competencies with those of a public health professional,” said Julie Kornfeld, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the public health component of the program.

The first class to begin the program in June 2011 will graduate in May 2015.

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