January 3, 2014 – Georgetown’s School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are offering a combined doctor of medicine (M.D.) and master’s in public health (MPH) degree to students seeking to understand their patients in the context of populations.
Through a new formal agreement between Georgetown and the Bloomberg School, a prospective Georgetown medical student can apply jointly to the School of Medicine for an M.D. and to Hopkins for an MPH.
The public health coursework is typically taken between the third and fourth years of medical school.
Social Justice Commitment
For some physicians-in-training at the School of Medicine, the Jesuit tradition of cura personalis – or “care of the whole person” – also means care of the whole population.
“The students we have seen from Georgetown are extremely bright, extremely dedicated – and their commitment to social justice is real,” says Marie Diener-West, chair of the master of public health program and a professor of biostatistics education at the Bloomberg School.
Bloomberg also offers a combined degree program with Georgetown’s Law Center to prepare students in the overlapping fields of law, public health, policy and ethics.
Transcending Individual Care
Four Georgetown students have pursued the M.D./MPH option since 2012, and Diener-West has shepherded the latest two – Christina Marie Hanna (F’08, M’14) and current MPH student Mutsa Nyakabau (M’15).
After he earns his combined degree, Nyakabau hopes to return to his native Zimbabwe to work for the Zimbabwean Health Ministry on the nation’s most prevalent health issues –cholera, malaria, HIV and cervical cancer.
“Control of such issues necessitates competencies that transcend beyond individual patient care,” he says. “One must address the issues from the lens of public health to ensure that the impact of such ailments is diminished in the population.”
Nyakabau’s MPH concentration is in infectious diseases and his capstone project involves the geographic and seasonal tracking of malaria incidence.
Hanna’s interest in promoting healthy behavior in adolescents led to her work in smoking prevention among youths in Egypt, where her parents were born, and to help address HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C., where case rates are the highest in the nation.
Her accomplishments include a Fulbright to work in Egypt and an internship with the World Health Organization.
But her desire to address patients both as individuals and as part of a broader cultural dynamic drove her to pursue a firm grounding in public health.
“The training from the MPH allows you to look beyond that individual to the community or population level to address systemic changes,” she says.
Hanna was able to earn her MPH from the Bloomberg School in less than a year while pursuing her medical degree.
“Hopkins is likely the best school of public health in the country, especially in epidemiology and population-based research,” says Dr. Stephen Ray Mitchell, dean of medical education at Georgetown’s School of Medicine. “It is important that we emphasize the personal relationship between one doctor and one patient. But for us to be physician leaders, we need to understand how one manages a population of patients and how we have an impact on a community.”
Hanna says her MPH gave her “a more holistic approach to health that complements the training I received as a medical student.”
She focused on epidemiology and biostatistics and learned about conducting a needs assessment, proper survey design, data collection methods and biostatistical data analysis.
With a strong interest in both primary care and global health, Hanna is now applying for a combined residency in internal medicine and pediatrics.
“My goal in combining these two residencies is to be able to follow patients across their lifespans and to improve the transition in care as adolescents move from pediatric to adult health care,” she says.