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University to establish new Master’s of Science in Global Public Health

Once approved, program will focus on public health issues in low, middle-income countries

By
Contributing Writer
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A motion to establish a new master’s degree program in global public health was passed at a University faculty meeting Oct. 3. Housed administratively in the School of Public Health, this new program will take an interdisciplinary approach that looks at issues related to wellness, disease, disability and death in low- and middle-income countries.

Pending final approval from the Corporation, the master’s program is expected to initiate its first class of about 10 students in fall 2018. Financially underwritten by the School of Public Health, the program aims to “examine the role of power, privilege, inequity and disparity in global health” and “develop the next generation of diverse global health scholars,” according to the proposal presented at the faculty meeting. Students of the new program are expected to complete nine required courses, three electives and an eight-week summer research practicum following their first year.

According to Terrie Wetle, dean of the School of Public Health, the new master’s program in global public health differs from the existing global health track in the master’s in public health. The new program is more focused and frames the coursework around global health issues, Wetle said. She called the new master’s option a “deep dive into issues related to international health in vulnerable populations.” The new program is also different from the traditional MPH because it incorporates a summer practicum experience in which students participate in research in places where University faculty have active collaborations. Students will join the “robust international research activities that our faculty is involved in,” Wetle said.

In the planning of the new master’s degree, Don Operario, professor of public health and associate dean for academic affairs in the School of Public Health, emphasized the program’s different perspectives on global health. The program draws from the biomedical sciences, social sciences, medicine and economics, he said. “The aim of this,” Operario said, “is to show the drivers of disease, death, health and wellness are multilayered and quite different.” The program will not operate through a “colonialist, northern lens,” Operario said, adding that the organizers “want to write a new paradigm that emphasizes the role of all partners to make a truly global health program.”

Professor of Epidemiology and Director of the International Health Institute Stephen McGarvey will teach the required first-semester seminar that incorporates interdisciplinary perspectives that the program aims to offer its students. McGarvey, who was also involved in the planning process, said the program will prepare students to work in both academic and non-academic environments. According to the program proposal, “graduates of the program will be prepared to join a growing global health workforce in research, government and non-government organizations and industry, with the goal of a more seamless connection between northern and southern global contexts.”

The faculty involved in planning researched global health programs at other universities. As opposed to the other programs, the University’s program “has this strong social science and implementation aspect in it,” McGarvey said. He also added that other programs are studying global health within a MPH program, whereas the new program at Brown will solely focus on global health.

The master’s program expects to recruit up to 10 students for its first year and plans to expand to accommodate 20 students, as the current faculty resources are a limiting factor. According to the proposal, faculty members of the program “will evaluate the program after a five-year period to see if there is broader market demand that would recommend scaling-up the program.”