Summer master’s program debuts at Public Health school

Although July signals a break from the rigor of academics for most Yale students, for approximately 25 new students at the School of Public Health, the month will mark the beginning of their classes.

Beginning July 2008, the School of Public Health will offer a new Advanced Professional Master’s of Public Health Program for students who already have medical or other doctoral degrees. Running from July to May, its new academic calendar replaces that in the existing One-Year MPH Program for advanced professionals, which began in 2006 and ran from September to May. But the biggest change is the program’s newly created summer session, said Robert Dubrow, designer of the new program and associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Public Health.

Existing deficiencies in the One-Year MPH Program prompted administrators to restructure the entire curriculum and schedule, he said. They began soliciting applications for the new program in late October.

The main problem with the existing Advanced Professional MPH Program is its requirement that students take seven classes each semester, Dubrow said, limiting flexibility in their schedules. At the new summer session, students will be able to complete three core classes before the semester begins, requiring them to take six rather than seven classes each semester.

Allowing advanced professionals to receive MPH degrees enhances the overall quality of the student body, according to a 2006 Report of Self-Study by the School of Public Health. The report cited the successes of similar programs at other schools.

Yale studied similar programs at peer institutions when designing its Advanced Professional MPH Program, which led to administrators’ decision to create the summer program, Dubrow said.

“Our program is not unique,” he said. “We are really copying other schools that have had successful programs along these lines.”

Dubrow said the School of Public Health is aiming to winnow its applicant pool down to a total of 15 enrolled students in the new program.

The creation of a summer session also will allow other members of the University to study at the School of Public Health, Dubrow said, not simply those in the MPH program.

Because of a demand for epidemiology and biostatistics training among members and staff of the medical school, the school will offer a total of roughly 25 spaces next summer, about 40 percent of which will be filled by non-degree students, he said.

Like the students enrolled in the Advanced Professional MPH program, other students enrolled over the summer must already have a professional degree related to public health.

In fact, non-degree students — who also pay tuition — could become an important part of the financial equation.

“Where we fall financially is if we don’t end up filling the class,” Dubrow said. “Where we make up for that is with the non-degree students, who do pay for the program.”

Because of this type of financial “back-up,” Dubrow said he does not anticipate that the program will lose money.

Still, monetary gain is not the main objective of the program, he said, and he does not expect the program to make a substantial amount of profit, citing the high cost of keeping faculty on campus over the summer.

Despite the recent attention given to the new MPH program and summer session, the School of Public Health does not offer as wide a variety of advanced professional programs as do some of its peers.

For example, Harvard University’s School of Public Health has offered multiple continuing education programs for about four decades, said David Shore, executive director and associate dean for the Center of Continuing Education at Harvard’s School of Public Health.

At Harvard, continuing education programs are independent from MPH programs, and there is very little overlap in the courses taken by degree and non-degree students, he said. Furthermore, while Harvard’s School of Public Health offers classes in the summer, its multiple summer sessions deal separately with degree- and non-degree students.

“[Harvard’s continuing education classes] don’t simply replicate in form or in substance the academic courses we offer,” Shore said. “It’s a new product for a different target market with very different objectives.”

At Yale, on the other hand, both degree and non-degree students will take classes together in the 2008 summer session.

Part of the goal of grouping these different students is to strengthen the MPH program as a whole, Dubrow said.

Erica Kenney EPH ’09, who is in her first year of the two-year MPH program, said she thinks sharing classes with professionals — who have new perspectives and unique backgrounds — can only enhance her own academic experience, especially because of the interdisciplinary nature of the field of public health.

The deadline for applications to the Advanced Professional MPH Program is Jan. 15.

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