Public health school introduces new master’s core curriculum

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Students enrolled in a master's degree program in the Milken Institute School of Public Health will have a new core curriculum starting next fall.

Updated: Dec. 11, 2018 at 2:33 p.m.

Students enrolled in a master’s degree program in the Milken Institute School of Public Health will have a new core curriculum starting next fall.

The public health school has spent two years revising courses to include a greater focus on practical skills after Milken’s accrediting body released a new set of requirements for graduate public health programs in 2016. Officials and faculty said the curriculum changes will help the public health school better prepare students to work in the field and stay in line with national standards.

The public health school was last accredited in 2015, which will last until 2023, according to the school’s website. But the Council on Education for Public Health, the school’s accrediting body, released new requirements in October 2016 including guidelines to ensure master’s students learn evidence-based approaches to public health, public health and health care systems, leadership, communication and systems thinking.

Monique Turner, the associate dean for the master’s of public health programs and an associate professor of prevention and community health, said there are now 22 competencies and 12 learning objectives that every public health student must meet.

The competencies include topics like evidence-based approaches to public health, leadership, interprofessional practice and systems thinking and planning and management to promote public health, according to the 2016 guidelines.

“We took this opportunity to really look over our curriculum and ensure we are teaching our students for the future,” she said in an email. “And, of course, we need to maintain our solid accreditation.”

The changes to the core curriculum, which were established to “enhance the education of the next generation of public health practitioners,” include changes to courses like management and policy, which will be swapped for a course on fundamentals on health policy, according to the school’s updated curriculum.

Officials are also launching new courses, like Fundamentals of Program Evaluation and Leading Self and Teams in Public Health, according to the curriculum.

Turner added that an advisory committee comprised of vice chairs from all of the departments in the public health school helped change the curriculum.

“They helped think through the big picture,” she said. “Then, we pulled together a group that included every advisory committee member, any professor who teaches in our core curriculum, the academic deans, and chairs could send others if they wanted to.”

She added that the school held an eight-hour retreat last June to finalize the curriculum and presented the curriculum to every faculty meeting in the school this fall.

Turner said because of the curriculum changes, faculty will need to adjust their course syllabi. But she said that ideally, current students will complete the core curriculum prior to the fall of 2019.

“Our faculty are creating these courses with all of their assessments and students are less affected,” she said. “Many of our students are done with the core by the end of the first year.”

Other public health institutions, like the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, have transitioned their master’s program curriculum this academic year to meet the 2016 criteria from the Council of Education for Public Health.

Peter LaPuma, an associate professor in the public health school, said the new requirements included a focus on leadership and management training and diversity for the master’s in public health curriculum, leading officials to “modify the core.”

“A lot of the major elements will still be taught, but the inspiration behind rearranging the core had to do with complying with the new Council on Education for Public Health requirements,” he said.

He said the practicum course in the program, which previously required students to complete 120 hours of fieldwork, will change to focus on informative instruction and structured leadership training.

“Now we have a combination of both the practice as well as some didactic coursework that will also cover some of these management and leadership skills that we’d like to get across to the students,” LaPuma said.

The new core curriculum will be “more of a tweak than an overall change,” LaPuma said. The core will still include classes like statistics, environmental science and epidemiology, he said.

Sandro Galea, the dean of the public health school at Boston University, one of GW’s 12 peer schools, said the school updated its educational curriculum for its master’s in public health last fall to fit the accreditation requirements.

“We had a pretty elaborate process where we involved a lot of faculty and staff,” he said. “All leading public health schools are accredited by the program and we’ve seen an evolution of our program.”

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
Due to misinformation from a source, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Monique Turner is the assistant dean for the master’s of public health programs. She is the associate dean. We regret this error.

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