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New Public Health Program

A Masters in Public Health (M.P.H.) degree program--which prepares students for leadership in addressing health problems from a population and community perspective--is now offered through the School of Medicine. The degree-granting program expects to have its first graduate in 2004.

A well-established field, public health carries out its mission through organized efforts--which cross various disciplines--that address the physical, mental, and environmental health concerns of communities and populations at risk for disease and injury. Public health goals are achieved through the application of health-promotion and disease-prevention technologies and interventions designed to improve and enhance quality of life. Public health related educational, research and service programs have been ongoing in various parts of the University for some time. Penn's new program recognizes the need to provide a focal point for these efforts to create synergy scholars and practitioners.

"The development of this program is a natural outgrowth of the interest in public health shared by many faculty and students throughout the campus, and it will greatly increase the visibility of Penn's public health efforts, both on campus and externally," explains Dr. Shiriki Kumanyika, director of the graduate program. "We want to enable students to embrace and achieve the public health paradigm as an essential component of their future endeavors in prevention, hygiene, education, and policy making. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that Penn students and faculty have the maximum positive impact upon current and future public health problems," adds Dr. Kumanyika, who serves as associate dean for Health Promotion & Disease Prevention and is professor of epidemiology.

Serving as M.P.H. Program co-director and chair of the curriculum committee is Dr. Margaret Controneo, associate professor of psychiatric mental health nursing and associate professor of nursing in psychiatry.

"The Masters in Public Health program is enriched by the diversity of intellectual talent of the Penn faculty from all areas of the University," explains Dean Arthur M. Rubenstein, EVP of the University for the Health System. Based in the School of Medicine, this interdisciplinary degree encompasses course offerings from a number of Penn's schools, including Nursing, SAS, Social Work, Veterinary Medicine, GSE, Wharton, and Dental Medicine.

The curriculum, developed to meet national accreditation guidelines, focuses on the five basic core areas that define public health--Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Environmental/Occupational Health, Behavioral Sciences, and Health Care Policy and Management. The specialized classes are available to all Penn students, not just those enrolled in the degree-granting program. Indeed, because public health study is complementary to a wide range of disciplines, there will be a particular emphasis on accessibility of the program to students in related fields via a joint degree program offered in conjunction with other University-based graduate programs. A combined MD/MPH dual degree provides an opportunity for Penn medical students to engage in public health studies in a combined five-year, dual degree option. Dr. Marjorie Bowman, chair of the Department of Family Practice and Community Medicine, chairs the faculty advisory committee for the MD/MPH option.

For information about the M.P.H. program, see


  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 23, February, 2003