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New Study Shows M.D./M.P.H. Graduates Take On Leadership Roles

A new study published in the journal PLOS ONE shows that graduates of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s M.D./M.P.H. program are taking leadership roles in their residencies, research activities and community initiatives.

Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.
Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A.

“We started our integrated four-year M.D./M.P.H. program in 2011 to address the public health needs of the 21st century, with an emphasis on leadership, research and public health,” said Latha Chandran, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., executive dean for education, chair of the Department of Medical Education and professor of medical education and pediatrics. “We launched this study of recent graduates in order to analyze the impact of our program and provide insights for other academic institutions.”

Integrating public health education into a medical curriculum allows students to gain complementary skills that provide a foundation for future achievements, according to Shirin Shafazand, M.D., M.S., professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine and director of the M.D./M.P.H. program.

“Each year, we admit approximately 50 students, a quarter of the student body, to our M.D./M.P.H. program,” she said. “Our program is special because students complete both degrees in four years through seamless integration of the curricula, which includes statistics, quality improvement and other public health topics.”

Julia Belkowitz, M.D., M.P.H.
Julia Belkowitz, M.D., M.P.H.

Julia Belkowitz, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for student affairs and associate professor of pediatrics, was lead author of the new study, “Early career outcomes of a large four-year M.D./M.P.H. program: Results of a cross sectional survey of three cohorts of graduates.” Co-authors were Sabrina Payoute, M.S., research associate; Gauri Agarwal, M.D., associate dean for curriculum and associate professor of medicine; Daniel Lichtstein, M.D., recently retired regional dean for medical education and professor of medicine; Roderick King, M.D., M.P.H., senior vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer, University of Maryland Medical System; Dr. Shafazand; and Dr. Chandran.

Impact of Public Health Education on Grads’ Careers

The new study was based on a survey sent to M.D./M.P.H. graduates from the Classes of 2015, 2016 and 2017 to understand how they incorporate public health training into their careers. The findings showed that many of the 82 respondents had leadership roles in their early careers: 35 were selected as chief residents; 38 listed other leadership activities held as residents; 12 held leadership positions in specialty-specific organizations; and 10 held other state or national leadership positions. In addition, 57 graduates participated in research projects, and 30 worked with public health initiatives during their residencies.

When asked to describe “the impact of your public health education on your career,” many graduates emphasized a shift in perspective or taking on leadership roles. As one respondent said, “My public health education taught me to better understand why underserved populations have worse health outcomes, which has inspired me to actively work to eliminate this health outcome gap in the way I practice medicine and live my life.”

Dr. Belkowitz noted that themes that emerged from the survey included the value of specific skills related to public health, a focus on health disparities and the ability to serve as leaders and mentors for their peers.

“Although the full impact of this training cannot be measured for many years to come, it is encouraging to see the early career leadership and research activities of our graduates,” Dr. Belkowitz said. “Looking ahead, we believe it is imperative that the U.S. build a workforce that includes physicians who have skills to address health issues beyond the individual patient to those involving the community.”

Tags: Department of Medical Education, M.D./M.P.H. Program