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New Grant Increases Integration of Public Health Into Health-Professions Training

Madison, Wisconsin - Most people involved in the U.S. healthcare system are slowly coming to terms with the hard fact that public health problems such as the obesity epidemic are extremely difficult to solve. It will take years and a combination of many creative ideas from several different perspectives to get a handle on these very complicated problems.


The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) has led the way nationally with an innovative curriculum that introduces medical students early and often to public health principles and practices that can be used to address such challenging issues.


Now Dr. Patrick Remington, associate dean for public health at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, has won a $1.5 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration to plan for deeper and broader integration of public health into the medical degree (MD) and physician assistant (PA) curricula.


Co-investigators on the grant are Dr. Elizabeth Petty, senior associate dean for academic affairs at the school, and Dr. Cynthia Haq, director of TRIUMPH (Training in Urban Medicine and Public Health), a focus within the MD Program that features community and public health experiences.


“We want to shape a new generation of health professionals who will be fully equipped to incorporate health promotion and disease prevention into their future practices,” Remington says.


Becoming comfortable working on inter-professional teams that include community representatives will also be key, he adds.


The new program, called Public Health and Primary Care Innovations in Medical Education (PRIME), calls for organizing the curriculum into three distinct but interconnected “tiers” of public health education, arranged in a pyramid.


The foundational Tier 1, called “Inter-Professional Public Health and Primary Care Education,” systematically integrates public health and primary care into the curriculum for all MD and physician assistant students (the PA Program is based in the school’s Department of Family Medicine).


Tier 2 is an optional “Public Health Path of Distinction” for medical students seeking more experience and expertise in public health and primary care.


Tier 3 is a comprehensive “Dual MPH (Master of Public Health) Program” in which health-professions students work toward an MPH degree in addition to their clinical degree.


“We’ve already created a strong foundation for building this,” says Remington, who founded the school’s MPH degree program in 2007.


Dr. Petty and Dr. Christie Seibert, associate dean for medical education, have been steadily adding public health into the curricula in an effort to transform the educational enterprise. It has been part of an ongoing, comprehensive transformation of the school, at the direction of School of Medicine and Public Health dean Dr. Robert Golden, which integrates medicine and public health in all the school’s missions.


But the PRIME program provides a clearer “organizing concept” for the education component, Remington notes.


The newest part of the program is the path of distinction, which will include elective courses, opportunities to work with communities and a capstone report or some other option for reflecting on the experiences.


“We believe that all SMPH graduates will be competent in and understand public health and how to use it in their future practices, but we also recognize that some students will be interested in doing more,” Remington says. “We are giving students a lot of flexibility in determining their degree of involvement with public health training.”


Expanding the school’s network of partnerships with local and state health departments, community organizations, social service organizations and other places where students can get hands-on public health experiences will be an important aspect of the program.


“We have some very successful partnerships, but will need to increase capacity so that the additional students we expect to be involved can get the experiences they need,” he says.


Remington believes that students will add value to the organizations they work with on a short-term basis.


“In the long run, creating a larger, stronger workforce of healthcare professionals capable of incorporating public health in their practices will benefit many communities,” he says.

Date Published: 10/15/2012

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New Grant Increases Integration of Public Health Into Health-Professions Training

Last updated: 10/19/2015
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