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Global health a new focus for UC master's in public health program

Grad program gives students opportunities for international field and research experiences

“We live in a global community—people and diseases move around the world and these things can impact any health care system regardless of borders or boundaries,” says Charles Doarn, research professor of family and community medicine and a co-director for the new global health concentration in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine.

Beginning this fall, global health becomes one of now seven concentrations that students can choose to pursue as part of their MPH degree, offered in the Department of Environmental Health.

“A global health program will take into consideration infectious diseases and epidemiology and the importance of gearing to understand vulnerable and disadvantaged populations in any community,” says Ranjan Deka, PhD, also co-director of the new concentration, and a professor of epidemiology who has led the division of epidemiology for several years. “This is why global health programs at universities are such an important component to public health programs,” says Deka.

Deka says there are career opportunities out there for those who have a passion for global health, with non-profits like US Agency for International Development, World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as foundations like National Science Foundation.

In addition to the MPH core coursework (15 hours) a global health concentration will include four required courses, six hours of electives, as well as a practicum and capstone, or culminating experience. There are several options for international field or research experiences, and public health students have traveled to Tanzania, China, Ukraine and Romania, among others. And while Doarn would love to see “every student with a passport,” he says, “being in global health doesn’t mean you have to travel overseas. There are experiences you can develop here in our own community, working with refugee and immigrant populations.”

Doarn cites Christy O’Dea, MD, assistant professor and co-director of the Division of Global and Underserved Health in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, as a pioneering force in the college to get more students involved in global experiences related to health care. Serving as a field service coordinator and advisor, O’Dea coordinates four trips annually, open to students from the colleges of medicine, nursing and pharmacy, as well as residents.   

UC graduate student blowing bubbles with a child  in a Guatemalan medical clinic.

Josh Baugh, a UC student in the master's in public health program, with a child in a field clinic in Guatemala.

Josh Baugh, a current MPH student in global health, traveled this summer with O’Dea’s group to Guatemala, as part of The Christ Hospital/University of Cincinnati Family Medicine Residency program. The program offers field experiences in partnership with Maya Health Alliance, also known as Wuqu’ Kawoq, a Guatemalan based nongovernmental organization dedicated to providing high quality health care to Mayan communities in their native languages. 

 “Over the course of the trip I actively participated in 10 days of field clinics, made observations and talked with trip participants and Wuqu’ Kawoq staff to design an evaluation of the field clinics for my MPH capstone project,” says Baugh.  UC International helped to support Josh’s expenses related to the experience. 

One of the biggest impressions on Baugh was the juxtapositions of life in Guatemala. “While walking through the community of Tecpán, our homebase for the first week, you might see a man transporting fuel or crops by ox and cart, and then walk into a restaurant down the street where the servers take your order using an iPad. Or in the Boca Costa, an agriculturally rich area, despite a seemingly abundance of food many children came into the clinic malnourished.”

Baugh works as a clinical research coordinator at Cincinnati Children’s Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence while pursuing his MPH part-time. He hopes a MPH degree with a global health focus will allow him to advance into leadership positions at an international health organization. Baugh’s long-term career aspirations “are to help heal our planet and promote health equity around the world by working to address pressing issues like climate change and forced migration.”

Students interested in learning more about the UC master’s in public health can visit https://med.uc.edu/eh/divisions/publichealth