Program accreditation
Liaison Committee on Medical Education (M.D.)
Council on Education for Public Health (M.P.H.)

Program goal

The Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health in the School of Medicine offers a program for VCU medical students to obtain a Master of Public Health degree in conjunction with their medical training. The M.D./M.P.H. combined-degree program provides an opportunity for medical students who wish to pursue a public health or research career to graduate from medical school trained in both clinical and preventive, population-oriented medicine. Graduates from this program are prepared for positions in preventive medicine, primary care, research, community-based health centers and state and local health departments. To meet degree requirements, students complete:

  • 12 credits of core courses
  • Nine credits of required courses
  • 12 credits of electives
  • Three credits of a capstone project

The objective of the combined program is to provide high quality and in-depth training in public health to qualified medical students. The five-year program includes four years of medical school and one year of study in the M.P.H. program. During the M.P.H. year, students take a minimum of 36 credit hours of course work. Students receive three credit hours for successful completion of the "Population Health" course in medical school and take a minimum of one public health elective during the M-4 year to satisfy the public health internship requirement. In addition, a waiver of nine credits that applies to M.P.H. students who hold a terminal or first professional degree is enacted.

Note: Students may register for the M.P.H. year either prior to entering medical school or after the M-3 year and prior to M-4 electives. Enrollment in the dual-degree program requires admission into both the School of Medicine and the Graduate School. Students must successfully complete all required course work to receive both degrees at the end of the five years.

The mission of the M.P.H. program is to engage students in an experiential, learner-centered environment, collaborate with public health partners in Central Virginia to promote health equity and community wellness, and foster lifelong inquiry and discovery in interdisciplinary, translational research that improves human health.

The overall goal of the M.P.H. program is to educate students to become well-grounded in the essential knowledge, skills and attitudes of public health and demonstrate their ability to apply these essentials through course work, internships and the M.P.H. capstone project. This program is designed to provide students with the skills required to advance to positions as public health practitioners in a broad spectrum of positions and settings and who can perform the following:

  1. Administer public health programs
  2. Collect, analyze and evaluate public health data
  3. Plan, implement and evaluate public health interventions
  4. Apply results of evaluations and data analyses to policy development as necessary
  5. Promote public health through educational campaigns

The structure of the program provides a framework for the progressive development of a mastery of the current state of the subject matter of public health and an ability to synthesize and apply this information to the identification of key areas of practice and research in public health. Students will develop educational competencies outlined by the M.P.H. program. These competencies cover the foundational knowledge necessary for a public health practitioner to both communicate the core of public health knowledge and express the design, results and interpretation of various public health interventions, evaluations, and data collection and analysis efforts to a variety of potential audiences.

Student learning outcomes

The M.P.H. program trains students to develop the following educational competencies, selected from the Association of Schools of Public Health’s “Master’s Degree in Public Health Core Competency Model,” August 2006.

  1. Biostatistics
    1. Describe the roles biostatistics serves in the discipline of public health
    2. Describe basic concepts of probability, random variation and commonly used statistical probability distributions
    3. Describe preferred methodological alternatives to commonly used statistical methods when assumptions are not met
    4. Distinguish among the different measurement scales and the implications for selection of statistical methods to be used based on these distinctions
    5. Apply descriptive techniques commonly used to summarize public health data
    6. Apply common statistical methods for inference
    7. Apply descriptive and inferential methodologies according to the type of study design for answering a particular research question
    8. Apply basic informatics techniques with vital statistics and public health records in the description of public health characteristics and in public health research and evaluation
    9. Interpret results of statistical analyses found in public health studies
    10. Develop written and oral presentations based on statistical analyses for both public health professionals and educated lay audiences
  2. Environmental health sciences
    1. Describe the direct and indirect human, ecological and safety effects of major environmental and occupational agents
    2. Describe genetic, physiologic and psychosocial factors that affect susceptibility to adverse health outcomes following exposure to environmental hazards
    3. Describe federal and state regulatory programs, guidelines and authorities that control environmental health issues
    4. Specify current environmental risk assessment methods
    5. Specify approaches for assessing, preventing and controlling environmental hazards that pose risks to human health and safety
    6. Explain the general mechanisms of toxicity in eliciting a toxic response to various environmental exposures
    7. Discuss various risk management and risk communication approaches in relation to issues of environmental justice and equity
  3. Epidemiology
    1. Identify key sources of data for epidemiologic purposes
    2. Describe a public health problem in terms of magnitude, person, time and place
    3. Explain the importance of epidemiology for informing scientific, ethical, economic and political discussion of health issues
    4. Apply the basic terminology and definitions of epidemiology
    5. Calculate basic epidemiology measures
    6. Communicate epidemiologic information to lay and professional audiences
    7. Draw appropriate inferences from epidemiologic data
    8. Evaluate the strengths and limitations of epidemiologic reports
  4. Health policy and management
    1. Identify the main components and issues of the organization, financing and delivery of health services and public health systems in the U.S.
    2. Describe the legal and ethical bases for public health and health services
    3. Discuss the policy process for improving the health status of populations
  5. Social and behavioral sciences
    1. Identify basic theories, concepts and models from a range of social and behavioral disciplines that are used in public health research and practice
    2. Identify the causes of social and behavioral factors that affect health of individuals and populations
    3. Describe steps and procedures for the planning, implementation and evaluation of public health programs, policies and interventions
    4. Apply evidence-based approaches in the development and evaluation of social and behavioral science interventions
    5. Apply ethical principles to public health program planning, implementation and evaluation
  6. Communication and informatics
    1. Describe how societal, organizational and individual factors influence and are influenced by public health communications
    2. Demonstrate effective written and oral skills for communicating with different audiences in the context of professional public health activities
  7. Diversity and culture
    1. Describe the roles of history, power, privilege and structural inequality in producing health disparities
    2. Explain how professional ethics and practices relate to equity and accountability in diverse community settings
    3. Differentiate among availability, acceptability and accessibility of health care across diverse populations
  8. Leadership
    1. Engage in dialogue and learning from others to advance public health goals
    2. Demonstrate transparency, integrity and honesty in all actions
  9. Public health biology
    1. Apply biological principles to development and implementation of disease prevention, control or management programs
  10. Professionalism
    1. Apply basic principles of ethical analysis (e.g. the Public Health Code of Ethics, human rights framework, other moral theories) to issues of public health practice and policy
    2. Apply evidence-based principles and the scientific knowledge base to critical evaluation and decision-making in public health
    3. Apply the core functions of assessment, policy development and assurance in the analysis of public health problems and their solutions
    4. Promote high standards of personal and organizational integrity, compassion, honesty and respect for all people
    5. Distinguish between population and individual ethical considerations in relation to the benefits, costs and burdens of public health programs
    6. Appreciate the importance of working collaboratively with diverse communities and constituencies (e.g. researchers, practitioners, agencies and organizations)
  11. Program planning
    1. Differentiate among goals, measurable objectives, related activities and expected outcomes for a public health program
    2. Differentiate the purposes of formative, process and outcome evaluation

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Other information

The M.P.H. program student handbook is available upon request.

School of Medicine graduate program policies

The School of Medicine provides policies applicable to all programs administratively housed in the school. Information on master’s programs is available elsewhere in this chapter of the Graduate Bulletin.

For the M.P.H., apply online at sophas.org.

Admission requirements

Degree: Semester(s) of entry: Deadline dates: Test requirements:
M.D. and M.P.H.FallApplications strongly encouraged by Jan 1MCAT (acceptable in lieu of GRE scores for this combined professional/academic degree program) TOEFL

Note: Students applying to the joint M.D./M.P.H. program should be accepted to the VCU School of Medicine prior to applying to the M.D./M.P.H. Program. Students must apply separately to each program. Applications to the M.P.H. program are made through sophas.org.

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, applicants must present the following qualifications.

  1. Prior degree: Students must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in all undergraduate and any other graduate study. Official copies of transcripts for all prior degrees earned must be submitted to the VCU Office of Graduate Admissions.
  2. Test scores: The M.P.H. program normally requires GRE scores, but for the combined M.D./M.P.H., students may submit MCAT scores provided for admission to the School of Medicine in lieu of GRE scores.
  3. TOEFL: International students must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Minimum TOEFL score is 600 (paper-based), 250 (computer-based) or 100 (Internet-based); IELTS minimum score is 7.0. Test score requirements may be waived for international students who have received a medical degree (M.D.) in the U.S. Contact the program coordinator for more information.

Students must also submit the following materials with their applications:

  1. Letters of recommendation from three individuals who can assess applicant qualifications for graduate school; at least one academic reference is required, but two are preferred. Most appropriate are letters from past professors or work supervisors.
  2. Current version of curriculum vitae or resume. Include experience and/or education relevant to study in public health.
  3. Personal statement addressing the following issues:
    • What applicant plans to do in the first few years after graduation
    • Why VCU’s M.P.H. program best fits the student’s public health interests
    • Description of applicant’s particular areas of interest in public health (e.g., maternal and child health, cancer epidemiology)
    • How an M.P.H. degree will help the applicant achieve her/his career goals
    • Why the applicant wishes to pursue an M.P.H. degree
    • Description of the applicant’s career goals

Degree requirements

The Master of Public Health program prepares students committed to public health careers in the public, private or nonprofit sectors. Public health works to prevent health problems in populations before these problems occur. The M.P.H. provides a rigorous curriculum to help students develop the analytic and critical reasoning skills to improve population health. The program boasts experiential learning, a highly interactive environment, accessible and approachable faculty and student involvement in important projects.

In addition to general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, students are required to successfully complete minimum of 36 credit hours of formal course work and practicum, a 20-hour community-based learning experience, attendance at 12 public health seminars, and a capstone project. In addition, medical students will complete a public health elective during the M-4 year at a placement approved by the M.P.H. program director, in lieu of the required public health internship.

The M.P.H. program can be individualized to meet the varied needs and interests of students. The program offers many electives, allowing students to tailor the program to meet educational objectives, and it is flexible enough to accommodate students who enter the program with various backgrounds and experiences.

Capstone project: The culminating work in the M.P.H. program is the capstone project. The project is a practical experience that allows the student to apply what has been learned in the didactic components of the curriculum to a focused project. The goal is to enhance the student’s academic experience through the application of public health concepts and skills in a supervised experience. Students are required to synthesize the literature; analyze, assess or evaluate quantitative or qualitative data; and in general apply theory and integrate knowledge gained and principles in situations that approximate some aspects of professional practice. With this mentored experience, students are able to both broaden their skills and hone their proficiency in a specific area of public health. The major product of this culminating experience is expected to vary depending on the educational goals of the student, but could include one of the following:

  1. Manuscript suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal
  2. Comprehensive disease-related report
  3. Policy analysis report
  4. Health promotion materials (e.g., brochures/posters/fliers, educational video games, website content, etc.) on a specific disease area
  5. Needs assessment for a specific population
  6. Development and implementation of target population surveys
  7. Program evaluation

At a minimum, the capstone experience will require the integration of multiple major competencies used by a public health professional. In fulfilling the capstone requirement, each candidate must: (a) submit a formal written paper of sufficient depth and rigor and (b) satisfactorily complete a poster presentation of the project chosen as the basis for the written paper at an appropriate venue (e.g., research forum, refereed conference, etc.) approved by the M.P.H. program director.

Non-didactic program requirements

In addition to course work, students are required to complete the following noncurricular requirements for the M.P.H. degree:

  1. Attendance at 12 public health seminars
  2. Twenty hours of community-based service-learning

M.P.H. curriculum requirements for the combined M.D./M.P.H. program

Core courses
BIOS   543Statistical Methods I3
EPID   604Principles of Environmental Health3
HCPR   601Introduction to Health Policy3
SBHD   605Introduction to Social and Behavioral Health3
Program requirements
BIOS   544Statistical Methods II3
EPID   547Applied Data Analysis Lab I1.5
EPID   548Applied Data Analysis Lab II1.5
EPID   580Public Health Ethics1
EPID   593MPH Practicum2
Electives
Select 12 credit hours minimum from the following:12
Clinical Trials
Introduction to Public Health
Contemporary Issues and Controversies in Public Health
Public Health Policy and Politics
Cancer Epidemiology
Maternal and Child Health
Chronic Disease Epidemiology
Epidemiology of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders
Behavioral Epidemiology
Health Communication
Health Disparities and Social Justice
Community-based Participatory Research
Integrative program requirements
EPID   694MPH Capstone Project3
Non-didactic program requirements
In addition to course work, students must attend 12 public health seminars and complete 20 hours of community-based service-learning.
Total Hours36

Sample plan of study for combined program 

Fall semesterHours
After M-3 training  
EPID   547 Applied Data Analysis Lab I 1.5
BIOS   543 Statistical Methods I 3
EPID   580 Public Health Ethics 1
EPID   593 MPH Practicum 2
HCPR   601 Introduction to Health Policy 3
Electives (See list above) 6
 Term Hours: 16.5
Spring semester
After M-3 training  
BIOS   544 Statistical Methods II 3
EPID   548 Applied Data Analysis Lab II 1.5
EPID   604 Principles of Environmental Health 3
EPID   694 MPH Capstone Project 1 3
SBHD   605 Introduction to Social and Behavioral Health 3
Electives (See list above) 6
 Term Hours: 19.5
 Total Hours: 36
1

Student may elect to complete 1-3 credits of EPID 694 in summer.

Total graduate credit hours required (minimum) 36

Selected course work completed during the M-1 and M-2 years of study for application toward the M.D. accounts for 12 credit hours toward the M.P.H. degree. This includes a waiver of the core epidemiology course EPID   571, due to training in population health in the M.D. curriculum. The public health internship requirement is fulfilled through completion of a public health elective in the M-4 year, after the student completes the M.P.H. year. This elective occurs at a public health agency that is approved by the M.P.H. program director.

Graduate program director
Saba Masho, M.D., Dr.P.H.
Associate professor, Division of Epidemiology, Department of Family Medicine and Population Health
saba.masho@vcuhealth.org
(804) 628-2509

Additional contact
Lisa S. Anderson
Director of educational programs, Division of Epidemiology, Department of Family Medicine and Population Health
lisa.s.anderson@vcuhealth.org
(804) 628-2512

Program website: familymedicine.vcu.edu/education/graduate/dual-degrees/