Washington University School of Medicine offers new master of population health sciences

This fall, Washington University School of Medicine is launching a Master of Population Health Sciences degree.

The program, for medical students, resident physicians, clinical fellows and physicians, will provide training in health-sciences research methods and population health, which seeks to improve the health of groups, communities and populations through evaluating clinical interventions and implementing effective programs. A major emphasis will be on skills clinicians need to lead research programs, clinical departments and institutions.

The one-year, full-time program will be taught by 80 faculty members from the School of Medicine and the George Warren Brown School of Social Work.

“This is designed to give clinicians the skills to address the effectiveness and impact of clinical interventions to improve health in the population,” says the program’s director, Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, the Niess-Gain Professor of Surgery, professor of medicine and associate director of prevention and control at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Alison Whelan, MD, senior associate dean for education and professor of medicine, says the program’s graduates will lead studies that answer the questions most important to the school’s patients and community.

“Questions like what is the best medicine or dose of medicine for my condition? Does a promising new cancer detection test really save lives? What is the real impact of a change in diet on a change in health?” Whelan says. “This degree will take us one step closer to leading across the entire continuum of health-care research: from new discoveries in the science lab to new treatments for the people we care for.”

The program will complement the Brown School’s Master of Public Health degree program, which launched last fall. That two-year, full-time program is designed for non-physicians who are committed to improving the health of communities. Students in the Master of Public Health program may take electives at the School of Medicine in their second year.

Some courses will be offered through both programs, offering a rich and efficient training opportunity, Colditz says.

Coursemasters are Lauren Arnold, PhD, instructor in surgery; and Kathleen Wolin, PhD, assistant professor of surgery; Richard Griffey, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine in medicine; Mario Schootman, PhD, associate professor of medicine; Jean Wang, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine; and Pamela Owens, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine.

Arnold will be the key link with medical students, and Wolin will work closely with clinical trainees.

The medical school’s program stems from its Plan for Excellence strategic initiative as well as strong demand from clinical trainees, Colditz says. Faculty also expect there will be a keen interest from across the Midwest.

Applicants to the program must have a medical or doctoral degree or be concurrently enrolled in a doctoral degree program. Classes begin in August with an intensive session aimed at preparing students for introductory and advanced courses and continue for four, eight-week sessions through the academic year.

The 33-credit-hour program includes courses in ethical and regulatory issues in clinical research, statistics, epidemiology methods, biostatistics and electives in a broad range of population health research methods. Students will have the opportunity to specialize in global health, clinical epidemiology or health-services research.