Brown School’s MPH program to offer two new specializations

Global health and epidemiology/biostatistics to provide flexibility for students

The Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis launched its Master in Public Health (MPH) program in 2009, implementing an innovative curriculum that uses transdisciplinary problem-solving to help students apply principles to improve population health, particularly among vulnerable populations.

This fall, the program will offer its first two specializations — global health and epidemiology/biostatistics — providing flexibility for students to increase skill building through electives and offering them valuable experience in targeted areas of public health. Scholarships also are available within each specialization.

“We are excited for this important milestone as our program grows,” said Anne Sebert Kuhlmann, PhD, assistant dean for public health. “These specializations reflect student demand in these areas and the expertise of our faculty, and will allow our students to graduate with a strong set of professional skills in these areas.”

Global health

The global health specialization will be led by Lora Iannotti, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School, and involve five faculty in the Brown School. The specialization will provide a focus on issues most pertinent to low- and middle-income countries, such as the basic biology and epidemiology of major infectious diseases and health conditions in global health. Students also will learn the underlying risk factors for these conditions, including socioeconomic determinants and environmental exposures.

“Public health is fundamentally a global phenomenon extending beyond national borders and necessitating international cooperation and exchange,” Iannotti said. “Our global health curriculum offers students practical and internationally relevant skills in both traditional and nontraditional areas of public health. As a result, students graduate well-positioned to secure competitive posts around the world.”

Among the career paths student might pursue would be government agencies and health ministries; nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); United Nations (U.N.) organizations or academic centers.

Iannotti said faculty active in the global health specialization all previously have worked with U.N. agencies, international NGOs and other important sectors in the global health field. Their research is applied and field-based in all regions of the world.

“Students have the opportunity to be involved in this work and take advantage of extensive professional networks internationally post-graduation,” she said.


The specialization in epidemiology/biostatistics will be led by Kimberly Johnson, PhD, assistant professor at the Brown School. The specialization will provide students with training in research methods used in the field to describe and understand public health problems and apply that knowledge to improve population health.

“Through their coursework, students will gain a solid foundation in epidemiology and biostatistics research methods including study design, data analysis and software tools,” Johnson said. “Students will apply their knowledge to a wide range of health problems through practicums and culminating experiences.”

Johnson notes the wide variety of career options that will be available to students. “Skills learned will be useful in such vast array of disciplines as genomics, cancer, obesity, infectious disease, nutrition, physical activity, mental health, global health, health disparities and environmental and occupational health,” she said.

And the field will continue to grow, Johnson said. “The explosion in digital data resulting from technological innovations in medical and biological informatics will provide a wealth of new opportunities for students with skills acquired in this specialization,” she said.

About the MPH program

The specializations add another dimension to an already unique MPH program, one that leverages the academic strength of the Brown School with the wide range of resources of Washington University.

As part of the MPH curriculum, students take core courses in behavioral health, biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology and health policy and management. The curriculum also draws upon a wide range of disciplines including economics, medicine, psychology, social work and sociology.

Students will be able to use electives and transdisciplinary problem-solving (TPS) classes to tailor their curriculum within the specialization. The TPS courses are a hallmark of the core Brown School curriculum. Students still will be able to follow the normal curriculum, and new specializations may be introduced later.

The MPH program is accredited through the Council on Education for Public Health. For more information on the program as a whole, visit here.