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Office of Global Engagement

Brown’s new M.D./M.P.A. program includes international perspective

October 11, 2016

Article published by Providence Business News.

With a goal of training students in both medicine and health care policy, Brown University is launching a four-year dual-degree program. Students who complete it will earn both a doctorate of medicine and a master of public affairs degree.

“This degree program was developed knowing what knowledge and skills students will need if they want to effect change in health care moving forward,” said Dr. Paul George, assistant dean of medical education at Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School. “It is important for us that students have an idea of what shapes health policy and gain practical experience in this arena, so that they will be facile in promoting health policy changes during their careers.”

This is the nation’s first integrated program of its kind, where students may complete their degrees in four years and take courses taught by both medical school and public policy faculty, according to the university. In contrast to other institutions – such as New York University’s School of Medicine (offering a dual medical degree and master of public administration degree) and the University of Michigan Medical School (offering a dual medical degree and master of public policy degree) – which offer lengthier joint programs and sometimes require students to apply to the master’s program only after their medical school course of study is underway, Brown integrates the degrees’ coursework from the outset.

“We felt as though [coursework integration] would allow students to learn medicine, but at the same time, learn about the policies that shape medicine,” said George. Students will be able to “see patients, identify issues directly related to health policy and then learn about those issues with the patient’s context in mind.” In addition, George said, the program design fosters a cross-disciplinary approach as students face issues in clinical settings that are related to health policy – such as prescribing a life-saving treatment for a patient whose health insurance does not cover that treatment.

Students must be admitted to The Warren Alpert Medical School before selecting the dual-degree track, in which they will study with faculty from Brown’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. The integrated M.D./M.P.A. program has a June start date, and the first class of dual-degree students will be enrolled in the summer of 2017.

In the first year, students study health systems science and public organizational management, and begin a four-year Policy in Action consultancy, spending a half-day per week in a leading health care system, foundation or nongovernmental organization, shaping and implementing a project with a real-world client. In subsequent years, students participate in a clerkship with a mentor physician and work with a panel of about 30 patients in varied health care settings. By the third year, students spend 10 days meeting with elected officials, entrepreneurs and lawmakers in an international setting to understand policy development. This international emphasis is unique to the Watson Institute’s MPA program, Brown reported.

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