In collaboration with the Peace Corps, GSPH has instituted a program that blends classroom learning with real-world experience for students interested in a career in global health. The Master’s International (MI) track enables students to earn a master’s degree in public health and also volunteer with the Peace Corps.
As countries require more sophisticated knowledge and skills to address growing public health needs ranging from HIV/AIDS prevention to clean water and sanitation, “Peace Corps volunteers are needed who already have established skill sets,” said Sandra Quinn, PhD, director of the program and associate dean for student affairs and education at GSPH.
The MI track is an option within the school’s Departments of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences and Infectious Diseases and Microbiology. Students complete a year of intensive public health study at GSPH and depart for Peace Corps service for three months of training, followed by two years of field experience. At the completion of their field experience, they return for a final year of graduate study.
“Skills in public health are particularly scarce globally,” said Quinn. “By completing course work in advance, we’re giving students an opportunity to apply what they have learned to the communities they serve overseas. This fosters enhanced understanding and allows them to make the most of their experiences.”
April Carman, a graduate student at GSPH and the program’s coordinator, entered the Peace Corps in 2003, but did not attend an MI program. “Serving in the Peace Corps was an amazing experience that taught me the importance of working collaboratively with other groups. The advantage of the MI program is that it prepares you to more readily implement your ideas and apply theory to practice before you begin your service. You return with a new view of the world and the skills and education to help change that world for the better,” she said.
Bringing the students back into the classroom after Peace Corps service also allows them to share what they have learned with other students, leading to an enriched learning environment, said Quinn. “We believe that having our MI students return to GSPH will stimulate great enthusiasm and commitment to global health for all of our students and faculty.”
The Master’s International program was established by the Peace Corps in 1987. GSPH is one of three public health schools selected for the MI program this year and one of 12 in the country. The first group of students will be admitted to the program in fall 2009. For more information, visit www.publichealth.pitt.edu/pcmi.