Unique program prepares physicians to lead rural prevention efforts
Imagine yourself in a rural setting where you’re the only doctor. A patient’s flu-like symptoms are getting worse, fast. But it’s not flu season. And he has had several mosquito bites.
Tests confirm your fears: He has the West Nile virus.
Your first priority is to help him survive a potentially lethal illness. But you also have another obligation.
The town has no public health department. There’s no one to trap and test West Nile-carrying mosquitoes, no regulation of standing water, no spray trucks on standby. It’s up to you to persuade the town council to take the action that could prevent more West Nile cases.
If you were trained in public health, you’d be prepared for this leadership role. An important part of public health is preventing disease through the organized efforts of communities and individuals.
That’s why the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Rural Scholars program and UNTHSC’s School of Public Health now offer a dual degree in medicine and public health tailored specifically for rural scholars.
The dual DO/Master of Public Health degree debuts this fall. Students will graduate as osteopathic physicians who also are equipped to lead their community’s public health initiatives.
"In rural areas the physician is highly regarded and is in a position to address community needs," notes John Bowling, Professor and Assistant Dean of Rural Medical Education. "This is why our new dual degree is a perfect fit."
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It’s a unique curriculum, enabling students to complete both degrees in four years. "I’m not aware of any other rural-medicine programs that include the Master of Public Health," Bowling says.
The Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and School of Public Health developed the curriculum with a $917,000 federal grant, including student stipends, from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Among this fall’s class of 12 second-year rural-medicine students, five have chosen the dual DO/MPH degree.