Dell Medical School students will have the option to earn a dual degree in medicine and public affairs starting next fall, according to a Nov. 16 press release.
Dell Medical School and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs are partnering to offer the dual degree as the coronavirus pandemic impacts public policy decisions. The dual degree program, which is currently accepting applications for fall 2021 through Dec. 15, will allow medical students to earn a Master of Public Affairs in addition to their medical degree in about four years.
Elizabeth Nelson, associate dean of undergraduate medical education, said while the timing seems appropriate, the two schools have been talking about the new degree program for several years.
“While the timing seems ideal to explore the public policy implications of COVID, this was not the reason the degree program was developed,” Nelson said in an email.
Second-year medical student Cole Martin said while students discuss political implications of health issues from day one at Dell Med, the dual degree program could give students better formal training on writing policy, interacting with politicians and advocating for healthcare issues.
In their third year, which is known as the “Growth Year,” medical students choose to either complete an inquiry project or obtain a dual degree in addition to continuing their clinical practice in medicine.
“The Masters of Public Affairs program is an amazing opportunity for students who are passionate about affecting real change in healthcare during their careers to really dive deep into how that process works and get real-world experience in political advocacy,” Martin said.
According to Dell Med’s website, the “Growth Year” experience shows Dell Med’s commitment to training future physicians.
“Many of our students apply to DMS because of their interest in community health and advocacy,” Nelson said. “They want to be engaged in changing the system and one way to do that is through policy change.”
Martin Luby, the LBJ School associate dean for academic affairs, said over 20 students attended information sessions on the Masters in Public Affairs dual degree before it was approved.
“The changing landscape of the modern health care system and the accelerating needs of health care to all our citizens necessitates that we train physician leaders in the various aspects of public policy from its development to implementation to evaluation,” Luby said in an email.