The public health practicum is a supervised practical field experience designed to provide students the opportunity to develop and apply the knowledge and skills acquired in the academic program in a public health agency or other environment in which a public health function is performed.
Each student works with the Practicum Director to identify, arrange, and complete a satisfactory field experience that fulfills the program’s Practicum requirements.
- Develop skills or competencies learned in the academic program by applying them in a public health practice setting
- Acquire practical skills that are useful to public health professions and are not available through academic instruction
- Understand the political, economic, social, and organizational context within which public health activities are conducted
Practicum sites include organizations that provide, plan for, coordinate, organize, pay for, or regulate public health services.
Practicum sites are expected to provide the student with the following:
- Opportunities for the student to develop further and to apply specific skills or competencies learned in the MPH academic program
- An on-site supervisor who can regularly meet with the student to discuss their progress
- Basic support for the student, ranging from a desk and a phone, to stipends or salary, transportation and lodging if available
Examples of practicum sites include:
- Federal agencies such as:
- Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
- Veterans Administration (VA)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- State, county, or city health departments
- Ministries and departments of health in low- and middle-income countries
- Other state and local health and social service agencies
- Managed care organizations
- Insurance companies
- Neighborhood health centers and community clinics
- Hospitals (public, not-for-profit, for-profit, psychiatric, rehabilitation)
- Global health organizations and clinics
- Community mental health centers
- Environmental health consulting companies
- Industrial settings
- Multi-specialty medical practices
Each student drives the planning and design of their practicum, resulting in an individualized experience that fits with their own interests and career goals. Regardless of the specific site, all practica must include the following required components:
- Direct work with a practicing public health leader
- Regular meetings with the site supervisor
- Exposure to a variety of facets of the organization and the complexities of its working environment
- Attendance at managerial meetings and interaction with a variety of people in the organization
- The completion of one or more specific projects
- Epidemiology track: 240 hours
- Global Health track: 400 hours
- Health Policy track: 240 hours
The colloquium provides MPH students an opportunity to present their practicum experiences in a conference-like setting. Students will receive feedback from faculty and other graduate students and practice their presentation skills. All students will present posters and, in addition, two students will be selected to give oral presentations.
Internal Funding Opportunities
- Overall Fellowship: The Overall Fellowship for International Research is sponsored by Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and the Department of Pediatrics. It provides support for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students to gain experience and training in a global health setting.
- Frist Global Health Leaders Program: The Frist Global Health Leaders Program is funded by Hope Through Healing Hands, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, and it provides students, residents, and fellows in the health professions with the opportunity to serve and train in underserved communities around the world.
- Nichols Humanitarian Fund: This fund was established in 2006 by the E.C. and Lucile Hamby Nichols Trust and it enables Vanderbilt students to volunteer for local, domestic, or international humanitarian service opportunities. Support is primarily focused on summer projects, or projects that take place during defined academic breaks. Funds are available for educational and other expenses. All currently enrolled Vanderbilt students are eligible to receive assistance from the Fund, provided that they are citizens or permanent residents of the U.S.
- Africa at a Crossroads: Challenges and Prospects Student Research Grant Program: The “Africa at a Crossroads” Trans-Institutional Program at Vanderbilt invites undergraduate and graduate students from all colleges and disciplines to apply for funding to support student research pertaining to the program’s theme for the 2017 summer term or 2017-18 academic year. The “Africa at a Crossroads” program includes three different types of grants for student research: service based in the U.S., research in the U.S., and research abroad.
- Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) Summer Awards Programs: The Center for Latin American Studies (CLAS) Summer Awards Programs are available to both Vanderbilt graduate and undergraduate students pursuing research projects in Latin America. The call for applications is posted on the CLAS website each December and applications are due in early February.
- Turner Family Center (TFC) Summer Fellowships: The Turner Family Center for Social Ventures (TFC) provides funding for Vanderbilt graduate students to connect with a partner organization in the space of social enterprise, connecting business with social impact and poverty alleviation.
External Funding Opportunities
Examples external funding opportunities to support students pursuing their practicum:
- Cancer Epidemiology Education in Special Populations (CEESP) Program: The CEESP Program is a R25 training program that provides mentored research training focused on cancer epidemiology and cancer prevention. CEESP is not restricted to epidemiology, but students from all fields, concentrations, and backgrounds of public health are eligible to apply and receive funding.
- Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) Program: The Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide (GROW) Program is funded by the National Science Foundation and provides an international travel allowance to engage in research collaborations with investigators in partner countries located outside the United States.
- Region IV Pathways to Practice Scholars Field Placement Program: The Pathways to Practice Scholars program provides an opportunity for current public health students to gain practical experience working with seasoned public health practitioners (mentors) serving or working on behalf of underserved communities or populations. Students will be placed in organizations in the Region IV Public Health Training Center’s eight states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) and receive an award of $3,500.
- USAID Paid Internships: USAID offers two types of paid internships:
- The first type allows current students to explore federal careers through the internship, which offers valuable work experience directly related to your academic field of study. You may be eligible for permanent employment after successfully completing your education and meeting work requirements.
- The second type provides work experience for current students in temporary jobs that do not convert to permanent employment.