The public health practicum is a supervised practical field experience designed to provide students the opportunity to develop and use 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
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 time a student spends at their practicum site should be structured time, such as:
- 40 hours/week for 6 continuous weeks
- 20 hours/week for 12 continuous weeks
- 1 day/week for 30 continuous weeks
Each student works with the Practicum Director to develop appropriate practicum experience.
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
Through the David Satcher Public Health Scholars Program, students with an interest in health disparities can spend their practicum time at Morehouse Medical College's Satcher Leadership Institute.
Students with extensive prior practical public health experience may apply for a waiver from the course. Students may only be granted a waiver if they can clearly demonstrate a minimum of one-year’s experience in a public health setting in which they were able to accomplish the practicum objectives through a specific project or other experience in that setting. Students who believe they meet the criteria for waiver of the practicum requirement submit a completed Practicum Waiver Request Form to the Practicum Director for review by the Curriculum Committee. Typically, the student will request this waiver in his/her first semester after matriculating into the program. The Curriculum Committee will evaluate the acceptability of the experience. The Practicum Director will notify the student of the decision (that of committee majority).
Students who are granted a waiver will not receive academic credit hours for the practicum requirement. They are required to submit an abstract to and participate in the Practicum Colloquium.
The following examples would not be considered appropriate for a waiver:
- Clinical practice by itself
- Possession of a prior professional degree in another field or prior work experience that is not closely related to the academic objectives of the student’s degree program
- Independent or supervised research