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Objectives  |  Timeline  |  Field Practicum Sites  |  Waiver  |  Resources



Practicum Timeline and Forms

MPH Year 1
August: Overview of practicum
October: Meet with practicum director
December 15: Mentor Committee Report
February 1: Practicum Agreement
May 15: Mentor Committee Report 
July 25: Practicum Progress Report

MPH Year 2 
December 1: Practicum Completion Form
           Time Record Form 
           Site Supervisor Evaluation 
           Practicum Course Evaluation 
December 15: Mentor Committee Report
May 15: Mentor Committee Report

Additional Documents
· Practicum Handbook (VUnetID)
· Roles and Responsibilities
· MPH Competencies
· Practicum Goals and Objectives  
· Practicum Funding Resources

Previous Practicum Projects
2007-2009  |  2008-2010  |  2009-2011 

The practicum also provides the opportunity to develop and extend competencies that are initially introduced in didactic coursework. Examples include the development of policy, enhancing communication skills, understanding of public and private financing mechanisms, and understanding organizational behavior and change. It is each student’s responsibility, with the assistance of their Practicum Director, to find, arrange, and complete a satisfactory field experience that fulfills program requirements.

The MPH practicum seeks 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 (e.g., hospital infection control program, global health organization). 


  • Provide students with a supervised practical field experience in an organization, agency, or other setting that provides planning or services relevant to public health
  • Help students further develop skills or competencies learned in the academic program by applying them in a public health practice setting
  • Provide a means for acquiring practical skills that are useful to public health professions and are not available through academic instruction
  • Foster understanding of the political, economic, social and organizational context within which public health activities are conducted
  • Provide exposure to an organizational and/or community context for public health activities

A field experience occasionally could serve as the basis for both the practicum and a thesis (for example, working to improve strategies to prevent maternal-child HIV transmission in Africa).

However, neither requirement should be diluted simply to allow them to be combined. Stated another way, a field setting could suggest a line of research that might lead to a thesis topic, or begin the process, but combining the practicum and a thesis is neither required nor expected.

The student will meet with the Practicum Director to develop appropriate practicum experience. For the Epidemiology Track it is expected that the student will spend approximately 240 hours at the practicum site(s) and/or performing work directly related to the practicum. For the Global Health Track, the student will spend approximately 400 hours in an international or domestic setting. This should be structured time, such as a 6-week block, 20 hours/week for 12 weeks, or 1 day/week for 30 weeks. » Click here for a detailed timeline.

Field Practicum Sites
A wide range of organizations and agencies can provide a valuable field experience. In general, any organization that provides, plans for, coordinates, organizes, pays for, or regulates public health services is a valid training site. The site should: enable the student to develop further and to apply specific skills or competencies learned in the academic program, provide a supervisor who can regularly schedule time with the student, and provide support, ranging from a desk and a phone, to stipends or salary, transportation and lodging.

Some examples are listed below. 

  • Federal agencies: Department of Health and Human Services, Veterans Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, FDA, AHRQ, CDC
  • State, county or city Health Departments
  • Low and middle income countries Ministries of Health and Health Departments
  • 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

As a part of our partnership with Dr. David Satcher through the Vanderbilt M.P.H. David Satcher Public Health Scholars program, students with an interest in health disparities can spend their practicum time at Morehouse Medical College with the Satcher Leadership Institute.

Waiver - Practicum Experience Waiver Request Form
Students with prior extensive practical public health experience may apply for a waiver from the course. However, students may only be waived from the practicum 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 Experience 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 vote on acceptability of the experience. The Practicum Director will notify the student of the decision (that of committee majority). Students are informed that if a waiver is granted they will not receive credit hours for the waived practicum requirement.

The following circumstances do not support a waiver request:

  • Clinical practice by itself does not constitute public health experience and therefore does not support a waiver.
  • 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 is not sufficient reason for waiving the practice requirement.
  • Independent or supervised research does not qualify for an appropriate practicum experience.


» Practicum Funding Resources

» How to Find, Plan, and Fund your Global Health Opportunity

» World RePORT - an illustrative mapping database system created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on research performed in Sub-Saharan Africa and funded by major government agencies and philanthropic organizations around the world.

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