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New Programs Prepare Future Health Care Leaders

Posted by on Monday, February 22, 2016 in Features, Uncategorized, Winter 2016 .

Illustration by Michael Austin
Illustration by Michael Austin


Graduate students at Vanderbilt seeking careers in health care just got an added boost in course offerings.

Three distinctly different programs were recently introduced to address the evolving needs of future practitioners.

According to Bonnie Miller, M.D., associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and senior associate dean for Health Sciences Education, the additions are examples of how Vanderbilt continually works to promote expertise and leadership within targeted areas in health care.

“Although these are very different programs, all three represent ways in which the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing have identified needs and have created innovative curricula to prepare our graduates to be leaders in finding solutions for vexing problems in health care delivery.

“We are building on program structures that we already have in place to focus on major needs in the health care workforce, on societal issues and health care concerns.”


Medical Innovators Development Program

Vanderbilt University School of Medicine is accepting applicants into a novel program aimed at students seeking to transform health and health care through medical innovation.

Tailored to engineers and applied scientists with Ph.D. degrees, the Medical Innovators Development Program (MIDP) at Vanderbilt will be the first of its kind in the country.

“Both health and health care are growing increasingly complex,” said Reed Omary, M.D., Carol D. and Henry P. Pendergrass Professor of Radiology and Radiological Sciences and chair of the department. “We are attempting to build an engineering-based cadre whose focus will be in one of three key areas—informatics and systems design, medical devices and imaging.

“We are striving for radical innovation occurring at the intersection of medicine, engineering and business.”

The new four-year M.D. program will enroll up to four students each year with the first group joining the incoming class of 2016.

The first two years of the program will follow the traditional medical student course of study. During the third and fourth years, MIDP students will be assigned a series of additional courses designed to prepare them to solve clinical problems by translating discoveries.

Omary said the program’s purpose is to train applied physician-scientists to help solve some of the greatest unmet challenges in health care.

“Engineers are trained to solve problems,” Omary said. “Some of our biggest health care needs include accessing personal health information in the digital age, the use of 3-D printing to create medical devices that can benefit patients and learning to combine imaging, genomics and lab information to diagnose and treat patients. Engineers can look at health care issues from a different perspective and develop platforms to solve major problems.”

Omary said physician-engineers who understand both clinical medicine and biomedical design are critical to the changing health care landscape. MIDP is Vanderbilt’s first step in a broader mission to bridge the gap between academia, industry and health, he said.

“We are not training physicians to simply fill the health care workforce,” Omary said. “Instead we are training highly specialized leaders who will improve the lives of patients through disruptive technologies. This program will create physicians who will be at the forefront of digital medicine. With Vanderbilt’s MIDP, we are positioning ourselves to invent the future of medicine.”


MPH Health Policy Track

Vanderbilt’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program launched a health policy track in fall 2015 with a first cohort of four students.

Since 1996 the MPH program has provided epidemiology training, primarily to physicians. In 2013 the program added a global health track and began recruiting a greater variety of students, including students without medical or doctoral degrees.

Cassie Smith. Photo by Anne Rayner.
Cassie Smith. Photo by Anne Rayner.

“Vanderbilt’s new MPH health policy track recognizes the long-standing intersection between public health, health care and the regulatory and payment policies that impact them both,” said David Stevenson, Ph.D., S.M., associate professor of Health Policy and director of the track.

The two-year program focuses on how changes to public health policy and financing influence service delivery, health care spending, quality of care and access to services. The track is designed to prepare students for a range of roles in the public and private sector, including leadership positions as analysts, consultants and policymakers. A joint MD-MPH program also offers Vanderbilt medical students the opportunity to prepare for research and leadership positions related to population health.

Cassie Smith entered the program after working for a health care consulting company in Boston and was attracted to the ability to tailor her electives and extracurricular research activities with faculty with a health policy focus.

“I joined this program so that I can get a better understanding of the health care system and how a policy background can influence your thinking in the private sector. I want to leverage the research work I am doing here and potentially go back into the private sector and work in industry,” said Smith. “I was also very attracted to the opportunity to be involved in other graduate schools—I love that I can take classes at the Medical School, Peabody, Law, Business and other smaller departments.”

In addition to core public health coursework, students in the new track are required to take courses in health economics, U.S. health policy, research ethics and decision analysis. As part of a 240-hour practicum, students will work in hospitals, managed care organizations, consulting firms, advocacy organizations, non-governmental agencies, public health departments or other government agencies.

Stevenson hopes to grow the track to include 10-12 students per year.


LGBT Health in Interprofessional Practice

LGBT Health in Interprofessional Practice is a collaborative effort between the Schools of Medicine and Nursing.

Slated for a summer 2016 start, the 13-week course offers graduate students a structure for self-exploration of biases, discomfort, strengths and talents that may impede or enhance the ability to provide equitable health care among the LGBT community.

Jesse Ehrenfeld M.D., MPH, and Sarah Fogel, Ph.D., R.N. Photo by Daniel Dubois.
Jesse Ehrenfeld M.D., MPH, and Sarah Fogel, Ph.D., R.N. Photo by Daniel Dubois.

Medical students can take this as an elective in the third or fourth year of their medical education program and as part of an already established LGBT Health Certification. Nursing students can take it as part of the master’s, post-master’s or doctoral education programs.

Developed by Jesse Ehrenfeld M.D., MPH, and Sarah Fogel, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, the class is structured around a set of formal online modules using the latest information from a variety of content experts, and will involve seminars, face-to-face meetings, clinical projects, online learning modules and conferencing. The course culminates with students presenting a research poster about a specific clinical issue or broader topic related to health care in the LGBT community.

“We have extraordinary health care disparities in the LGBT community and providers cannot address these until we have fundamental knowledge,” said Ehrenfeld, associate professor of Anesthesiology Biomedical Informatics, Surgery and Health Policy at Vanderbilt.

“There will be some interesting opportunities for students from an economics, divinity, political science or public policy point of view which will make this a transformative and unique experience.”

Language, sexual development, health risks and legal and ethical issues related to gender identity and sexual orientation will be defined and explored within different health care environments. Additionally, specific health care concerns for patients with disorders of sexual development or intersex will be studied.

“Students who take this course will have a much better understanding of health disparities and specific health needs such as gender and sexual development, visitation policies, dual parent adoption, gender expression, communication skills and discussing a range of resources for patients. All of this will impact patient interactions, quality, costs and outcomes,” said Fogel, director of the ASN to MSN Program at the School of Nursing.

“My ultimate hope is that this course will help people realize that members of the LGBT community will no longer need to be invisible for safety’s sake. Because when they are invisible, we miss specific risks that impact care.”