All trainees are required to complete a full 12 months of practica in public health and preventive medicine. Trainees participate in practicum experiences throughout the two-year program. However, the practicum experiences are concentrated in the second year of training, after completion of the core MPH courses. The schedule and content of practica are designed to provide trainees with opportunities to develop required and optional competencies and to maximize career goals. The practicum experiences are individualized for each trainee based on baseline competencies, MPH course work completed and career interests and goals. Practica are supervised learning experiences which are typically scheduled for one half day to two days a week for two to six months (Table 4).
The program offers required and elective practica for trainees. A description of each practicum experience is included in the Program Manual that each trainee receives during orientation. Each trainee must complete the required practica. However, given the diverse background of trainees in the Program, flexibility exists within required practica. For instance, trainees participating in the required State DPH practicum have a choice of projects and activities. A trainee who already has expertise in STD control has the option of spending less time in STD-related activities and more time in refugee health, epidemiology, health policy, immunization, etc.
The following five practicum experiences are required of all trainees:
- A three to four month assignment (2-3 days/week) at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH): This occurs in the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control (BCDC), but may include assignments in other bureaus depending on trainee career goals. The practicum at the BCDC includes rotations in the Divisions of Tuberculosis Control, STD Prevention, Epidemiology and Immunization, with an optional session in the Refugee and Immigrant Health Clinics. Trainees also attend senior management meetings and have the option of participating in research and/or surveillance projects.
- A six week observational experience (1/2 day per week) at the Worcester City Health Department: Trainees choose from a menu of programs such as visiting nurses, school nursing program, smoking cessation program, food inspection, water testing and quality, pest control, lead paint inspection, HIV testing and counseling, for an overview of the functions of a local health department.
- A six to eight week clinical prevention experience (1/2 to 1 day/ week): Trainees receive didactic training on the general principles and practice of behavior change and participate in at least one of the clinical prevention programs offered at UMassMemorial. Trainees have several programs to choose from, including stress reduction, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation, fitness and exercise prescription, cardiac rehabilitation, and general behavioral medicine.
- A two to four month teaching assignment (1/2 day/week): Trainees have several options to fulfill the teaching requirement. They may teach a small group in the epidemiology and biostatistics sessions for second year medical students, co-coordinate a community medicine clerkship for first year medical students, facilitate small group sessions in interclerkship experiences for third year medical students, or present at noon conferences for family practice trainees.
- A two to four month quality improvement rotation (1/2 day/week): Trainees join one of the Patient Safety and Quality Task Forces and complete a quality improvement project under the supervision of the UMMS Chief Safety Officer.
In addition to the required practica listed above, trainees participate in a number of elective practica. Each trainee works closely with her/his faculty advisor to schedule elective practica that will advance the development of competencies and enhance career options. Elective practicum experiences are available in a wide variety of organizations and settings including academic medical centers, public health and community agencies, health maintenance organizations, community health centers and research institutes. Trainees are encouraged to participate in a rotation in a federal agency such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. In recent years, trainees have completed successful elective practica at the following training sites:
- State and county correctional facilities
- Managed care organizations
- Federally qualified urban and rural community health centers
- DPH regional prevention centers
- Community-based health education programs
- Federal pubic health programs (CDC, ODPHP)
- State legislatures