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Collaboration between WVSOM and Marshall will allow medical students to earn dual D.O./MPH degree

Students at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) will soon have the opportunity to earn a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree while completing their osteopathic medical education.

WVSOM has entered into a partnership with Marshall University that will allow the medical school’s students to supplement their Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree with an MPH degree through a program that lasts a total of five years.

The presidents of both institutions have signed a memorandum of understanding describing the program’s admissions procedures, academic policies, tuition and billing, and other elements of the partnership. A public ceremony on the agreement will take place later this year.

James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., president of WVSOM, said the agreement allows students to broaden their base of knowledge in order to address issues impacting public health.

“The dual D.O./MPH degree program will benefit our students who want a greater understanding of community health needs and solutions. Just as osteopathic medicine addresses the entire patient, not just the symptom, public health looks at the larger population, not just the patient. Marshall University offers an outstanding public health program, and we’re happy to work with President Brad Smith and the university’s administration to offer this option to our hard-working future physicians,” Nemitz said.

Brad D. Smith, president of Marshall University, said such dual degree programs are a key to addressing the region’s health care challenges.

“As we unveil this important dual degree program, we embark on a transformative journey for the health and well-being of West Virginia and Appalachia,” Smith said. “This innovative program stands as a beacon of hope, addressing the unique health care challenges of our region with strategic precision and unwavering dedication. By nurturing a new cadre of doctors also trained in public health, we not only elevate our communities’ health outcomes but also empower our people to thrive amidst adversity.”

The partnership establishes a path for interested students to attend osteopathic medical school for two years of preclinical education before starting a 10-month online program at Marshall for the MPH degree.

The D.O./MPH program is scheduled to start this summer and will be available to any WVSOM student in good academic standing after completion of their second year.

Following completion of the MPH program, WVSOM students will complete clinical rotations in the school’s Statewide Campus, where learning occurs in clinical settings such as physician offices, medical centers and hospitals.

The mission of the MPH program is to prepare a competent public health workforce, promote scholarly activities and reduce the burden of health disparities, particularly in West Virginia and Appalachia.

Linda Boyd, D.O., WVSOM’s chief academic officer, said the dual degree program will lead to innovative solutions for improved public health.

“WVSOM is thrilled to offer a D.O./MPH for our medical students by partnering with the Marshall program. Getting an MPH degree during medical school is one of the most popular dual degrees for medical students across the U.S. Learning more about public health will shape future doctors by allowing them to look at systemic problems in health care and work toward innovative solutions on the macro level, while also caring for their individual patients. Marshall has been a wonderful partner in developing this program, and we look forward to having many students engage in this value-added training,” Boyd said.

Michael Prewitt, Ph.D., dean of the College of Health Professions at Marshall University, said the school’s degree program provides unique experience and expertise.

“The MPH program is an interdisciplinary program whose graduates will seek to improve and maintain the health, safety and well-being of populations and to prevent and manage disease, disability and human suffering. Students will benefit from a comprehensive and rigorous curriculum along with specialty training. They will develop critical knowledge and skills in such areas as rural health, global health and health policy. Additional practicum experiences will provide students with the expertise and experience needed for public health practitioners,” Prewitt said.