Unique program prepares physicians to lead rural prevention efforts

Tue, Jul 16, 2013

Education, In the Community

rural photoImagine yourself in a small rural town where you’re the only doctor. A patient’s flu-like symptoms are getting worse fast. But it’s not flu season. And he’s had several mosquito bites.

Tests confirm your worst fears: He has West Nile disease.

Your first priority is to help him survive a potentially lethal illness.

But you also have another obligation. Your town has no public health department. There’s no one to trap and test West Nile virus-carrying mosquitoes, no regulation of standing water, no spray trucks on standby. It’s up to you to persuade the town council to take action that can prevent more West Nile cases.

If you were trained in the field of public health, you’d be prepared for this leadership role. An important part of public health is preventing disease through the organized efforts of communities and individuals.

That’s why the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Rural Scholars program and UNTHSC’s School of Public Health now offer a dual degree in medicine and public health tailored specifically for rural scholars.

The dual DO/Master of Public Health degree debuts this fall. Students will graduate as osteopathic physicians who also are equipped to lead their rural community’s public health initiatives.

“In rural areas the physician is highly regarded and is in a position to address community needs,” says John Bowling, Professor and Assistant Dean of Rural Medical Education. “This is why our new dual degree is a perfect fit.”

It’s a unique curriculum, enabling students to complete both degrees in four years. “I’m not aware of any other rural-medicine programs that include the Master of Public Health,” says Bowling.

The Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine and School of Public Health developed the curriculum with a $917,000 federal grant, including student stipends, from the Health Resources and Services Administration. Among this fall’s class of 12 second-year rural-medicine students, five have chosen the dual DO/MPH degree.

To learn more about the Rural Osteopathic Medical Education (ROME) program and its dual DO/MPH degree, email ROME@unthsc.edu or call 817-735-2275.

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