This is the preliminary (or launch) version of the 2020-21 VCU Bulletin. This edition includes all programs and courses approved by the publication deadline; however we may receive notification of additional program approvals after the launch. The final edition and full PDF version will include these updates and will be available in August prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

Program accreditation
Liaison Committee on Medical Education (M.D.)
Council on Education for Public Health (M.P.H.)

To qualify as a dual degree student in any of the training paradigms which appear in the Bulletin, a student must have evidence of having been simultaneously enrolled in one or more courses of both of the programs constituting the “dual degree” for at least one semester.

Program goal

The Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health in the School of Medicine offers a program for VCU medical students to obtain a Master of Public Health degree in conjunction with their medical training. The M.D./M.P.H. dual degree program provides an opportunity for medical students who wish to pursue a public health or research career to graduate from medical school trained in both clinical and preventive, population-oriented medicine. Graduates from this program are prepared for positions in preventive medicine, primary care, research, community-based health centers and state and local health departments.

The objective of the dual degree program is to provide high quality and in-depth training in public health to qualified medical students. The five-year program includes four years of medical school and one year of study in the M.P.H. program. Students enter the M.P.H. curriculum after the M-3 year. During the M.P.H. year, students take a minimum of 36 credit hours of course work. 

The required minimum of 36 credits in the M.P.H. curriculum includes 21 credit hours of core courses, a minimum of nine credit hours of concentration courses, a minimum of three credits of elective courses and a minimum of three credit hours of a capstone project that examines a relevant public health topic. Note that some elective courses may not be available in certain years or may require instructor permission for registration. Students receive nine credit hours toward the M.P.H. degree for completion of course work in the M.D. program. Successful completion of Population Health and Evidence-based Medicine satisfies the three credits of the M.P.H. core course, EPID 571; Patient Safety and Quality Improvement satisfies the one credit required for IPEC 501; The Physician, Patient, and Society satisfies two credits of elective course work; and a minimum of one public health elective during the M-4 year satisfies the three-credit public health internship (EPID 693) requirement. No credits in the M.P.H. program apply to the M.D. program.

Note: Enrollment in the dual degree program requires admission into both the School of Medicine and the Graduate School. Students must successfully complete all required course work to receive both degrees at the end of the five years.

The mission of the M.P.H. program is to provide exceptional public health training; conduct cutting-edge, translational research; promote health equity and community wellness; and foster lifelong inquiry and discovery that improve human health. The overall goal of the M.P.H. program is to educate students to become well-grounded in the essential knowledge, skills and attitudes of public health and demonstrate their ability to apply these essentials through course work, internships and the M.P.H. capstone project. This program is designed to provide students with the skills required to advance to positions as public health practitioners in a broad spectrum of positions and settings and who can perform the following:

  1. Administer public health programs
  2. Collect, analyze and evaluate public health data
  3. Plan, implement and evaluate public health interventions
  4. Apply results of evaluations and data analyses to policy development as necessary
  5. Promote public health through educational campaigns

The structure of the program provides a framework for the progressive development of a mastery of the current state of the subject matter of public health and an ability to synthesize and apply this information to the identification of key areas of practice and research in public health.

Student learning outcomes

Student learning outcomes are monitored by the program faculty and center primarily around competencies for all students. Overall learning outcomes are as follows.

  1. Integrated knowledge of public health: Students will demonstrate knowledge of the current elements of public health, at a level assessed by program faculty as competent or higher, according to the program rubric. 
  2. Demonstration of focused knowledge and skills: Students will demonstrate more detailed knowledge and applied skills in the individual area of scholarship, including familiarity with the research literature and the ability to evaluate and critique publications, at a level assessed by program faculty as competent or higher, according to the program rubric. 
  3. Development of competencies: Through program course work and applied experiences, students will develop competence in the discipline of public health as demonstrated through annual self-assessment of performance on the M.P.H. program competencies and faculty assessment of (1) student competence in semi-annual student reviews and (2) student performance in the program’s integrated learning experience, the capstone project.
  4. Training in appropriate public health skills/knowledge: Through didactic study and two separate applied experiences in professional public health settings, students will gain knowledge and skills required to perform as public health practitioners and/or researchers. 

The M.P.H. program trains students to develop educational competencies established by the program’s accrediting body, the Council on Education for Public Health. These competencies may be viewed on the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health website.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the academic regulations section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Other information

School of Medicine graduate program policies

The School of Medicine provides policies applicable to all programs administratively housed in the school. Information on master’s programs is available elsewhere in this chapter of the Graduate Bulletin.

The M.P.H. program student handbook is available upon request.

For the M.P.H., apply online at sophas.orgSubmit a VCU supplemental application following the instructions available at sophas.org and on the Family Medicine and Epidemiology website

Admission requirements

Admission requirements
Degree:Semester(s) of entry:Deadline dates:Test requirements:
M.D. and M.P.H.FallApplications strongly encouraged by Mar 1MCAT (acceptable in lieu of GRE scores for this combined professional/academic degree program) TOEFL

Note: Students applying to the dual degree M.D./M.P.H. program should be accepted to the VCU School of Medicine prior to applying to the M.D./M.P.H. Program. Students must apply separately to each program. Applications to the M.P.H. program are made through sophas.org.

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, applicants must present the following qualifications.

  1. Prior degree: Students must hold a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, with a minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale in all undergraduate and any other graduate study. Official copies of transcripts for all prior degrees earned must be submitted to the VCU Office of Graduate Admissions.
  2. Test scores: The M.P.H. program normally requires GRE scores, but for the combined M.D./M.P.H., students may submit MCAT scores provided for admission to the School of Medicine in lieu of GRE scores.
  3. TOEFL: International students must submit TOEFL or IELTS scores. Minimum TOEFL score is 600 (paper-based), 250 (computer-based) or 100 (Internet-based); IELTS minimum score is 7.0. Test score requirements may be waived for international students who have received a medical degree (M.D.) in the U.S. Contact the program coordinator for more information. The PTE is also accepted with a minimum score of 65.

Students must also submit the following materials with their applications:

  1. Letters of recommendation from three individuals who can assess applicant qualifications for graduate school; at least one academic reference is required, but two are preferred. Most appropriate are letters from past professors or work supervisors.
  2. Current version of curriculum vitae or resume. Include experience and/or education relevant to study in public health.
  3. Personal statement addressing the following issues:
    • What applicant plans to do in the first few years after graduation
    • Why VCU’s M.P.H. program best fits the student’s public health interests
    • Description of applicant’s particular areas of interest in public health (e.g., maternal and child health, epidemiology)
    • How an M.P.H. degree will help the applicant achieve her/his career goals
    • Why the applicant wishes to pursue an M.P.H. degree
    • Description of the applicant’s career goals

Degree requirements

The Master of Public Health program prepares students committed to public health careers in the public, private or nonprofit sectors. The program boasts experiential learning, a highly interactive environment, accessible and approachable faculty, and student involvement in important projects. The M.P.H. program is flexible enough to accommodate students who enter the program with various backgrounds and experiences.

In addition to general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, students are required to successfully complete a minimum of 36 credit hours of formal course work that includes a capstone project. In addition, medical students will complete a public health elective during the M-4 year at a placement approved by the M.P.H. program director, in lieu of the required public health internship.

Capstone project: The culminating work in the M.P.H. program is the capstone project. The project is a practical experience that allows the student to apply what has been learned in the didactic components of the curriculum to a focused project. The goal is to enhance the student’s academic experience through the application of public health concepts and skills in a supervised experience. Students are required to synthesize the literature; analyze, assess or evaluate quantitative or qualitative data; and in general apply theory and integrate knowledge gained and principles in situations that approximate some aspects of professional practice. With this mentored experience, students are able to both broaden their skills and hone their proficiency in a specific area of public health. The major product of this culminating experience is expected to vary depending on the educational goals of the student, but could include one of the following:

  1. Manuscript suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal
  2. Comprehensive disease-related report and analysis
  3. Policy analysis report
  4. Needs assessment for a specific population
  5. Development, implementation, and analysis of target population surveys
  6. Program evaluation

At a minimum, the capstone experience will require the integration of multiple major competencies used by a public health professional. In fulfilling the capstone requirement, each candidate must: (a) submit a formal written paper of sufficient depth and rigor and (b) satisfactorily complete a poster presentation of the project chosen as the basis for the written paper at an appropriate venue (e.g., research forum, refereed conference, etc.) approved by the M.P.H. program director.

Noncurricular program requirements

In addition to course work, students are required to complete the following noncurricular requirements for the M.P.H. degree:

  1. Attendance at 12 public health seminars
  2. Twenty hours of community-based service-learning

M.P.H. curriculum requirements for the dual degree M.D./M.P.H. program

CourseTitleHours
Core courses
BIOS 543Graduate Research Methods I3
BIOS 544Graduate Research Methods II3
EPID 547Applied Data Analysis Lab I1.5
EPID 548Applied Data Analysis Lab II1.5
EPID 580Public Health Ethics1
EPID 593Foundations of the Public Health Profession2
EPID 604Principles of Environmental Health3
HCPR 601Introduction to Health Policy3
SBHD 605Introduction to Social and Behavioral Health3
Required additional courses
EPID 600Introduction to Public Health3
EPID 603Public Health Policy and Politics3
EPID 622Maternal and Child Health3
Electives
Select minimum of three credits of elective course work from this list.3
Spatial Data Analysis
Design Implications in Clinical Trials
Adaptive Clinical Trials
Principles of Epidemiology
Contemporary Issues and Controversies in Public Health
Epidemiologic Methods
Cancer Epidemiology
Chronic Disease Epidemiology
Public Health Genomics
Epidemiology of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders
Independent Study
Introduction to Grant Writing
Physiological Aging
Aging
Social Gerontology
Problems, Issues and Trends in Gerontology
Contemporary Issues in Health
Exercise, Nutrition and Weight Management
Nutrition for Health and Physical Activity
Psychology of Physical Activity
Psychosocial Aspects of Sport and Physical Activity
Data Science I
Principles of Human Behavioral Genetics
Health Psychology
Emergency Management: Response Planning and Incident Command
Risk Assessment
Public Health Preparedness
Research Methods in Social and Behavioral Health
Theoretical Foundations of Social and Behavioral Health
Health Disparities and Social Justice
Community-based Participatory Research
Applications in Qualitative Research Methods
Domestic and Sexual Violence in Social Context
Aging and the Minority Community
Seminar in Population Studies
Seminar in Racial and Ethnic Relations in America
Studies in the Community
Seminar in Criminology
Community and Community Services for the Elderly
Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence: Medical Practice and Policy
Application of the Policy Process to Issues of Violence
Social Contexts of Childhood and Violence
Theorizing Gender Violence
The Sociology of Health and Illness
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
Introduction to Geographic Information Systems
Community Socioeconomic Analysis Using GIS
Spatial Database Management and GIS Modeling
Integrative program requirements
EPID 694MPH Capstone Project (Integrative Learning Course)3
Noncurricular program requirements
In addition to course work, students must attend 12 public health seminars and complete 20 hours of community-based service-learning.
Total Hours36

Sample plan of study for dual degree program 

Fall semesterHours
After M-3 training 
BIOS 543Graduate Research Methods I3
EPID 547Applied Data Analysis Lab I1.5
EPID 580Public Health Ethics1
EPID 593Foundations of the Public Health Profession2
EPID 600Introduction to Public Health3
EPID 603Public Health Policy and Politics3
HCPR 601Introduction to Health Policy3
 Term Hours: 16.5
Spring semester
After M-3 training 
BIOS 544Graduate Research Methods II3
EPID 548Applied Data Analysis Lab II1.5
EPID 604Principles of Environmental Health3
EPID 622Maternal and Child Health3
EPID 694MPH Capstone Project3
Elective (See list above)3
SBHD 605Introduction to Social and Behavioral Health3
 Term Hours: 19.5
 Total Hours: 36

The minimum total of graduate credit hours required for the M.P.H. curriculum toward the dual degree is 36.

Contact
Juan Lu, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.D.
Associate professor and graduate program director
juan.lu@vcuhealth.org
(804) 828-9786

Additional contact
Lisa S. Anderson
Director of educational programs, Division of Epidemiology, Department of Family Medicine and Population Health
lisa.s.anderson@vcuhealth.org
(804) 628-2512

Program website: familymedicine.vcu.edu/epidemiology/epidemiology-graduate-programs/mph-program/dual-degrees