In 1997, the Schools of Medicine and Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) developed a formal MD–MPH program, called the Health Care and Prevention (HC&P) Program, located in the Public Health Leadership Program in the UNC School of Public Health. Since then, and especially since 2003, the number of UNC medical students taking a year out of their medical studies to pursue an MPH has increased dramatically. At present, more than 20% of UNC medical students enter an MPH program at some point between entering medical school and leaving for residency.
The HC&P Program is designed to introduce clinicians to the population sciences and to create physicians who can think in both individual and population terms. The curriculum is a rigorous, 12-month program that includes a practicum experience and a master's paper. Several of the traditional MPH introductory courses have been redesigned to be more relevant to physicians. The program allows a maximum number of electives and places a value on flexibility so that students, together with faculty, can design the educational experience that best meets their needs. Many members of the faculty of the program themselves have both MD and MPH degrees, and some have dual appointments in the schools of medicine and public health.
The authors have begun a longitudinal cohort study of program graduates and other medical graduates to understand the effect of the program on students' perceptions of their competency and their ability to exert leadership in various areas of population health.