Context: As public health challenges grow more complex, the call for professional education to be interprofessional, collaborative, and grounded in real world practice has intensified.
Objective: In this article, we describe the development, implementation, and results of one pioneering course at Boston University that aims to prepare public health, medical, and dental students for their combined roles in community health settings.
Setting and Participants: The Schools of Public Health, Medicine, and Dental Medicine jointly offered the course in partnership with 3 community organizations. Participants include MPH, MD, and DMD candidates.
Intervention: The course design integrates the use of “The Challenge Model” (created by Management Sciences for Health) with training in public health consultation techniques (eg, community-based participatory research, logic models, monitoring and evaluation). Teams of 6 to 8 medical and public health students collaborate with managers and staff of a community health center to address 1 organizational challenge and recommend a sustainability plan.
Results: Postcourse evaluations revealed that a cross-disciplinary, practice-based education model is feasible and can meet students' learning objectives and exceed expectations of community partners. We overcame formidable obstacles related to the “silo'ed” nature of academic institutions and the competing priorities within overburdened community organizations. We found that sustained project implementation was attained at some but not all sites, yet all sites highly valued the perspective and contribution of student teams.
Conclusion: Dynamic and replicable, this practice-based education model is adaptable to professional schools whose work intersects in the real world and calls for collaborative leadership.