Background: In 2004, 2 Wisconsin academic health departments partnered with the School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Wisconsin–Madison to strengthen the public health workforce through a service-learning program that prepares the next generation of leaders while addressing local public health needs. The Wisconsin Population Health Service Fellowship annually provides 4 to 6 master's or doctorally trained fellows with 2-year service-learning placements in health departments and community-based organizations.
Program Benefits: Placement communities benefit from fellows’ contributions to a broad range of public health issues, including chronic and communicable disease prevention, health equity, community practice, and policy and systems change. Academic health departments and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health enjoy additional program benefits, along with the advantages that accrue to the fellows themselves. For the academic health departments, this includes increased organizational capacity, generation of resources for public health, and a stronger and more diverse public health workforce.
Lessons Learned: The success of the partnership depends upon shared decision making and management, written agreements to clarify partner expectations, shared financial and in-kind contributions, and collaboration on program evaluation and dissemination.
Conclusions: By building upon their respective organizational strengths, Wisconsin's academic health departments and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health have developed a successful model for transforming talented, highly motivated young professionals into confident, emerging public health leaders with the cutting-edge skills and connections necessary to improve population health outcomes and advance health equity.