UCSF Students First in United States to Receive Master's Degree in Global Health

The seven inaugural graduates of UCSF’s Master’s program in Global Health stand with program director John Ziegler, far left, Robert Hiatt, co-chair of the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, second from left, and Haile Debas, executive director of Global Health Sciences, far right.

Seven UCSF students on July 24 became the first in the country to obtain a master of science degree in global health.

The graduates, who included students from three UCSF schools and one postdoctoral fellow, are pioneers in a rapidly expanding field that is critical to the future of medicine, said UCSF chancellor emeritus Haile Debas, MD, executive director of UCSF Global Health Sciences (GHS).

“This program is on the leading edge of global health in the country,” said Debas, who described the inaugural graduating class as an extremely diverse group united by “a passion to serve the underserved.”

The 12-month UCSF Master’s Program in Global Health Sciences was designed to prepare students and practitioners for leadership careers in international health policy, health care, and health research and development. In addition to lectures and seminars, the program includes an entire quarter of fieldwork based either among underserved populations within the United States or in resource-poor communities abroad.

UCSF medical student Robin Tittle, in hat, stands with local farmers and staff from the Family AIDS Care and Education Services program in rural Kenya.

The program aims to help participants understand the many factors that contribute to great disparities in health and health care around the world – from poverty to environment to politics – and what can be done to narrow the gap, said GHS graduate program director John Ziegler, MD. “But we also challenge students to be skeptical, have doubts, ask the tough questions,” he said.

As word spreads about UCSF’s groundbreaking initiative, applications are steadily increasing. The class size is expected to triple to 21 students for the 2009-2010 academic year, said Karen Nelson, education program officer for GHS. Other universities are also taking notice of UCSF’s educational model, including Duke University, which will begin offering its own master of science program in the fall.

Graduate Kelli Barbour described the yearlong program as “an amazing journey” – a sentiment echoed by her fellow classmates.

“This year has helped me clarify and reinforce my commitment to global health,” said Jayalakshmi “Ammu” Ravindran.

UCSF medical student Jayalakshmi “Ammu” Ravindran presents a gift to Global Health Master’s program director John Ziegler on graduation day.

Trevor Jensen, another graduate, said he looks forward to taking the skills and lessons he has learned, both in the classroom and out in the field, and applying them to his future career in medicine.

In his remarks during the graduation ceremony, Debas urged the students to continue to work together and support one another in the years ahead, just as they had over the past 12 months.

“The challenge I would give you is to develop a network,” he said. “Be connected. Collaborate.”

In an effort to encourage such partnerships, Debas has spearheaded an initiative to create a multicampus, systemwide UC School of Global Health, which would draw upon and integrate the expertise of UC faculty in health sciences, social sciences, law, business and engineering.

UCSF medical student Trevor Jensen applauds a fellow graduate of UCSF’s Master’s program in Global Health on July 24.

In 2008, UC received a $4 million school planning grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the new school, and Debas and his colleagues are expected to seek final approval from the UC Board of Regents in 2010.

Positioning UCSF as a leader in global health is among the goals, under the broad heading of serving the community, articulated in the UCSF Strategic Plan. Unveiled in June 2007, the plan calls on UCSF to “develop Global Health Sciences to integrate and focus UCSF’s expertise in biological, population, social/behavioral and clinical sciences, in collaboration with global partners, to eliminate major health disparities and reduce the burden of disease on the world’s most vulnerable populations.”

Here’s a brief look at UCSF’s Global Health Master’s program graduates.

Kelli Barbour, a student in the UCSF School of Medicine, whose fieldwork in Tanzania focused on improving the teaching of anatomy to local students and on reinforcing capacity building.

Radhika Chigurupati, DMD, BDS, health sciences associate clinical professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery in the UCSF School of Dentistry, who has traveled to multiple countries in an effort to reduce the global burden of oral cancer and cleft lip and palate by improving health care access for the rural poor.

Trevor Jensen, a student in the UCSF School of Medicine, who worked with Grant Dorsey, MD, PhD, UCSF associate professor of medicine, to set up malarial surveillance units and estimate the disease burden of malaria in rural Uganda.

Global Health Sciences Executive Director Haile Debas attends the inaugural graduation ceremony for UCSF’s Master’s program in Global Health.

SoSon Jong, a graduate of the Community Health and International Nursing program in the UCSF School of Nursing, who designed a tuberculosis prevention program for HIV-positive Asian migrants.

Jayalakshmi “Ammu” Ravindran, a student in the UCSF School of Medicine, who joined forces with members of the UCSF-affiliated San Francisco General Hospital Pediatrics faculty to work on neonatal health education in Laos.

Robin Tittle, a student in the UCSF School of Medicine, whose fieldwork in Kenya helped bring improved irrigation resources to HIV-positive farmers.

Robert Wyrod, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, who traveled to Uganda to study AIDS and masculinity and to work with a local nongovernmental organization that combines AIDS prevention and domestic violence prevention.

Photos by Susan Merrell (except for one in Kenya)

Related Links:

UCSF graduates first cohort of Global Health students
UCSF Global Health Sciences

Debas to Update Regents on UC School of Global Health
UCSF Today, Sept. 17, 2008

UCSF Strategic Plan