Above: Since 1972 (left) to today’s COVID-19 crisis (right), Tulane’s MD/MPH joint degree program has had an impact on organized medicine and the quality of health care in communities around the world. Graduates of the program treat individuals with disease and also assess the impact of — and find solutions for — disease at the population level. (1972 Jambalaya yearbook image courtesy Tulane Special Collections with photography by Wade Hanks, Right photograph by Sally Asher)
Tulane University was founded in 1834 by physicians committed to fighting the public health crisis facing New Orleans at the time. That dedication to the interface between public health and medicine continues today in the prestigious MD/MPH joint degree program, committed to preparing the next generation of physician leaders to effectively address medical and public health challenges of the 21st century and beyond.
The MD/MPH program celebrates its 50th anniversary this year and has grown to be one of the most popular of its kind. The program is open to students who have been accepted to Tulane School of Medicine with a goal to pursue an MD with an MPH from the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine simultaneously.
Nearly 1,200 students have graduated from the program since its inception. The first five joint degree students graduated in 1972. Today, between 30 to 40 students graduate from the program each year, with about 140 students currently enrolled at any one time, according to Dr. M. “Tonette” Krousel-Wood (PHTM ’91), professor of medicine and epidemiology and associate dean for public health and medical education.
“This program is training physician leaders who will practice at the critical interface between medicine and public health, where they not only are able to treat individuals with acute and chronic diseases, but they also have a skill set to assess the impact of these diseases and implement solutions at the population level,” said Krousel-Wood.
When the joint degree was established in 1971, it was one of the first of its kind in higher education and was novel because it allowed students to meet all requirements for both degrees within the four-year medical school curriculum. The Tulane program serves as a model for MD/MPH combined degree programs nationwide.
Krousel-Wood, who also serves as the associate provost for the health sciences, said the joint degree appeals to the altruistic nature of Tulane medical students who want to change the world and set themselves apart.
Tulane offers several public health concentration tracks for students to pursue — epidemiology, community health sciences, environmental health science, health policy and management, biostatistics and data science, and tropical medicine.