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Guide to Public Health Educational Opportunities

Navigating the proverbial road to a career in public health isn't an easy task. While a number of opportunities exist for medical students, finding out that they even exist (much less accessing them) can be a significant challenge.

To that end, the MSS Ad Hoc Committee on Public Health has created a guide to training opportunities in public health specifically targeted toward medical students. It's our hope that you use this as a starting point for your involvement with medicine, leadership and public health.

If you have any questions about the resources listed below, please don't hesitate to contact the members of the committee. A number of us have participated in these programs and can connect you to first-hand advice on the opportunities available. This list is by no means exhaustive - so if you have any other resources that you've come across, please don't hesitate to send them our way for inclusion in this guide - your fellow medical students will thank you for it!

  • Internships
  • Degree Programs
  • Elective Rotations
  • Scholarships
  • Fellowships
  • Other Opportunities
  • Public Health Links

Some of the links below will take you off the AMA website. The AMA is not responsible for the content of other websites.


Summer internships

  • American Medical Association - Medical Student Section Government Relations Internship Program
    The AMA funds six to eight week paid internships in inter/national health policy experiences (i.e. Congressional internships, internships with specialty societies seated in the AMA House of Delegates and non-governmental organizations) and provides weekly seminars for GRIP fellows at the AMA's Washington office. The applicant is responsible for arranging his or her own internship.
  • Duke University, Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Summer Program on Global Policy and Governance
    The Program on Global Policy and Governance prepares tomorrow's policy leaders to work through the policy and institutional issues at the heart of global governance. The program is intended for graduate students from around the world striving for an international career.
  • Native Health Initiative, University of North Carolina
    The Native Health Initiative offers medical, premedical, and other health professions students 5-week summer internships to work alongside tribal health leaders to address health inequalities in American Indian communities in North Carolina. The projects range from health education, research on issues chosen by the tribal leaders, and work with youth to empower them towards health. Please visit their website for further information.
  • AMSA End of Life Education Fellowship Program
    The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Foundation's End of Life Education Fellowship Program is a six-week summer experience designed to introduce fourteen to sixteen medical students to end of life care issues.

Year-round internships

  • AMA Government Relations Advocacy Fellowship
    One Fellow is selected each spring to work in Washington, D.C., as a full-time paid member of the AMA's Federal advocacy team for one year.
  • American Medical Student Association - Open Date Internships
    Four to eight week internships at AMSA's Washington, D.C. office in health policy, global HIV/AIDS advocacy, research and national priorities for the association, programming and universal health care. These internships are unpaid, but free housing near AMSA's headquarters is available - and a good place to interact with AMSA national leadership, who live there as well!

Suggested public health internship sites

The internships below have reputations as excellent placements for students looking for a public health, health policy, and/or international health experience of substance. For more information, please visit the websites below.

A word of caution: Some of these internships are unfunded or carry small stipends. Thankfully, many schools will either fund these types of internships through grants offered through their students or will utilize discretionary funding to help offset expenses. If you need help finding funding resources, please don't hesitate to contact the MSS Committee on Public Health!

Health policy

Public health and international health

Degree Programs

A number of you may feel a need for a second degree to complement your medical training and bolster your credentials in public health. While there's no going wrong with obtaining such a degree, there's a number of opportunities out there, so be sure to consider the options carefully. Read below and see what others who've gone before you have done with combining degrees - and consider your own priorities before making any decisions!

General advice

  • StudentDoctor.net
    The popular website for medical school applicants has a wealth of knowledge on public health, health policy, health administration and health services research programs. Try the forums for the quickest advice!
  • A compilation of survey responses from AMSA's initiative to collect information about the various options available to students interested in pursuing a Master's in Public Health in addition to their medical degree - and a very useful source of information.
  • Schools of Public Health Application Service
    One application that can be sent to multiple public health schools. The major benefits:
    • Save time by filling out only one application
    • Less hassle as at the point of application only one set of transcripts and letters of recommendation required
    • One-stop shopping to find out about the 38 accredited schools of public health on one website
      Simplified process because you'll have a single point of contact
  • Masters in Healthcare
    This webpage was originally created in 2000 by someone in the field because prospective students often have questions about the different degrees; existing lists on the internet were not as comprehensive nor easy to find; and website links are constantly changing and go out of date. It is an unofficial, individual effort and not sponsored by any association or program.

Types of degree programs

The following degrees can help a student interested in public health (and its many subsections) to develop the skill sets necessary for success in public health practice, leadership, research and/or activism - whatever your fancy may be. We've gone ahead and listed some of the more prominent programs nationally, along with those particularly welcoming to medical students looking to combine degrees

  • Masters in Public Health
    One to two years in length, this master's program is the "standard" for many entering public health. The core curriculum provides an overview of epidemiology, biostatistics, social determinants of health, health policy and public health practice; from then on, one can specialize in any of a number of potential concentrations, depending on the school.

    Notable programs: Harvard U., Johns Hopkins U., Dartmouth U., Boston U. (all one-year programs that can be completed by medical students during one year off); UNC-Chapel Hill; U. of Washington; U. of Michigan; George Washington U.; Columbia U.; UC-Berkeley; UCLA; Emory U.; U. of Minnesota; London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; London School of Economics.
  • Masters in Public Policy/Masters in Public Administration
    One to two years in length, this program focuses on public policy analysis, management and leadership development, with the core curriculum focusing on analysis of wide-ranging social issues - some medically-related, others not. Concentrations exist in a number of fields; health policy and public health are most popular among medical students. The MPA differs from the MPP in that its focus is more on administration and management, while the MPP focuses more on policy analysis and policymaking. If you have an interest in international policy/international health, the MPA/MALD programs at Tufts, Harvard, Syracuse, Columbia, Georgetown, George Washington and Johns Hopkins may be of particular interest.

    Notable programs: Harvard U.; Duke U.; U. Chicago (all programs that can be completed concurrently with a MD in five years); New York U.; Princeton U.; Georgetown U.; UC-Berkeley; Columbia U.; U. of Michigan; George Washington U.; Carnegie Mellon U.; Johns Hopkins U.; Tufts U. (MA in Laws and Diplomacy; MALD - The Fletcher School); Syracuse U.; London School of Economics; Oxford U.; Cambridge U.; U. of Edinburgh.

Other options for combined degrees

  • MD/PhD
    Often the PhD is in a basic science field, but some schools offer a PhD in Public Health
  • Masters in Business Administration/Masters in Health Administration
  • MD/JD- Become a physician and a lawyer
  • MD/Masters in Health Communication

Elective rotations

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Epidemiology Elective
    The Career Development Division (CDD) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a 6-8 week elective in epidemiology for senior medical and veterinary students. Approximately 50 senior medical or veterinary students will be offered an elective position each year that provides the student an introduction to public health, preventive medicine, and the principles of applied epidemiology, all under the mentorship of experienced CDC epidemiologists.
  • JAMA Elective
    JAMA provides a 4 week elective in medical editing for 4th year medical students who meet certain criteria. For more information, contact Robert Golub, MD, Senior Editor, JAMA.
  • Preventative Medicine Rotations for 4th year medical students
  • Child Family Health International offers Global Health Education Programs, 1-4 month rotations alongside local doctors in underserved communities. Over 50% of CFHI program fees go back to local communities.
  • Contact your office of student affairs for International Medicine/Health Care electives within your medical school.



Health policy fellowships

Public health fellowships

Fellowships during/post residency/internship

Other Opportunities

  • Service on one of the AMA-MSS' Standing Committees, i.e. Public Health, Legislation and Advocacy, International Health and Policy
    Please visit the MSS Committee website for more information.
  • AMA Medicine and Public Health rotations
    Educational opportunities in the AMA's Department of Medicine and Public Health through rotations as part of their medical education curriculum; summer and year-long internships as part of course requirements; research projects; and field experiences as required by their public health course requirements.
  • Unite for Sight
    Unite For Sight's volunteers range from undergraduate and medical students, educators, nurses, and public health professionals to optometrists and ophthalmologists. The volunteers serve as interns at eye clinics in Africa and Asia. The eye clinic's eye doctors and Unite For Sight volunteers jointly participate in community-based screening programs and surgical procedures. Research opportunities and academic credit are possible (see FAQ page). The lengths of trips and locations vary - please visit the website for more details.

Public Health Links