At DMU, public health is a worldwide endeavor

The theme for today during National Public Health Week is “World Health Day: Health is a Human Right,” a concept in action at Des Moines University and in its master of public health (M.P.H.) degree program. It’s evident across campus and beyond. Here are just a few examples.

DMU’s M.P.H. program is 100 percent online, so students can pursue the degree from anywhere around the world and on flexible schedules. But they don’t do so alone; the program is known for its highly accessible and responsive faculty, who are experts with real-world experience in the field. The program’s three concentrations – public health practice, public health administration and policy, and health education and promotion – allow students to gain specialized expertise that makes them stand out in a competitive profession.

The M.P.H. program also allows students to expand their knowledge and career horizons as a dual degree. Eligible students in DMU’s doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.), doctor of podiatric medicine (D.P.M.) and doctor of physical therapy (D.P.T.) programs can pursue the M.P.H. to combine their clinical knowledge and practice while deepening their perspectives and expertise on community and population health practice and policy. M.P.H. students also can pursue a master’s degree in health care administration (M.H.A.) at the University, while pharmacy and law students at Drake University can combine their primary degree with the M.P.H. at DMU.

DMU’s Global Health Program offers opportunities for students, including in the public health program, to broaden their perspectives and knowledge literally and figuratively. Even during the pandemic, DMU students participated in global health experiences, albeit virtually. They tackled issues ranging from HIV/AIDS prevention and management to safe water initiatives, access to dental health and the health impacts of climate change.

For example, last year six students in DMU’s M.P.H. and M.H.A. programs completed a four-week virtual internship with Fleximedical, a corporation and social impact business that aims to create solutions to democratize access to health care in Brazil. The DMU students worked with medical students from Universidade de Ribeirão Preto on projects relating to Fleximedical’s new mobile health units in that country.

DMU also is a member of one of 10 teams between Colombia and the United States that last year won grants in the most recent 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund competition sponsored by the Colombian Institute of Educational Loans and Studies Abroad and the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. The 100K Innovation Fund is a public-private sector collaboration among the U.S. Department of State and Partners of the Americas working with companies, foundations, regional government entities and academic networks to champion the power of education to support innovative partnerships and training programs between the United States and the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

DMU is on a team with the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Cundinamarca, Colombia; and the Fundación Universitaria Juan N. Corpas, Bogota, for a project on sustainable health equity: alliances for public health and community wellbeing. Through a hybrid student mobility framework, students of the three institutions will participate in experiential learning through interaction with local communities and health stakeholders. In the end, students will create and propose new policies and innovations to policymakers. 

Finally, M.P.H. faculty incorporate global insights and actions into their work. Professor Simon Geletta, Ph.D., was selected in late 2019 for the Mandela Washington Fellowship  Reciprocal Exchange Program of the U.S. government’s Young African Leaders Initiative and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. He planned to travel in April 2020 to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to teach leaders from the city’s 10 health districts about using public health strategies to help populations with chronic disease. In February 2020, his travels were put on hold due to COVID-19 as well as civil war in the country.

Dr. Geletta was not to be deterred, however: He submitted a new proposal to the program that compressed the 10-day project into four lectures he gave virtually during two days in December last year.

“There were two morning sessions and two afternoon sessions. When I was preparing them, it was completely out of my mind that I was going to have to teach them during the midnight hours,” he says. “I stayed up until 1 a.m. to start the lecture, finish it at 2:30 a.m. and then went to sleep for two and a half hours to get up and give their afternoon lecture at 5 a.m.”

It didn’t help that those two days were amid an exam week at DMU, so he was busy grading papers during the day. But “it was the only way forward,” he says. “I had to use several alarm clocks, but it was fun, and I had very good feedback from the 11 health leaders who participated.”

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