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Online/Hybrid MPH Students Together Again for the First Time

The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice’s Master of Public Health online/hybrid program, designed for working professionals, is a 22-month program of combined online and residential coursework with most of the coursework being completed online, and students typically on campus three times per year.

However, like many campus activities, the COVID-19 pandemic upended usual plans—neither the Class of 2022 nor 2023 have attended classes on campus. In December that changed. With every COVID-19 precaution, protocol, and policy in place, students were given the option to attend the intensive week in person or virtually. More than half of those enrolled in each class of the public health program chose to be on campus. With each student in compliance with Dartmouth’s vaccination requirements then tested the on day of arrival, they met for the first time for a week of in person and virtual sessions.

After brief opening remarks by Amber Barnato, MD, MPH, MS, director of The Dartmouth Institute, and Craig Westling, DrPH, MPH, MS, executive director of education, students took part in an interactive panel discussion about the drivers of inequity in healthcare with three of the program’s newest faculty:

Assistant Professor Ellesse L. Akré, PhD, talked about health inequities, intersectionality, and access to healthcare. She analyzes health services research and utilizes population health science to demonstrate how macrolevel systems such as heterosexism, sexism, and racism are determinants of health inequities.

Associate Professor Alka Dev, DrPH, MHS, focused on maternal health equity in the United States and abroad, especially the harmful effects of resource uncertainty or scarcity during pregnancy and its impact on health outcomes for both mothers and newborns.

Associate Professor Terri D. Lewinson, PhD, MSW, whose work focuses on the experience of home environments for people who have been marginalized, explored the factors involved in residential mobility, or why people transition into and out of different home environments.

Though the program has successfully hosted four virtual intensive weeks along with virtual networking and social experiences, meeting face-to-face is important aspect for students. Being part of Geisel’s close-knit campus community adds to their experience as they begin fostering long-term relationships and building professional networks.

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Photos by Kurt Wehde

According to Megan Read, MPH, the hybrid MPH program manager, this hybrid model along with a low student-to-faculty ratio is what sets Dartmouth’s program apart from other online programs. Mentored by Dartmouth Institute faculty, students also designed and completed a practicum project resulting in a poster presentation—which was held virtually this year.

After three days of intensive coursework, students and faculty gathered outdoors on a cold snowy New England evening around a fire pit to socialize and enjoy hot chocolate and other winter fare.

At the week’s conclusion, students noted “everything went remarkably well given the dynamic environment” and “were impressed by the dual learning platform.”

Plans are underway to host the March 2022 Intensive week in a dual learning environment as well.