The Washington University School of Medicine’s Master of Population Health Sciences (MPHS) degree program provides clinicians and clinical doctorates with advanced population health research methods training. MPHS students establish a wide network of mentors and collaborators by interacting with Washington University medical and public health faculty who are renowned for their teaching, patient care and ongoing cutting-edge research around the world. The MPHS degree can be obtained in as few as ten months, which allows a student to easily integrate the training into a clinical career, including during medical school, after residency or during fellowship. The MPHS program is one of a few in the country and one of the only in the Midwest that offers population health sciences training for clinicians.
Additional highlights include:
Strong set of required research methods courses –The quantitative curriculum emphasizes the role of epidemiology and biostatistics in approaching clinical effectiveness and outcomes research.
Innovative applied coursework – The MPHS does not require a research thesis/capstone. Instead, the program makes innovative use of applied coursework to focus on the long-term application of skills. Using topics relevant to their careers and interests, the applied coursework allows MPHS students to practice the art of developing research study protocols, performing systematic reviews, designing epidemiologic studies and more. By developing these skills across a thematic research area of interest, students are well positioned to apply their training to future studies as their careers advance.
Focused concentrations – Four concentration options (Clinical Epidemiology, Health Services, Psychiatric and Behavioral Health Sciences, and Quantitative Methods) allow students to further hone their population health research skills to match clinical interests.
In addition to the seven core courses, MPHS students take classes in a concentration track to further specialize their population health research methods studies.
- Clinical Epidemiology Concentration
- Health Services Concentration
- Psychiatric and Behavioral Health Sciences Concentration
- Quantitative Methods Concentration
The Clinical Epidemiology concentration provides clinicians with strong methodologic skills in study design and epidemiology focusing on clinical problems. Training focuses on rigorous clinical research study designs, the role of epidemiology in disease prevention and clinical health outcomes including analysis of prevention and screening programs, and evaluation of treatment and disease management programs, and the application of prediction rules. The competencies to be demonstrated at the end of the program expand on the overall MPHS and include:
- Achieve competency in designing observational studies, intervention studies, and randomized controlled trials to address a clinical population health issue.
- Identify appropriate data sources for exploring a clinical research question and conduct relevant secondary analyses.
- Draw inferences from epidemiologic data to guide practice guidelines.
- Evaluate quality and comparability of epidemiologic data.
- Articulate considerations for data monitoring, safety, and reporting in clinical research studies.
- Evaluate the utility and limitations of biomarkers in clinical practice.
- Synthesize existing evidence for screening, diagnosis, and management of disease.
- Analyze and develop studies that compare the benefits, harms, and effectiveness of treatment options.
The Health Services concentration provides the advanced methods training needed to evaluate and identify the most appropriate and effective approaches to clinical care, including prevention, early detection, and disease management. Areas of research interest for the concentration include cost-effectiveness analysis, decision analysis, health services research, and quality improvement. The competencies to be demonstrated at the end of the program expand on the overall MPHS and include:
- Demonstrate the ethical competencies for public health.
- Identify the various types of evidence that influence decisions in clinical health services and public health practice.
- Understand the barriers encountered when translating scientific evidence to practice.
- Recognize effective methods for translating evidence-based interventions in practice and policy settings.
- Explain the importance of leadership from public health professionals regarding the need and relevance of evidence-based interventions.
- Implement the basic concepts that underpin managerial decision-making in health and public health settings.
- Apply conceptual frameworks that explain organizational behavior.
- Evaluate critically organizational structures, processes, and performance in management teams.
- Describe how organizations work and become an active and constructive force for positive change in health care and public health organizations and systems.
- Assess the health care management situation, develop a range of courses of action, and make appropriate decisions consistent with the assessment.
- Demonstrate applied expertise in decision science and health services research.
The Psychiatric and Behavioral Health Sciences Concentration provides clinician-researchers with strong conceptual and methodological skills required for the design, advanced analysis and interpretation of epidemiological and treatment-effectiveness studies. With an emphasis on a clinical approach to psychiatric and addiction health research, training focuses on in-depth understanding of disease phenotypes, pathobiology and developmental trajectories; understanding the underlying biological and environmental factors and their interactions; understanding the role of psychiatric epidemiology in disease prevention and intervention; and evaluating psychiatric clinical treatment and management programs of psychopathology. The competencies to be demonstrated at the end of the program expand on the overall MPHS and include:
- Achieving competency in knowledge of phenomenology, nosology, epidemiology, etiology and public health burden of common psychiatric disorders, addictions and related behaviors across the lifespan.
- Understanding the psychiatric and general medical comorbidities associated with psychiatric disorders and addiction, including the medical needs of psychiatric populations.
- Understanding the epidemiology, biology and economics of addiction and addictive behaviors and examining the multifactorial basis for the developmental course of these behaviors and their adverse health consequences.
- Understanding the studies and methods for psychiatric genetic studies.
- Synthesizing existing evidence for screening, diagnosis and management of psychiatric illnesses.
- Evaluating the utility and limitations of genetic, imaging and other biomarkers in clinical research and practice.
- Identifying appropriate data sources for exploring psychiatric and behavior health research questions and conducting relevant secondary analyses.
The Quantitative Methods concentration emphasizes study design, data analysis, and the application of quantitative methods to research. Concentrators will choose from advanced quantitative methods courses that include biostatistics, epidemiology, health services, and evaluation. The concentration is geared toward health professionals requiring advanced methods and analytical skills for clinical and public health practice and research. Analysis of health services data, addition of biomarkers from plasma and DNA, and integration of these markers with other lifestyle risk factors (diet, obesity, smoking, lack of physical activity) to identify populations and targets for preventive services and programs is a priority. Population health clinicians who can lead research, translate findings to programs and practices that improve public health and then evaluate the effectiveness of such programs are essential to a long-term improvement in the health of the population. The competencies to be demonstrated at the end of the program expand on the overall MPHS and include:
- Demonstrate basic ethics as applied in public health.
- Develop and implement a research or public health practice project by applying principles of program evaluation or study design and the application of appropriate data analytic techniques in an area of public health or clinical significance chosen by the student.
- Develop the knowledge and skills to design, implement, and evaluate epidemiologic health services or clinical outcomes research projects of public health or clinical significance.
- Develop the knowledge and skills with biostatistical methods and computer software for performing appropriate analyses of public health services or clinical outcomes data.
- Develop the knowledge and skills with the definitions in basic issues involved in the clinical trials including design, implementation, and interpretation of results for their application in clinical or public health settings.
- Apply the principles of meta-analytic statistical methods for clinical trials and observational studies to quantitatively summarize existing data to answer questions of public health or clinical significance.
- Effectively implement decision analytic methods and cost-effectiveness analysis in health care technology assessment, medical decision-making, health resource allocation, and public health policies and practices, for the evaluation of public health and clinical interventions.
- Apply the principles of dissemination and implementation science to the evaluation of evidence for clinical and public health programs. Design and implement strategies with appropriate integration of evaluation to inform the refinement of clinical and public health programs that will lead to improved health and wellness of the population.
Scholars can further their knowledge in specific areas by choosing from three MSCI concentrations: Clinical Investigation, Translational Medicine or Genetics/Genomics. Scholars in all programs will take core courses in the following areas:
- Designing Outcomes and Clinical Research
- Introduction to Statistics
- Intermediate Statistics
- Ethical and Legal Issues in Clinical Research
- Epidemiology for Clinical Research
- Scientific Writing and Publishing OR Grantsmanship
Translational Medicine Concentration
In addition to the concentrations, the MSCI program also offers electives in:
- Biomedical Informatics
- Decision Analysis for Clinical Investigation and Economic Evaluation
- Multilevel Models in Quantitative Research
Students can also pursue elective courses offered through other programs and departments on campus including courses in population health sciences, psychiatric epidemiology, medical anthropology, genetic epidemiology, and public health.
Certificate in Clinical Investigation
The Certificate in Clinical Investigation (MSCI) is a 16-credit certificate program for young investigators committed to pursuing academic careers in clinical research.
- Students will gain knowledge in the core competencies of clinical research and investigation such as study design, research implementation, statistical approaches, responsible conduct of research, scientific communication and literature critique, leadership, and community engagement.
- On average, the 16 required credits of didactic coursework are completed by scholars within one to two years.
- The flexible program and largely evening course format allows for full or part-time enrollment that can accommodate clinical schedules at any point in a career.