Yale junior Sarah Milby has always been interested in pursuing a career in public health and community development, and a new joint-degree program may be able to give her a head start. Milby, a premed and history of science/ medicine major, plans on being one of the first applicants to a new five-year joint-degree program that will allow her to earn a B.A. or B.S. at Yale College and an M.P.H. from the Yale School of Public Health (EPH). “I’m so excited to start preparing for my career in public health as a senior,” she said.

The program is designed to give students a broad understanding of the factors that shape public health and to equip them with the tools necessary to address public health issues, such as the fight against chronic disease and the impact of environmental stressors on human health. It is open to all undergraduates, regardless of their major. Students would normally apply to EPH during the spring of their sophomore year, but juniors may also apply this spring, when the first wave of applications will be considered.

Developed over the past two years, the program is a response to increasing student interest in the field of public health and serves as an alternative to the two-year master’s program already in place. “There has been evident a very large demand on the part of undergraduates, who are agitating for more course experiences and educational opportunities that allow them to take their classroom knowledge and put it into more concrete and applied settings,” said Mark J. Schlesinger, Ph.D., director of undergraduate studies at EPH and professor in the Division of Health Policy and Administration. He also views the program as an opportunity for EPH to connect itself more extensively with Yale College.

In addition to completing the requirements for their undergraduate major, students in the new program will complete six public health courses, such as health policy, biostastics and principles of epidemiology, during their junior and senior years. Between the fourth and fifth year they will complete a public health internship, and during the fifth year they will be enrolled full-time at EPH in one of the school’s eight divisions, where they will complete 10 courses and a master’s thesis.

The five-year program and a new one-year mid-career program for health care professionals will bring both older and younger students to EPH. “Each group will bring its own distinctive resources into the classroom,” said Schlesinger. “I think it will make the classroom experience much richer for all the students.”

For undergrads who are anxious to begin earning a graduate degree in public health while working toward their bachelor’s degree, the combined program is a welcome addition. “I want to start my life and make a difference,” said Milby. “That’s why this is just too good to be true.”