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New master’s degree focuses on Global Health

Megan Doyle | Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A new master’s of science in global health degree will provide students with practical science-centric training and prepare them to improve health in developing countries, according to Joseph Bock, director of global health studies at the Eck Institute for Global Health.

A degree in global health is designed to focus on practical issues of health without national boundaries, Bock said, because global health refers to the scope of a problem rather than its geographical location.

Bock, who will oversee the program, said the coursework would build the practical skills students would need to work in international development and global health.

“Our mission isn’t so much to enhance their theoretical knowledge of biology but rather of … applied biology,” he said. “Instead of ‘know why,’ this is about ‘know how.'”

Bock said he would like to see graduates of the program move into work with humanitarian organizations such as Doctors Beyond Borders, Catholic Relief Services or the World Health Organization.

“We are here to help people widen their perspectives, to look closely at the reasons behind extreme poverty and vulnerability, to develop the practical skills so they can do something that would be different that what they would have if they had not gone through this program,” he said.

Students will graduate from the program with the ability to look at the picture of health on a global scale as well as on a local scale, Bock said.

The first class to enter the program will include six students to begin in the fall. Bock said most of the applications currently being reviewed are from college seniors working on bachelor’s of science (B.S.) degrees.

The master’s program will last 12 months. Students will follow a core curriculum of classes on global health challenges, research methods in global health science and bioethics.

The coursework will also include nine credit hours of electives and can select courses covering a range across different disciplines. Electives include courses on immunology, applied probability, environmental microbiology, AIDS and parasitology.

“We are going to make every effort link global health students with faculty who are doing global health work,” Bock said.

Students will also spend two to three months of field experience in a resource-poor setting, Bock said. Students can connect with faculty projects or international organizations such as Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to complete this requirement.

“The field experience can be a number of different options,” he said. “It can be service, it can be research, it can be project monitoring or it could be evaluation of projects.”

The program will focus its fieldwork in developing countries, Bock said.

Bock joined the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies in 2007 at the director of external relations before he moved to the Eck Institute. Bock is the University’s liaison to Catholic Relief Services and has worked in global health in South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and Haiti, according to a University press release.

The College of Science will fund the field experiences for the students, Bock said. The class is expected to grow to 12 in its second year and up to 25 in its third year.

Tuition, currently set at $39,710, will be subsidized by the College of Science at the rate of $24, 710. Students will therefore only pay a maximum of $15,000 to enter the program, he said.

Bock said participants in the program would have the chance to live Notre Dame’s mission.

“We see it as a fulfillment of Notre Dame’s mission to bring about greater knowledge to bear on helping poor and vulnerable people, and the vast majority of those people are in developing countries,” he said.

“This is not just about intellectual curiosity. This is about having a passion to really reach out to the poor and vulnerable.”