How UC Berkeley creates changemakers in public health
Promoted by UC Berkeley

How UC Berkeley creates changemakers in public health

Barb Spangler has had an illustrious career. As a clinical research manager for GE, she managed an electrophysiology department of a major academic medical centre in the US. At Kaiser Permanente, she helped hospitals provide better quality of care and lower costs. As a medical records director at Rotaplast International, she went on humanitarian missions to help provide cleft lip and palate repair surgeries. She has worked all over the US, Venezuela, India, Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Now she’s adding another achievement to her belt: An Online Master’s of Public Health from the world’s premier public university, UC Berkeley.

“I chose to pursue a MPH online with Berkeley because I wanted to gain additional skills in data analysis, grants evaluation and health problem assessment. As a Rotary International District and Zone level leader, I see many grant applications, and assist many Rotary Clubs in developing service projects in healthcare – so I want to do that work as well as I can!” Spangler said.

“The online program at UC Berkeley gives me access to incredible academic resources, helps shape my thinking, and allows for flexibility in coursework.”

Online MPH students spend 15 days on campus during the program, with one visit in the summer of Year 1 and a second visit in the summer of Year 2.

Spangler joins the diverse cohort of talent UC Berkeley’s online MPH draws every year. From nurses to healthcare managers to doctors, they bring thought-provoking, real-life case studies to discussions and a wealth of professional connections to the program.

In this established program, students can expect the full Berkeley quality. The virtual format is flexible and lets students arrange their time and commitments around their studies. It also does not compromise with the interdisciplinary nature of the program. The Berkeley online MPH doesn’t lock students into a track — instead, students work through different foundational classes and determine for themselves if they want to specialize in the Health Policy & Management concentration, Epidemiology concentration, or be a part of the core Interdisciplinary cohort.


It’s a master’s designed to support everyone to become a changemaker in public health.

With COVID-19 placing a major stress test on the American healthcare system, the country needs more public health professionals with strong problem solving skills, command of key research and creative ideas to create positive change.

They can find ways to help hospitals be better prepared for future outbreaks and support the public health infrastructure so the US can slow the spread earlier and save more lives — especially vulnerable groups. Berkeley’s online MPH was designed to help advance this very goal: reducing the inequity and injustice that affect the health and dignity of all people.

Michael C. Lu, Dean of UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health saw many graduates of some of the nation’s top schools of public health in his previous role as a senior executive in the federal government. They were whizzes in biostatistical analysis, he said, but lacked some basic tools and skills for changemaking.

This includes “communication skills to change hearts and minds; skills for leading and managing organisational change; skills for building teamwork and resolving conflicts; strategic planning skills to plan change, improvement and innovation skills to drive change; fund-raising and finance skills to sustain and scale change.”

“Many also lacked the mindset to see change through,” he said.

That’s not the case with Berkeley’s online MPH. Dean Lu said that Berkeley’s online MPH is designed to ensure it upskills students with this exact set of critical skills.

In classes, students like Spangler get to ask and answer the most pressing healthcare questions of the day. There will be frequent quizzes, short bites of content, exercises to assess knowledge comprehension — all the best practices in remote, asynchronous learning, according to Dr. Kip Webb. Webb lectures on topics including Health Strategy, Healthcare Innovation, Digital Health, Clinical Transformation, and Social Determinants of Health.

“My global consulting background has informed the design of the new version of our online Health Strategy course: it will be roughly 20% theory, 30% skills building, and 50% case studies gleaned from the current US and Global Healthcare ecosystem,” he explained.


Dr. Webb represents the calibre of faculty members in this program deftly tackling the major public health crises of today. In his Health Strategy course many of the case studies focus on the impact of COVID-19, climate change and systemic racism on health. Students will learn the “practical strategies that are grounded in science and the environments that have created the current state of affairs”.

This was one of the reasons that drew digital health professional Larissa Purnell to this “impact-first” master’s. Purnell, 26, is a Filipino-American who saw the potential of the online MPH to equip her with the understanding of specific socio-economic factors influencing communities in order to build digital health products for their needs and problems.

“Prior to joining this program, I recognized the potential of the digital health field and how I could support different companies and business models to scale their products or services while maintaining clinical efficacy and value based principles,” she said.

“However, the Berkeley coursework, my professors’ backgrounds, and my peers’ experiences have highlighted ways I can deepen my knowledge in the healthcare field, whether it’s working as a policy maker or taking time to conduct my own research in population health, and therefore refining my lens for the impact I want to make in digital health. I am confident that access to this Berkeley network will continue to be an asset in helping guide my thinking as I navigate my career in this space”.

For more than 75 years, UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health has educated changemakers through groundbreaking research, world-class education, and community-engaged action. It is at the heart of the critical issues and challenges facing California, the US and the world. Tackle the most pressing public health issues from wherever you are — start with an online MPH from UC Berkeley. Find out more here.

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