UC Berkeley: Combat public health challenges with an online MPH
UC Berkeley

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the world’s urgent need for public health professionals.

Healthcare systems, including ones in the world’s richest nations, are under tremendous strain as they struggle with shortages of not just doctors and nurses but of essential equipment like intensive care beds, protective gear and ventilators. The situation in countries less wealthy is several times more stricken.

That’s where the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) steps in.

Its online Master of Public Health (MPH) is the qualification built with the overall aim of reducing the inequity and injustice that affect the health and dignity of all people. The programme can be done in an interdisciplinary fashion or students can choose to specialise in concentrations around either Epidemiology or Health Policy and Management

Led by world-renowned faculty members, it features cutting edge thinking and professional tools to arm the next generation of changemakers on how to manage and even prevent future public health threats. Having a strong competency in health policy and management is critical for any public health professional in achieving this goal.

“UC Berkeley’s online MPH programme is one of the best in the country and provided me with the health policy and management focus I needed,” said US-based clinical pharmacist Brittany Woolf.

“I can also use my MPH at my current organisation to make it better and really help an underserved, vulnerable population through government relations and improvement science.” 

UC Berkeley

Evolve into an impactful and influential health policy leader

Gilead. Deloitte. Genentech. Stanford Healthcare. Kaiser Permanente. BCG.

From global consulting firms to established integrated care delivery systems, these are just some of the top employers that UC Berkeley’s online MPH students in its Health Policy & Management (HPM) concentration land jobs in.

With a focus on this concentration, you will study fundamental HPM elements such as systemic issues, market dynamics, policy response and the financial impact that a pandemic can have on health systems globally.

Through a supervised practicum experience you will apply the knowledge and skills you have learned in partnership with a client organisation — this could be through a developing a strategic initiative or business plan or by conducting a policy analysis/evaluation.

Adding to the real world element are opportunities to engage with employers, alumni and industry experts to see health policy and management from the lens of those on the front lines and in the executive suites.

MPH Faculty Director and Health Policy & Management faculty Kimberly MacPherson explains how the concentration is a highly personalised one too.

“For my HPM class on ‘Healthcare Finance,’ I craft the lessons using branching material to meet people where they are at in terms of prior exposure to accounting and finance,” she explained.

“Students can either begin with the ‘Tool Kit’ lesson that has foundational concepts and core skills, or they can jump right into the ‘Real World’ module where the finance material is handled in an applied manner using examples from key parts of the system: hospitals, insurance, pharma and healthcare technology.”

Professor MacPherson serves as co-director for the Berkeley Center for Health Technology (BCHT) with Dr James Robinson where she engages in market access and adoption of both biomedical and digital health innovation

Such innovative and industry-relevant research at the university often makes its way into the coursework UC Berkeley online MPH faculty members set, resulting in very practical and hands-on classes.

For example, Professor MacPherson brings BCHT’s research knowledge into her classes, so that students benefit from her Centre’s efforts around how health systems can better work to balance affordability and innovation.

Professor MacPherson also gets students to sharpen their professional expertise with homework assignments that are built around real-world case studies:

“I ask students to analyse 10 years of financial data for a hospital and then use that to calculate and interpret key financial ratios.”

“They use those ratios to assess the fiscal health of the hospital and identify areas they would want to better understand so that they could offer recommendations. At the end of the class they are given the assignment to evaluate if a hospital should invest in a US$4 million piece of radiation/radio surgery equipment.”

Another highly-regarded faculty member teaching the online MPH degree is Professor William Dow.

Dow teaches the Economics of Population Health class, where he introduces MPH students to skills that have global applicability.

“Beyond the practical tools such as cost-effectiveness analysis which help in resource prioritisation decisions, I help students to understand how economists think and how to use economists’ language in public debates,” he explained.

“This helps them to be more effective public health advocates and communicators about the importance of public health investments.”

Dow also encourages students to discuss applications to policy and programme planning decisions, and students conduct an analysis themselves as part of a group project.

“Many graduates have told me of the subsequent usefulness of these tools in their jobs,” he adds.

Other online MPH courses pair students with healthcare organisations to work on real-world challenges.

UC Berkeley

John Botdker an HPM student who is close to graduation describes his “Strategy in the Healthcare Sector” course as his “most memorable” class so far thanks to the client facing project embedded as part of it.

Led by the “really knowledgeable” Professor Joseph Houska, who was part of the executive leadership team at California-based integrated health system Kaiser Permanente, students work in teams of five on a real-life strategy consulting project.

“Clients have included major health plans, community clinics, international NGOs, multinational corporations and technology savvy start-ups,” said Professor Houska.

He explains that his eight-week engagement demands attention and commitment from students, but it always results in very significant learning experiences:

“One of the best final client presentations in the five years I have taught the course was managed by a student team coming together from San Rafael and Berkeley in California, Pennsylvania, Liberia, and Singapore,” he said.

“The amount of practical knowledge and skill it took to prepare and deliver such a presentation is a great tribute to the students and to the programme that attracted them to Berkeley and organised their learning while here.”

Houska’s student Bodtker is currently paired with an accountable care organisation (ACO), where he gets to work directly with the company’s founder.

Professor Houska attends many of the student-company meetings as well as regularly  connecting with Bodtker’s MPH team to brainstorm approaches, discuss how to communicate with executives, maximise students’ experience and ensure the company is pleased with the final strategic deliverables.

“I really can’t say enough about how great this experience has been, and the whole course has been expertly planned and executed.”

He adds: “This is why I’m glad I chose UC Berkeley as they have definitely delivered on this course.”

The HPM curriculum can be combined with a range of electives courses to suit each student’s professional goals including those from the new online Epidemiology concentration.

Current HPM students are selecting electives that focus their study on improving healthcare outcomes through addressing drug safety, market access and the cost of prescription drugs, improving infectious disease control in healthcare settings, using spatial data to inform healthcare decisions as well as designing better public health programmes to improve healthcare outcomes.

So, if you want to invest in becoming a public health changemaker, click here to join UC Berkeley’s online MPH 2020 intake and take a closer look at the Health Policy & Management concentration and their new concentration in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. 

The world, and UC Berkeley, is waiting for compassionate, industry-ready public health  professionals like you!

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