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Public Health Scholarly Concentration

This scholarly concentration provides foundational knowledge in public health including:
  • An understanding of the U.S. health system
  • Trends impacting public health
  • Causes of death and disability

  • Historical contributions of public health to life expectancy and quality of life

  • Key terms and concepts

  • Assessing and impacting public and population health at the local, state, and national levels

  • Health system organization

  • Local and global factors that determine health at a population level

  • Evidence-based interventions and evaluations

Students are encouraged to apply to the Public Health Scholarly Concentration and the IMPRS Summer Research Program, but ONLY if they have the same mentor (or mentoring team) and project. There is insufficient time in the summer between the first and second years of medical school to do two independent projects. IMPRS links students with mentors and projects. Students who don't apply to or are NOT accepted into IMPRS can work with the Public Health Scholarly Concentration co-directors to identify a mentor and project idea, if needed.

Students who participate in the scholarly concentration may later choose to enroll in the  IU School of Medicine's MD-MPH combined degree program with the IU Fairbanks School of Public Health or obtain a certificate in public health from Fairbanks. The two public health courses taken in the scholarly concentration will count towards the required coursework for the MPH or certificate, and the scholarly concentration project can be expanded to a master's thesis. Further information can be obtained from Bill Tierney, MD, director of the MD-MPH combined degree program.


All concentration coursework can be completed online. The scholarly project work usually occurs in the student's IUSM campus city and/or region or a mutually agreed upon site.

Curriculum and Timeline

Students completing the Public Health Scholarly Concentration fulfill the same core curriculum as students in other concentrations. The didactic components provide a strong academic and experiential foundation in public health that will be vital for completion of the core curriculum project and product.

Recommended Pathway

This table shows that the first three topic specific courses should be completed during the summer between first and second year of med school. The two remaining courses, project and product, are longitudinal and can begin as soon as the summer between first and second year of med school and conclude on or before the end of fourth year.

Students determine if a concentration pathway will fit in their schedule by contacting concentration co-directors. 

Scholarly Project Topic Examples

Students work with faculty to complete a project in a relevant topic based on student interests. Students are welcome to come up with their own project idea. Potential project topics include:
  • Access to health care
  • Aging and geriatric health
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Childhood development
  • Chronic disease management
  • Diabetes prevention and treatment
  • Global health
  • Health promotion/disease prevention: Adults
  • Health promotion/disease prevention: Children
  • Infectious diseases
  • Maternal and child health
  • Mental health
  • Neurologic diseases/stroke
  • Nutrition and obesity
  • Palliative care
  • Pandemic preparedness & response (+ vaccination)
  • Public health data, epidemiology, and analytics
  • Public safety
  • Social barriers to health
  • Substance use/misuse/addiction (opioids, alcohol, etc.)
  • Trauma
  • Tobacco use/smoking cessation

Student Testimonials

Headshot of student Yannie HengWhy did you choose the Public Health Scholarly Concentration?

I've always been really interested in not just the biological basis behind illness, but the social reasons behind why people get sick. My health care goal eventually is to work on increasing health equity, especially amongst racial minorities, and to reduce barriers to care. So I thought that the Public Health Scholarly Concentration would be the most practical way to go about that. I have very little public health training, and it was just something that I've always been interested in. So I figured it would be good to just learn more about public health.

How has participating in the Public Health Scholarly Concentration shaped your medical school journey?

I think it's helped me view patients much more holistically. I think it's really easy, especially when you have a huge patient load, to just say “well, you have this disease, we're going to treat it and move on.” I think, ultimately, I just have more grace for patients when they have non-compliance issues. It’s helped me become more analytical, not just looking at the biological basis behind the disease; there are so many other things to look out for.

It's also given me a greater appreciation for primary care. I thought I was going to work at the hospital all the time, but seeing that if you have a good public health system you can have all these ways to prevent illness. Having a good public health system is so crucial to care and thinking more broadly about why patients are sick instead of just “oh, they have this disease.”

Headshot of student Melanie SchieveWhy did you choose the Public Health Scholarly Concentration?

Public Health stood out as a Scholarly Concentration because of my concurrent interest in pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) to further my knowledge of the realm of public health. The Scholarly Concentration really served as a stepping stone for these interests of mine, particularly epidemiology, and how these different principles apply to the field I'm interested in pursuing in medicine, which is Ophthalmology.

How has participating in the Public Health Scholarly Concentration shaped your medical school journey?

It has served as a starting point for my journey within public health. It's been great that there's overlap with the MPH program as far as how credits count; it's helped me complete some of the foundational classes for the MPH that I’m pursuing in epidemiology to make this pathway more smooth. 

Rebekah Roll“Being in the Public Health Scholarly Concentration program has provided me with invaluable interdisciplinary education. From learning basic introduction to public health to the overview of healthcare systems in America, I know I will carry this knowledge forward with me to provide better care for and with my patients."

What have you learned through working on your scholarly project?

It was an opportunity to learn more about scholarship. As a person who had never been involved in academic writing, this concentration has provided me with opportunities to learn about this process so I am comfortable doing it in the future.


Bill Tierney, MD

Clinical Professor, Associate Dean of Population Health and Health Outcomes

Bio and Contact Information

1367-Benaderet, Amanda

Amanda D. Benaderet, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Clinical Pediatrics

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portrait of priscilla barnes

Priscilla Barnes, MPH

Associate Professor

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39011-Holmes, Jordan

Jordan A. Holmes, MD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology

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