Global health master’s program celebrates first graduating class

Author: Gene Stowe

A new master's program in global health focuses on health disparities in countries such as Haiti

Fourteen students graduated from the Master of Science in Global Health Program at the Eck Institute for Global Health on Saturday, July 28. Notre Dame is among a handful of universities offering students the opportunity to address the issue of global health.

The one-year program, directed by Joseph Bock, includes two semesters’ course work, mostly in biology; one or two months’ field experience; and a scholarly Master’s Project. Students went to Malaysia, Haiti, Tanzania, Uganda, Ecuador and India to fulfill their fieldwork requirement, and one worked at Hannah’s House, a home for single pregnant women in Mishawaka.

“The program focuses on health and the poor, health disparities and health challenges around the globe,” said Lacey Haussamen, assistant director of global health training. “About half of this class is continuing on to medical school, but about half are seeking jobs directly related to global health.”

“I chose the program to gain research experience; to broaden my knowledge of global health issues, particularly epidemiology; because of Notre Dame’s commitment to social justice; and because the extended fieldwork component truly appealed to me,” said Zoë Cross, who did her fieldwork in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with the National Institute for Medical Research. Cross will attend medical school at the University of Washington.

“I plan to become a primary care physician, and learning about issues that affect health status around the world has the potential to expand my vision, from one patient to the many factors at play,” she says.

Greg Crawford, the College of Science dean who spoke at the graduation, said the program brings Notre Dame’s person-centered approach to the questions of global health amid a consensus that access to medicines, clean water, food and unpolluted environments are basic human rights.

“In that convergence of national and international commitments to address global health issues, we saw an opportunity to leverage Notre Dame’s distinctive mission-based, intellectual and academic resources in a master’s program that would contribute to advances in global health through research, training and service,” he said.

Crawford gave each of the graduates a medal of St. Damien of Molokai, the Belgian-born priest who worked among lepers in Hawaii in the 19th century.

In addition to their individual field work, the group conducted a survey on mental health in St. Joseph County and assisted in a health fair sponsored by the Minority Health Coalition, Hispanic Leadership Council, Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center and the Institute for Latino Studies.

Twenty-one students, about half from Notre Dame and half from other universities, will enter the second class, Haussamen said. “Moving forward, we’re looking forward to growing the class at a moderate pace over time,” she said. “There’s a lot of interest in global health. We think this program is meeting one of those interests.”