Notre Dame Launches Masters Program in Global Health

Established in 2009 through an endowment from the Frank Eck Family, the University of Notre Dame’s Eck Institute brings together a diverse group of faculty, staff, and students from several colleges and departments whose research and teaching address questions that are relevant to global health. The Eck Institute for Global Health seeks to build on the University’s strengths in infectious diseases research and training. It also aims to foster the interdisciplinary research and training that is required to holistically address health disparities around the world.

The Institute is now in the process of establishing a master of science in global health degree program that will accept its inaugural class for admission in the fall of 2011. The program, including classroom and experiential learning, aims to prepare students for improving human health around the world, especially for the poor and under-served, a reflection of the University’s Catholic mission.

The master’s degree builds on the extensive global health-related science research and training already conducted at Notre Dame through the Eck Institute for Global Health. Notre Dame decided to develop a global health master’s program that is centered on science for two main reasons. First, Notre Dame has strength in scientific research in infectious diseases and other areas of global health. Second, the research and development capacity of universities in the United States is arguably the best in the world. Scientific research and skill development are viewed as a comparative advantage.

This science-centricity is one distinguishing feature of Notre Dame’s program in a field in which many masters programs are linked to medical schools. The Notre Dame program draws on faculty expertise mainly from the sciences, though some faculty from the Indiana University medical school—with which Notre Dame has a collaborative program—are engaged as well.

Students will receive a professional master of science in global health degree in one calendar year, including course work in global health challenges, research design, and bioethics, and six to eight weeks of field experience.

“Despite announcing the program rather late in the normal cycle for graduate school applications, students from across the country have responded in a very positive way,” says Joe Bock, the Eck Institute’s director of global health studies. “The program will allow students to make connections between classroom training in global health topics and real health needs of the world’s poor and underserved through hands-on experience. We want to help students widen their perspectives, to look closely at the reasons behind extreme poverty and vulnerability, and to develop practical skills so they can be part of the solution to address the enormous inequity in health-care systems around the world.”

Bock says participants in the program will also have the chance to live Notre Dame’s mission. “We see it as a fulfillment of the mission to bring about greater knowledge and rigorous science to bear on helping poor and vulnerable people, and the vast majority of those people are in developing countries,” he says. “This is not just about intellectual curiosity—this is about having a passion to really reach out and effect change.”

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