This summer, Edson Carias, a first-year MD/MPH student at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, helped the Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) develop a social marketing campaign for sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention. The assignment served as part of his master’s in public health field experience.
“I organized focus groups of our target demographic, LGBT identifying youth that also identify as African American or Latino, in an effort to establish a framework that HBHC can use after my field experience is over,” said Carias, one of 11 MD/MPH students participating in a field assignment this summer. As part of the degree program, each student must complete at least 200 hours of public health field work.
With an interest in urban and minority health, Carias wanted to learn more about how LGBT identities and decided to spend his field experience at HBHC, one of the leading providers of health services to Chicago’s LGBT population. The organization is one of the medical school’s several community partners, providing public health opportunities to students.
“I have always been interested in how society consumes healthcare messages and this field experience has diminished a lot of my initial doubt by teaching me how to incorporate health education theories into message development,” Carias said. “I did not realize how much I would like the field of health promotion campaigns and I am considering it as an aspect of my future career as a physician.”
As part of his experience, Carias engaged in some of HBHC’s outreach efforts to provide free HIV/STI testing. HBHC is committed to keeping the LGBT community informed, educated, and healthy. They perform a wide range of services such as training seminars, HIV/STD prevention education, counseling, and testing.
“People are so grateful that they are being offered this free service and always mention that they would not seek it otherwise because of their inability to pay,” he said. “The genuine gratitude of the people that are directly affected by these services has probably been the best part of the experience and serves as a continuous source of motivation.”
First-year MD/MPH students meet with site supervisors and MPH field experience director Virginia Bishop, MD, MPH, assistant professor in preventive medicine to choose a public health issue to focus on during their field experience.
“The students receive a lot of information about public health through their education, but these experiences allow them to touch, see, smell, and live the public health experience,” she said. “At the end we believe our students have a great practical sense of what public health is – at least from the perspective of one public health agency or community-based organization and their own experience.”
For more information about the combined doctor of medicine and master’s in public health program at Feinberg, click here.