Master of Public Health

By Gabriela Alenjandra Martinez Jothar, Master of Public Health

Disclaimer: This article is intended as a description of the Master of Public Health as I’ve experienced it in the 2016-2017 cycle. Changes may occur in the coming years, and this is by no means a comprehensive view of the programme, as other students may have had experiences different from mine.
As I’ve viewed it, one of the advantages of undertaking a masters in public health at the University of Sheffield is that there are many different branches of specialisation available. You can choose to do the broad MPH programme or you can undertake one of the more specific branches, which include Health Services Research, Management and Leadership and European Public Health. In this article, we will focus on the broad general MPH course, but information regarding the other courses is easily accessible on the Sheffield university website via this link: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/scharr/prospective_students/masters/mph
The MPH programme runs for one year if you chose to undertake it full time, with the option of engaging in part time study, making the course take two or three years. My first semester consisted of mostly core courses, which included modules such as Epidemiology, Introduction to Research Methods, Health Needs Assessment, Planning and Evaluation, Introduction to Statistics and Critical Appraisal and Key Issues in Global Public Health (you can access a description of each module in this link: http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/scharr/prospective_students/masters/mph#tab01). I had larger class sizes in the first semester since some of these modules were also common core for the other Public Health courses. Some modules had up to about 100 people on it, whereas others were split in tutorial groups which allowed for more class participation. I was also allowed to take on an extra course titled Promoting Evidence-Based Health Care; an elective module that ran for MPH on the first semester.
The Dissertation module runs through the entire course. It is worth the same amount of credits as 3 of the other modules. It was also meant to be the culmination of our learning and research effort in the programme. Issues in methodology and ethics were addressed in this module, and the first semester gave me plenty of opportunities to discuss my choice of topic with academics in class.  We were also granted the opportunity to apply to research opportunities with specific research teams in the School (known as ‘research attachments’), although we still had to submit our own research idea for approval as places for attachments were known to be pretty competitive. I was allocated a supervisor after submission of a summary of my proposed research, including the methodology I wanted to use for my research. Supervisors are typically matched with students based on the choice of methodology of the research project.
Moving onto the second semester, it was very different from the first one in that I got to choose most of my modules (save for dissertation, which continued as a core module). We were advised to register for modules which would be useful with respect the methodology we would eventually use in our dissertation (For example, if you planned to do a systematic review, you would need to register for “Systematic Reviews and Critical Appraisal Techniques”). For the most part, however, we were given free choice over our choice of modules. We were expected to choose them before the beginning of the first semester, but could still change your mind within the first couple of weeks of each semester.

The MPH seems to me a quite fast paced programme requiring plenty of independent learning. We were advised to come to class prepared and I found that sometimes, simply reading the required reading was not enough. We were provided with a “reading list” if there was a topic of particular interest to us, and teachers were quite willing to offer assistance if we found a topic especially challenging. We were expected to come to class loaded with opinions on what we had read and I found that, particularly on the second semester, there were plenty of opportunities for discussion, which were far more interesting if we came to class prepared. Also, be prepared to engage in quite a bit of critical thinking, particularly when it comes to assessments, but the course itself instils and nurtures critical thinking. It prepared me for the challenges of the real world by making me question the traditional approaches to public health and my role as a health professional in a way that is both unique and exciting.  

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