4 + 1 Undergraduate - MPH Program

4 + 1 Undergraduate - MPH Program


As threats of infectious diseases and bioterrorism grow and the nation confronts chronic health problems such as obesity and substance abuse, there is a critical need both in the public and private sectors for leaders who understand the scientific as well as the ethical, social, and legal issues involved. Public health professionals are expected not only to work in partnerships with communities, stakeholder groups, and citizens -- who have widely varying values -- but also to confront complex behavioral and social factors related to health in the community.  Examples include the analysis of life expectancy decrease from obesity, the number of professionals needed to care for patients with diabetes resulting from obesity, data relating to epidemics and their prevention, as well as appropriate structures and protections to collect and use genetic information, the power of public health professionals to use coercive measures to protect the nation's security, or the appropriateness of government campaigns to encourage citizens to stop smoking or lose weight.


The Department of Public Health Sciences has spearheaded new interdisciplinary graduate work in public health and health policy through a Master of Public Health (MPH) Program that was approved by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) in 2003 and that was accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health in 2006.  In addition to the usual MPH degree requirements in epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, and social and behavioral health, the U.Va. degree uniquely features study and research on the ethical and legal aspects of public health practice and health policy, drawing on the distinguished and diverse faculty from the Institute for Practical Ethics and Public Life, the School of Law, and other programs at U.Va.


Undergraduate students at the University of Virginia demonstrate a strong interest in public health courses, internships, service, and research. In the last five years, undergraduates have started a new Global Public Health Society, increasingly requested permission to enroll in oversubscribed public health courses, and even approached the College of Arts & Sciences about the possibility of launching an undergraduate major in public health.

A five-year BA/BS - Public Health Program will provide a unique opportunity for students to synthesize rigorous course work in science, social science, and the liberal arts, as well as to enrich and extend their undergraduate academic work in public health and health policy over a longer period.  The 5-Year Public Health Program provides accepted fourth-year students with an advantage in registering for the graduate public health courses while they are still undergraduates; with the opportunity to go to special talks or meetings for MPH students; and with the possibility to undertake public health field work or research over a two-year period.


The Department of Public Health Sciences began the new five-year program by inviting applications from third-year students in June 2007.  It is anticipated that two or three students will be accepted each year.

The Department of Public Health Sciences was awarded a grant from the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine (ATPM) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2006 to develop a model undergraduate course in public health for the new joint program.


Through this program, fourth-year undergraduate students will have the opportunity to begin doing public health graduate course work, research, and internships while completing their undergraduate course work and the requirements of their particular majors.

Although they can begin accumulating graduate public health credits as undergraduates, they will not be formally admitted to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GSAS) to begin matriculation as graduate MPH students until after they have received their undergraduate degree and been formally accepted by GSAS and the MPH Degree Program.  Students must fulfill all of the regular requirements for each of the separate degrees, i.e., for their particular undergraduate degree and for the MPH degree; no graduate public health courses can be double counted for both degrees.

The program, with its particular focus on the ethical, legal, and social dimensions of science and population health, showcases the unique contributions the University hopes to make in educating leaders in public health, global health, and health policy.  It will provide the opportunity for a few select students each year to undertake research and field work in public health as undergraduates and then to continue their work over a number of years and in greater depth as MPH students.


The MPH Program will accept applications from third-year students from any major enrolled full-time at the University of Virginia. Applicants from schools other than the College of Arts & Sciences may apply, provided they have a letter of support from their deans. Students will apply during the summer between their third and fourth years, and will be notified of a decision before the start of their fourth year.


During their fourth year of undergraduate study, students will go through the regular GSAS application process in order to be officially accepted into the graduate-level MPH degree program. Formal acceptance into the MPH program is conditional upon the fulfillment of GSAS requirements. The following year (year five), they will join the University as MPH graduate students and fulfill the remaining requirements of the MPH degree.

If students are officially accepted by GSAS, they will be able to count the MPH courses they completed during their fourth year toward the graduate degree, as long the credits were taken above the 120 needed for their undergraduate degree. Students cannot double count any credits toward both degrees. All of the requirements for their BA/BS degree and for the MPH degree must be separately fulfilled. Students who wish to complete both degrees in five years will need to have space in their schedule to take at least two MPH courses during their fourth year.

Application Information

Rising fourth-year undergraduate students will submit their application to the 5-Year MPH Program by June 1, after receiving grades for the spring semester. They will be given a decision by August 1, just before they begin their fourth year.

To apply, students must submit an application to:

Ruth Gaare Bernheim, JD, MPH
Director, Five Year BA/BS-MPH Program
Department of Public Health Sciences
PO Box 800717
Charlottesville, VA 22908-0717

Applications should include: 1) a statement of interest; 2) a complete transcript with all grades, including the grades from the spring semester; 3) a resume, including a detailed description of any relevant experience; and 4) two faculty letters of recommendation mailed directly to Ruth Gaare Bernheim at the address above, or e-mailed to rg3r@virginia.edu. **5) Students applying from outside the College of Arts & Sciences must also include a letter of support from their Dean.