SCRANTON — Nathan Hoff of Honesdale, along with three other third-year medical students, are the first Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (GCSOM) cohort to be accepted to the Jefferson College of Population Health (JCPH) Master of Public Health (MPH) program in Philadelphia.

JCPH and Geisinger formed a unique partnership that will provide up to 10 GCSOM medical students with scholarships that cover the cost of tuition to pursue the MPH during a year off between their third and fourth years of medical school. It will initially launch as a three-year pilot program. The program was conceived by Geisinger board member, Dr. David Nash, Founding Dean of JCPH, as a means to advance the MPH program goals of preventing illness and promoting and protecting human health by educating future clinicians to be effective advocates for their patients and to gain the knowledge and skill needed to effect policy change.

"As a member of the Geisinger board, Dr. Nash is well aware of Geisinger's singular focus on population health. He is also familiar with GCSOM's devotion to community," said Steven J. Scheinman, MD, GCSOM president and dean and executive vice president at Geisinger. "He clearly recognizes the synergy between us and the College of Population Health he founded. Together, we can empower future physicians not just to improve an individual patient's health, but to transform entire neighborhoods. We are grateful for his vision."

Vanessa Thiel of Bensalem said she was excited to hear she had been accepted to the program. "I really wanted to do this. It will make me a better physician," she said. "When Dr. Nash came to talk to the third-year students at our orientation, he told us the program was specifically designed for doctors who will be going into the clinics. I think the most important thing I'll gain from the MPH is a firm understanding of the fundamentals of our healthcare system and the policy issues that impact it. I'll get the skills I need to be a true advocate for my patients."

Nathan Hoff of Honesdale plans to pursue psychiatry as his medical specialty, so he was sold on applying when Program Director Rosemary Frasso, PhD, MSc, CPH pointed out that mental health is a largely untapped area of public health research. "I've always been interested in policy," Nathan said. "I was a political science major in college and have been involved with the Pennsylvania Medical Society throughout medical school. Being able to unite my interests in policy and mental health while completing my thesis project -- as I have the opportunity to do in the MPH program - really piqued my interest."

Cynthia Ciccotelli of Yardley hopes to pursue her passion -- primary care and preventive medicine. For this reason, she said the MPH will be invaluable. "In particular, one of my career goals is to work as a family physician in an underserved area," she said. "I truly feel that having the MPH will open up doors for me to impact the policies behind how healthcare is delivered. I'm really looking forward to this program, and I'm thankful that Geisinger is providing this incredible opportunity for us."

GCSOM student Sahil Pandya of Allentown said being accepted to the program fulfills a longstanding dream. "As an undergraduate at Muhlenberg College, I minored in public health. When Dr. Nash visited GCSOM, I remembered how passionately I felt about understanding how population and personal health interact. I hope to practice emergency medicine, so it's important to understand issues like cost and access and to know how to direct patients to appropriate care and manage chronic conditions."

Public health is an interdisciplinary field of study that emphasizes social justice, supports human rights and respects the dignity of individuals and the integrity of communities. "What I often tell prospective dual degree students is that public health training is like getting a pair of magic goggles. You simply see patients differently, --- you learn how to look beyond the biomedical and appreciate and address the social determinants of health,"Dr. Frasso said.

Public health professionals track outbreaks of disease, conduct community health assessments, plan health education programs and direct campaigns to reduce risk factors that foster chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. They develop and advocate policies, both public and private, that reduce harmful environmental exposures and provide increased access to preventive health services for underserved populations. Many engage in public health research and support multi-cultural global health initiatives here and abroad.

The accepted students will complete their third year of medical school this summer, then begin classes at JCPH in the fall. They will return to GCSOM to complete their fourth year and graduate in 2021.

ABOUT THE JEFFERSON COLLEGE OF POPULATION HEALTH

Established in 2008, JCPH is part of Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University), a leader in interdisciplinary, professional education, and home of the Sidney Kimmel Medical College and the Kanbar College of Design, Engineering and Commerce. JCPH is dedicated to exploring the policies and forces that define the health and well-being of populations. Its mission is to prepare leaders with global vision to examine the social determinants of health and to evaluate, develop and implement health policies and systems that will improve the health of populations and thereby enhance the quality of life. JCPH provides exemplary graduate academic programming in population health, public health, health policy, healthcare quality and safety, and applied health economics and outcomes research. Its educational offerings are enhanced by research, publications and continuing education and professional development offerings in these areas.

ABOUT GCSOM

Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine (Geisinger Commonwealth) is a member of the Geisinger family. Geisinger Commonwealth offers a community-based model of medical education with campuses in Danville, Doylestown, Scranton, Sayre and Wilkes-Barre. Geisinger Commonwealth offers Doctor of Medicine (MD) and Master of Biomedical Sciences (MBS) degrees. The college's innovative curriculum, focused on caring for people in the context of their lives and their community, attracts the next generation of physicians and scientists from within its 17-county region in northeastern and north central Pennsylvania, as well as from across the state and the nation. Geisinger Commonwealth is committed to non-discrimination in all employment and educational opportunities. Visit www.geisinger.edu/gcsom.