Duke introduces new health policy certificate for undergraduates

Starting this semester, undergraduate students will be able to pursue a Health Policy Certificatewhich studies health care, economics, society, and government aspects of health policy.

A collaboration between the Margulis Center for Health Policy and the Sanford School of Public Policy, the undergraduate degree is geared toward students interested in health policy, especially non-public policy majors who hope to study the intersection between health and governance in greater depth.

Nathan Boucher, director of the faculty for the degree, associate research professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy, and Duke-Margolis faculty member, hopes the program will give students “advancement in the field of health policy” by providing relevant coursework and experience.

Students are required to take an introductory course, a capstone course, and two selections from a list of approved classes. They are also required to complete two experiential learning activities related to health policy: a 150-hour learning experience and a 300-hour learning experience. Activities can take the form of internships, service learning, and research. Certification also requires a public e-portfolio that showcases each student’s health policy scholarship through certification experience.

The Health Policy Certificate was developed in its early stages by Student Collaborative on Health Policy, a university organization that seeks to expand opportunities for students in the field of health policy.

During the summer of 2020, five members of the SCOHP Education Subcommittee began developing a proposal for certification.

said Devan Desai, co-chair of the Education Committee’s Health Policy.

SCOHP also conducted student surveys on campus, which revealed strong student interest in a potential degree.

SCOHP worked through the fall of 2020 to identify potential classes and design the capstone. From there, the proposal was sent to Margolis, who partnered with Sanford to make the testimony a reality.

Faculty members from Sanford and Margolis collaborated to improve it before submitting it to Duke for consideration. The curriculum has gone through many iterations to ensure that it is compatible with the academic areas of the Sanford and Margolis faculty.

“We really had to make sure that this was a 50th collaboration between two organizations,” Boucher said.

College Concerns About Certification When Proposed to the Arts and Sciences Council in April It included the suspicion that the new degree would not be distinct enough from pursuing a public policy major with an emphasis on health policy, or independently pursuing health policy lessons and opportunities. Despite these concerns, the certification program was voted on at the next meeting passed by an overwhelming majority.

Boucher is confident that participating students will be able to engage in broader discussions on health policy, including related issues such as housing and nutrition.

“Having the foundations for health policy will make you more flexible as a team member dealing with these complex health care issues, with health care being the most politicized issue in America today,” he said.

Desai believes that a health policy degree will benefit students by teaching them to view health care issues through an interdisciplinary lens.

“I think the health policy certificate is very important because it teaches the student to look at someone who might have a health condition or to look at a health problem somewhere and really deal with it using different perspectives,” he said.

SCOHP continues to participate in certification as it launches this fall. Two of the original five subcommittee members sit on the program’s advisory committee, and they have continued their efforts to integrate health policy into university curricula. They are currently working to spread awareness of the certificate among students.

The degree is open to first-year students in the second semester, second-year students, and juniors of the first semester in any field of study.

Desai hopes that the degree will benefit current and future students for years to come.

“It is almost bittersweet [seniors who worked on creating the certificate] I can’t take advantage of that, but I personally am really happy that the Duke’s coming years will have the opportunity to do so,” he said.

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