Newest Degree Program Combines Community Health and Prevention

Paolo Martin and Amia Nash are two of 25 students who are part of Stanford’s newest degree program.

Meet Paolo Martin, Amia Nash, and Vy Tran.

They’re three of 29 students who are part of Stanford’s newest degree program, the master of science in community health and prevention research (CHPR).

In fall 2015 the Stanford Prevention Research Center (SPRC) convened an interdisciplinary committee to create a master’s degree anchored in the research and education efforts of SPRC faculty. Just six months later, the Stanford University Faculty Senate approved the master’s in community health and prevention research in perpetuity. Such speedy approval was unprecedented in Stanford’s history.

Martin began his career as a bench scientist, but he yearned to get to know his community beyond the walls of a research hospital, so he began a 20-year career in education and is currently a doctoral candidate in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. His research bridges CHPR with education: He is examining how pedagogies that stimulate the engagement of children’s ideas affect their health and potential to thrive.

Nash received a bachelor’s degree from Santa Clara University in public health with minors in biology, sociology and religious studies. After graduation, she interned with the Stanford School of Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, focusing on mental health advocacy for Asian American adolescents as a Stanford Health 4 All fellow. What drew her to the CHPR program was her passion for health as a social justice issue and improving the health and wellbeing of underrepresented populations.

Tran plans to pursue a career in medicine as a community health advocate and as a family physician. Having grown up in a rural village in Vietnam, in a house built from dried mud with only natural sources of light, Tran plans to use her master’s to make a difference in health care, immigration and education. Tran is currently engaged in community-based participatory research in Oaxaca, Mexico, under a Fulbright U.S. Student Award.

The aspirations of its degree candidates best speak to why the program was created.

Academic diversity

“We expect candidates to come from a diverse set of academic backgrounds — from humanities to computer science, medicine or engineering, for example,” says Sonoo Thadaney, MBA, director of education programs for the SPRC.

She adds that “the curriculum is designed for graduates to work in such various activities as public health, public policy and community health, and they might start out as individual contributors in an organization and then eventually become founders or executive directors of nonprofits or leaders in government agencies. Another group of graduates might use this degree to become better-informed medical practitioners. Others might use their degree in combination with coursework in the world of performing arts — for instance to create theater aimed at inspiring healthy behaviors.”

Interdepartmental teamwork

Within six months of approval by the faculty senate, the CHPR became part of dual degree programs with the Graduate School of Business and the School of Medicine. Currently, the CHPR and the master’s program in science and genetics and genetic counseling are adding tracks from each other’s programs into their respective curricula. Soon, the Stanford Center for Women and Sex Differences in Medicine (WSDM) will add a track with the CHPR as it relates to prevention.

“The CHPR boasts an interdisciplinary faculty representing public health, medicine, behavioral sciences, biostatistics, epidemiology and other disciplines,” says faculty director and associate professor Jodi Prochaska, PhD. “In addition, the CHPR program brings the science of what’s being done at Stanford out into the community. The program pairs master’s candidates with community programs so students can gain hands-on experience with needs assessment, program development, evaluation and dissemination.”