Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Listed below are some questions often asked by applicants to the joint MD/MPH program at Oregon Health & Science University:

MPH Admission Alone

  • What if I don't get accepted into Medical School and still want to be admitted to the MPH program?

    You would need to complete a separate MPH graduate school application. See the MPH Admissions page for more information.

Taking Courses

  • When can I begin my MPH courses?

    The incoming MD/MPH classes begin their public health education by taking Epidemiology 1 in the summer before medical school starts. Meeting each morning for three weeks, the class will have formal didactic presentations, problem-based learning sessions, and homework assignments designed to help them master the principles of field epidemiology. The class will also take field trips to various public health agencies in the Portland area. During the fall quarter, the students will meet twice per month, for an hour session each time, to examine current public health issues in a seminar forum. Beginning with the second quarter of the freshman year and extending through the end of Year 2, MD/MPH students will take one course per quarter. These courses will be designed to fit into ongoing medical school activities. By the end of Year 3, students will have accumulated an adequate number of credit hours so that they can finish the entire program in one additional year devoted to graduate training.

  • How many credits may I take per term? How much will it cost?

    As a medical student, you may take as many concurrent courses, including MPH courses, as you wish at no additional cost. If you choose to take an extra year (or more) to pursue MPH work, then you must take a minimum of 9 credit hours, and a maximum of 16 credits if you have a scholarship. Note: the 16 credit maximum cap applies to medical courses as well. For example, if you were taking 13 MPH course credits, then you could only take an additional 3 credit hours of medical electives.

  • How many credits per term are recommended?

    Since you need to complete your courses in a timely manner, a recommended credit load is 12-16 per term when you are in your MPH year. During the time you are in the first two years of medical school, it is recommended that you take 1 MPH course per quarter.

  • How do I register for MPH courses?

    If you are concurrently taking MPH courses and MD courses, you can register for courses through Marcia Decaro or Vicki Fields at the Dean's Office. However, during the MPH year (for example, between years 3 and 4 of medical school), you need to register each term as basic science graduate student through the Registrar's Office. In order to do so, you will need to register online through ISIS. If you have questions about registration at OHSU, please contact the Registrar's Office.

Courses at PSU and OSU

  • What about courses at PSU or OSU? How do I register?

    The MPH track at OHSU requires that you take 3 courses at Portland State University (Principles of Health Behavior, Health Systems Organization, and Concepts in Environmental Health). You should register in the usual way through the ISIS online system. OHSU students can also take other PSU public health courses, some of which are listed in the OHSU MPH course descriptions. OSU and PSU courses that are not cross-listed (usually any course other than the required core courses) can be taken on a "concurrent" basis by obtaining the instructor's signature on a registration form for a PH 507 class, obtaining departmental approval (contact, and filing the form in the Registrar's Office.


  • How do I find an internship?

    The internship is a valuable adjunct to MPH coursework as you receive a "real world view" of public health through work at community sites. It is designed to give you experience applying epidemiology and data analysis skills learned in MPH classes and should not be taken until after Epi 1 and Biometry 1 have been taken. It is not easy, however, to find an internship. Start early! A list of internship sites is included in your MPH Handbook and on the internship webpage, and descriptions of new opportunities are distributed in emails during the year. Ask professors and other students, and look for postings in the Department. A proposal form is necessary and must be signed by the preceptor, your advisor, and Dr.William Lambert.

Financial Issues

  • May I take a year off to do MPH coursework? How will I pay for the MPH degree?

    Yes! In fact, the School of Medicine has arranged for a limited number of tuition stipends through the Oregon Laurel program. and the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine has arranged for additional tuition scholarships. If awarded any of these scholarships, students must take a minimum of 9 credits and maximum of 16 credits to meet funding requirements. For more details, please contact the OHSU Office of Financial Aid (503-494-7800).

  • What about living expenses? Books and course materials? Other OHSU fees? Health insurance?

    You may arrange to receive financial aid through the OHSU Office of Financial Aid to cover living expenses and other expenses such as books, transportation, and school fees while you are enrolled in the MPH program. Unfortunately, the Laurel Award and the other Public Health scholarships not cover more than tuition. If needed, health insurance is available through the OHSU Student Health Center. The HAP (Housing Authority of Portland) program offers housing at no cost during the MPH year and/or the third or fourth year of medical school in return for health counseling of their residents. A special application is required for this program. Notices regarding application procedures are placed in student mailboxes each year.

  • Where do I collect my financial aid?

    At the Cashier's Office at the beginning of each term, which is the same place that all students collect financial aid disbursements.

  • Is it possible to hold a part-time job during the MPH coursework?

    Yes! Many students have done just that. For added benefits, although perhaps not high pay, students have received valuable "real-world" public health experience through working in the public health sector during their MPH year. The HAP experience is also an excellent way to gain experience and have your housing cost paid.


  • What is the recommended schedule for MD/MPH students?

    The MD/MPH program is designed to be a 5-year program of study. Students have many options to complete the program. The usual strategy has been to take one course per quarter for the first two years, followed by an intensive year of MPH courses and thesis work. For students who begin in Summer Quarter, the intensive beginning with Epidemiology 1 will provide a solid framework for taking other MPH courses. Many MPH courses are planned around the medical school course schedule, allowing students to take course work in both programs. Another option is that students may take a year off between years 3 and 4 of medical school in order to complete the MPH coursework. Then, before graduation, they can complete the thesis. The first year immersion approach is designed to provide students with a public health perspective from the time they enter medical school and also to allow more time to work on the thesis during the MPH year between years 3 and 4 of medical school. These recommendations are based upon the experience of other medical students and are not requirements, as the MPH program is flexible regarding timing.

  • Is it better to take a year off, or do the courses as I go along?

    This is a matter of opinion. Some students like to concentrate their MPH studies in 1 year and completely immerse themselves in public health. Others want to take the year between years 3 and 4 of medical school to exclusively work on their thesis, so they take classes as they go along. The answer thus depends upon you and your needs.

  • What if I want to take a year off to do the MPH? Do I need to let anyone know?

    Yes! Sometime in the winter or spring of your 3rd year of medical school, you should contact Marcia Decaro in the Dean's Office of the School of Medicine ( and let her know that you will be taking a leave of absence from the medicine program. She will inform the Registrar's Office for you. The Registrar will then mail you the necessary registration forms and course schedules each term. You should also make sure the PHPM Education Office is informed of your absence.

Areas of Specialization

  • Can I specialize in any area of public health once I am accepted into the MD/MPH program at OHSU?

    The OHSU MD/MPH program is in epidemiology and biostatistics. Other public health specialty tracks such as public health administration are not available within the joint MD/MPH program. If you are interested in any other specialty track at another school, you need to apply separately to that program and you will not be in a joint MD/MPH program. Rather, you will be enrolled in two separate programs at the same time.

Keeping in Touch with the School of Medicine (SOM)

  • Is it possible to stay involved with the School of Medicine during my MPH year?

    Yes! You are still a member of the School of Medicine and all extracurricular activities, clubs, and other services are open for your use and enjoyment.

  • I want to keep in touch with clinical practice during my MPH coursework. Can I do a preceptorship during that time, even in public health/preventive medicine?

    Yes! The Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine helps to organize student preceptorships in preventive medicine/public health. Students may also set up their own preceptorships, but must register for malpractice insurance (as an OHSU "away elective") through the Dean's Office (contact Vicki Fields at


  • How do I pick a thesis topic? An advisor?

    Students often gain insight into what they would like to do for a thesis topic through their internship experience. Good places to look for opportunities include the Oregon Health Division, the Oregon Health Policy Institute, the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, and various other public health agencies and county health departments around the Portland/Vancouver area. You can also get ideas through your MPH courses, Grand Rounds presentations, and speaking with other students. In similar fashion, you can also talk with your advisor and other faculty members about their research interests in order to find the right advisor for you.

  • Do I need to design my own data collection for my thesis?

    No, you may use a previously collected data set, or data from your MPH internship site. The department has several public datasets and a listing on the website of faculty datasets that are available. These faculty members would then be willing to be your thesis advisor. You will need to consult with your advisor regarding your specific topic and needs.

An additional FAQ sheet has been prepared by MD/MPH student Emily King to help you schedule the 3rd and 4th MD yrs around the MPH year.