First M.D./M.P.H. graduates ready to care for patients, impact care of populations

SAN ANTONIO (May 17, 2011) — More than a dozen graduates will achieve a dual distinction — degrees in medicine and public health — Saturday (May 21) during the 41st commencement ceremony of the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

This is the first class to complete the four-year M.D./M.P.H. degree program offered jointly by the School of Medicine and The University of Texas School of Public Health. The program is the first in Texas — and one of the first in the country — to enable students to finish both degrees in four years.

These new physicians have a heightened awareness of the diverse issues that affect the health of populations, such as the environment, insurance and health care policy.

Complements practice of medicine
“Medicine teaches you how to care for a patient, but it doesn’t teach you about the broader aspects of why we are taking care of the patient,” M.D./M.P.H. recipient Arielle Perez said. “There is a lot more to a patient’s health than the disease he has and the medicine he is taking. I think public health gives you a very good complement to the practice of medicine.”

Perez’s goal is to pursue a career in surgery that advocates for and provides services to the underserved, both domestic and abroad. She grew up in Los Gatos, Calif., a small town between Santa Cruz and San Jose. Her upbringing stirred her interest in medicine and public health.

Memories of care in the forests
“A lot of it has to do with my parents, both of whom came from the Philippines,” she said. “My dad is a physician and came to America to do his residency. While I was growing up, he would organize medical missions to indigenous areas of the Philippines. Every once in a while I got to go and see what he did, not in white-walled hospitals but in the outside forested areas, to get health care to people.

“Definitely that was something that pushed me through. He used to be one of the few physicians in San Jose who would take Medicaid. He showed there was a big need for physicians to take care of members of the population who don’t get as much medical care as they should.”

Insight into policies
She believes public health training “is almost what a lot of physicians will learn over the course of their entire practice of medicine.” It gives insight into the policies behind care of populations.

Perez will do her general surgery residency at Maine Medical Center in Portland, Maine.

‘Broadens what we can accomplish’
Fellow M.D./M.P.H. graduate Marcus Emebo, a Houston native, will pursue a career in academic medicine focusing on injury and violence prevention and drug and substance abuse intervention.

He said public health awareness “broadens what we can accomplish and work toward as physicians, such as disease and injury surveillance.” Emebo will go to Chicago for his residency in emergency medicine at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County.

Graduates will address shortage
“I am so proud of these students who I have known for four years,” said Sharon Cooper, Ph.D., professor and regional dean of the UT School of Public Health, San Antonio Regional Campus. “They will become outstanding physicians who will infuse public health into medicine and help address the predicted public health workforce shortage. I am also grateful for our strong partnership with the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, which has facilitated making this program successful.”

Border was laboratory
“Many of these students learned about public health challenges at the U.S.-Mexico border in the Laredo and Harlingen areas,” said Claudia Miller, M.D., M.S., assistant dean for the M.D./M.P.H. Program in the School of Medicine and professor and vice chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine. “Most of our M.D./M.P.H. graduates completed the South Texas Environmental Education and Research (STEER) four-week course elective, which introduces students to air and water concerns, health department strategies, daily life in colonias and more. This fits right in with the spirit of the M.D./M.P.H. degree program, which is to respond to population needs.”

Dr. Miller is founder and director of the STEER Program.

Another graduate’s profile is provided here.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

The University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH) works to improve the state of public health every day at six campuses across Texas. Each of our campuses is strategically placed to meet the public health education and research needs of the diverse populations across Texas. UTSPH is the only school of public health in the nation with regional campuses.

Share This Article!