Scholarly Concentration: Global Health


Brian Blackburn, MD

Eran Bendavid, MD

Objectives and Goals

Global Health is an application area in the Scholarly Concentration program. The goals of our program are to expose students to the primary issues in the field of of Global Health, and give them the tools to begin addressing these through hands-on field research. Some specific goals include:

  1. Giving students an understanding of the spectrum of challenges—from political, to sociological, to biomedical—that limit provision of health care to the world’s poorest people. 
  2. Provide students with insights into problem-solving for complex international health issues.
  3. Foster mentored hands-on experience in the field that applies knowledge attained in this application to real world problems of the world’s poorest people.


Students who pursue Global Health in addition to their 6 units of foundation coursework are required to complete 6 units of Global Health coursework and are required to complete a core course requirement. This requirement will most commonly be fulfilled by any one of the following twelve core courses; the remainder may be drawn from other Global Health-related courses (see Course Work page):

ANTHRO 216: Data Analysis for Quantitative Research (ANTHRO 116)
An introduction to numeric methods in Anthropology and related fields employing the Data Desk statistics package to test hypotheses and to explore data. Examples chosen from the instructor¿s research and other relevant projects. No statistical background is necessary, but a working knowledge of algebra is important. Topics covered include: Frequency Distributions; Measures of Central Tendency, Dispersion, and Variability; Probability and Probability Distributions; Statistical Inference, Comparisons of Sample Means and Standard Deviations; Analysis of Variance; Contingency Tables, Comparisons of Frequencies; Correlation and Regression; Principal Components Analysis; Discriminant Analysis; and Cluster Analysis. Grading based on take-home problem sets.
Units: 5

HRP 225: Design and Conduct of Clinical and Epidemiologic Studies
Intermediate-level. The skills to design, carry out, and interpret epidemiologic studies, particularly of chronic diseases. Topics: epidemiologic concepts, sources of data, cohort studies, case-control studies, cross-sectional studies, sampling, measures of association, estimating sample size, and sources of bias. Prerequisite: A basic/introductory course in statistics or consent of instructor.
Units: 3

HRP 226: Intermediate Epidemiologic and Clinical Research Methods
The principles of study design, measurement, confounding, effect modification, and strategies for minimizing bias in clinical and epidemiologic studies. Prerequisite: 225 or consent of instructor.
Units: 3

HUMBIO 124E: Economics of Infectious Disease and Global Health (MED 236)
Introduction to global health topics such as childhood health, hygiene, drug resistance, and pharmaceutical industries from an economic development perspective. Introduces economic concepts including decision-making over time, externalities, and incentives as they relate to health. Prerequisite: Human Biology Core or Biology Foundations or equivalent or consent of the instructor.
Units: 3

HUMBIO 129S: Global Public Health
The class is an introduction to the fields of international public health and global medicine. It focuses on resource poor areas of the world and explores major global health problems and their relation to policy, economic development and human rights. The course is intended for students interested in global health, development studies, or international relations, and provides opportunities for in-depth discussion and interaction with experts in the field. Prerequisite: Human Biology Core or Biology Foundations or equivalent or consent of the instructor.
Units: 3

MED 108Q: Human Rights and Health
Preference to sophomores. History of human-rights law. International conventions and treaties on human rights as background for social and political changes that could improve the health of groups and individuals. Topics such as: regional conflict and health, the health status of refugees and internally displaced persons; child labor; trafficking in women and children; HIV/AIDS; torture; poverty, the environment and health; access to clean water; domestic violence and sexual assault; and international availability of drugs. Possible optional opportunities to observe at community sites where human rights and health are issues. Guest speakers from national and international NGOs including Doctors Without Borders; McMaster University Institute for Peace Studies; UC Berkeley Human Rights Center; Kiva. PowerPoint presentation on topic of choice required.
Units: 3

MED 226: Practical Approaches to Global Health Research (HRP 237, INTLPOL 290)
How do you come up with an idea for health research overseas? How do you develop a research question, concept note, and get your project funded? How do you manage personnel in the field, difficult cultural situations, or unexpected problems? How do you create a sampling strategy, select a study design, and ensure ethical conduct with human subjects? This course takes students through the process of health research in under-resourced countries from the development of the initial research question and literature review to securing support and detailed planning for field work. Students progressively develop and receive weekly feedback on a concept note to support a funding proposal addressing a research question of their choosing.
Units: 3

MED 232: Global Health: Scaling Health Technology Innovations in Low Resource Settings
Recent advances in health technologies - incorporating innovations like robotics, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and smart sensors - have raised expectations of a dramatic impact on health outcomes across the world. However, bringing innovative technologies to low resource settings has proven challenging, limiting their impact. This course explores critical questions regarding the implementation and impact of technological innovations in low resource settings. The course will feature thought leaders from the health technology community, who will explore examples of technologies that have been successful in low resource communities, as well as those that have failed. Students will think critically to consider conditions under which technologies reach scale and have positive impact in the global health field. This course is open to undergraduate students, graduate students, and medical students. Undergraduates can take this course for a letter grade and 3 units. Graduate students and MD students can enroll for 2-3 units, but the course will require 2 units worth of work. Students enrolling in the course for a third unit will also work on group projects, each of which will focus on the potential opportunity for a health technology in a low resource setting and consider approaches to ensure its impact at scale. Students enrolled in the class for three units will also have additional assignments, including weekly blog posts. Students will fill out an application after the first day of class to determine enrollment.

Note: Must be taken for 3 units to fulfill the Core Course Requirement; if taken for 2 units, will only fulfill the Elective Course Requirement, but not the Core Course requirement

MS&E 185: Global Work
Issues, challenges, and opportunities facing workers, teams, and organizations working across national boundaries. Topics include geographic distance, time zones, language and cultural differences, technologies to support distant collaboration, team dynamics, and corporate strategy. Limited enrollment.
Units: 4

PEDS 124: Global Child Health (HUMBIO 124C, MED 124)
This course introduces students to key challenges to the health and well being of children worldwide. We explicitly focus on child and public health problems in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) to reflect the global burden of disease among children. We will review the scope and magnitude of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality, as well as examine regional variations. We will then identify both medical and non-medical causes, effects of, as well as interventions to address, some of the biggest child health problems. The course will also prevent an overview of the role of culture, gender, and non-state actors (NGOs, foundations, etc.) on health and health policy.  Units: 3-5

PEDS 223: Human Rights and Global Health
Open to medical students, graduate students, and advanced undergraduates. Examines the newly emerging field of human rights and global health, beginning with the essential background into the field of human rights, and the recent emergence of health as a human right. Emphasis is on the pioneering work of Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health and the challenge he and his organization have posed to the conventional wisdom about approaches to combating poor health and disease worldwide. Topics include the "big three" infectious diseases -- tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS -- as well as emerging infectious diseases, clean water and sanitation, and malnutrition and famine.
Units: 3

SURG 250: Politics, Culture, and Economics of Global Surgery (SURG 150)
Focus is on understanding the growing role of surgery in international health, and to analyze the complex determinants of successful global surgery programs. Expert invited speakers highlight a variety of issues such as history, ethics, governance, and finances related to global surgery. Discussion and lab sessions cover basic clinical skills, needs finding, and creative problem solving. Students work in groups to complete a substantial final project on surgical program development. Option 1. Lecture only (1 unit). Option 2. Lecture series + discussions + workshops + team project 4 units. Must select Option 2 to count for Global Health Scholarly Concentration core course requirement.  Open to undergraduate, graduate and medical students.
Units: 4

All students in the Application must complete at least one quarter of international research; four quarters are preferred.

Alternatives to international research
Medical students in the Global Health scholarly concentration are normally required to complete at least one quarter of international research.  In light of the COVID-19 pandemic restricting students from traveling internationally, medical students in the entering class of 2019 can still meet the requirements of the Global Health scholarly concentration with a global health-focused project that is completed without physically leaving the United States. These projects should still be a minimum of one quarter in length and involve work that is substantively global health in nature.  If you plan to pursue a global health project that does not involve international travel, please reach out to the area directors to confirm approval. 

Scholarly Concentrations & the MD Program

The Scholarly Concentration (SC) program is a required, structured program of study in the Medical Student Curriculum that promotes in-depth learning and scholarship. The SC's provide medical students with faculty-mentored scholarly experiences in areas of individual interest combined with structured coursework to support this scholarship.