October 8, 2018


The Gillings School is renowned for accelerating public health solutions with worldwide impact. The challenge of solving great public health threats in today’s environment requires practitioners who possess global experience, understanding, competence and empathy.

Global is local.Ensuring that all Master of Public Health (MPH) students at the Gillings School have the opportunity for experiences in both local and global learning and practice – mentored, hands-on learning through which classroom training is applied to improve health in real-world settings – is critically important.

Accreditation requirements set expectations for practica, but each school applies its own special stamp to these experiences. Because so many students want global experiences, enabling our students to obtain them, regardless of their financial status, is now one of the School’s highest priorities.

Critical public health issues – such as ensuring clean water, preventing diseases, strengthening health systems, and improving nutrition and child health – transcend borders, regions, cultures, income, religions, races and ethnicities, whether the challenges are found in North Carolina or elsewhere in the world.

The Gillings School faculty trains MPH students to “dig deep” into critical thinking, to understand urgent public health problems and their underlying causes, and most of all, to solve problems. Partnering with faculty, community partners and others, they help discover and deliver lasting solutions for communities and assess the impact of their work until its effectiveness is understood.

With active projects throughout North Carolina, the U.S. and in more than 60 countries, from Guatemala to Tanzania, the catchphrase From the Well to the World is an achievable goal.

Engagement Beyond Borders for Every MPH Student

Students who have had an opportunity to work in local communities around the world value the experience as a life-enhancing one. Increasingly, Gillings School students are examining health programs in both U.S. and global settings.

“The walls of countries are permeable spaces where diseases and health threats travel freely,” says Dean Barbara K. Rimer. “A safer, healthier and greener world depends upon the people we are training today.”

Rebeccah Bartlett, MPH, is a maternal and child health alumna.

“My practicum experiences at IntraHealth and Remote Area Medical allowed me to refine my skills as a public health practitioner behind the scenes, as opposed to at the bedside, which I was more accustomed to,” says Bartlett. “In my current work, I daily use the skills I harnessed in both these placements. I also became more confident as a researcher because I was pushed to step outside my comfort zone.”

Bartlett is a nurse-midwife in Melbourne, Australia, where she works for Birth for Humankind, a charitable organization, and runs mAdapt, a social enterprise she founded during her time at the Gillings School. Her local experience at IntraHealth, based in Durham, N.C., has been applicable globally to her work in Melbourne.

Read more about Bartlett in the spring 2018 Carolina Public Health, at sph.unc.edu/trajectories-2018-1.

Quote from Julie MacMillanMichael Wilson, MPH, a health behavior alumnus, is co-founder and partnerships lead at Advance Access and Delivery Inc., a global nonprofit that works to overcome barriers to high-quality health care and affordable medicines.

“During my internship with Helen Keller International in Vietnam, my Gillings School coursework came to life – and my passion for a career in global public health deepened,” Wilson says. “I learned to work and communicate with co-workers in a very different setting than I was used to and gained skills that have enhanced my career.”

Wilson says he made many connections in Vietnam that remain useful in his current position.

“The experience was incredibly valuable, both personally and professionally,” he says. “I hope future UNC public health students will have similar opportunities to enrich their MPH coursework.”

Since 2016, Gillings School students have had practica in 37 countries. About 20 percent of our MPH students secure funding for global experiences each year.

“Our dream for a Global Experience Fund,” Rimer says, “would offer an unprecedented distinction of scale – one that guarantees every residential MPH student a global experience from a broad array of opportunities.”

Discover how you can support global experiences for Gillings School students.

—Ann Simpson and Linda Kastleman


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Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health. To view previous issues, please visit sph.unc.edu/cph.

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