Education - Page 8 - Health care, from page 1

- Page 8
Health care, from page 1
Kimberly Stroka, Ph.D., a co-director of the project and assistant professor of bioengineering, explains that the students’ research experience culminates in a poster presentation at the FDA, and students are encouraged to submit their research to national conferences.

“It’s a great way to show off what they’ve learned,” she says.

The traditional way of growing cells has been in a petri dish, a two-dimensional, hard plastic surface. The new way is known as “organ on a chip” and it lets researchers create multicellular systems flowing in fluid and in a three-dimensional soft environment that is more like tissue.

Ian White, Ph.D., associate professor and associate chair of undergraduate studies, notes that the clinical world is looking for new engineering technologies, especially as they relate to diagnostics. In addition to growing cells, the university also has 3D printing that can produce micronano systems.

Bioengineers can build hybrid systems that allow scientists to study bodily systems and come up with better therapeutics. Fluid flowing through the engineered models is like blood flowing through the body.

White cites the example of how cancer evolves and spreads – does the primary tumor send signals to other organs?

“That’s where the organ on a chip comes in,” he says. “We can assemble the environment of one organ and then connect the microfluidics of one organ to another. It’s truly an engineering  problem, but one with huge clinical importance.”

Students also learn about the ethics of bioengineering and how such advances will be regulated and commercialized.

Stroka notes that one lab is trying to generate tissue using 3D printing, and another lab actually 3D printed a femur. “The challenge is mechanical strength and how do you vascularize it,” she says. “How do you get blood vessels in there and get it all to work together?”

White notes that these engineered tissues need to be sterile.

The University of Maryland boasts a variety of 3D printers, including three with specialized features that cost between $200,000 and $500,000 apiece. Such printers can print extremely small features, for example, the size of the tiny complex tubing that lets kidneys filter. Manufacturing a scaffold that researchers could build cells on would let them study how kidneys work.

The program benefits from the ideas of a diverse cohort of students, and exposing more students to such research makes education more inclusive.

University of Maryland School of Public Health

The University of Maryland School of Public Health has retooled its master’s in public health curriculum to respond to workforce needs and changes in accreditation.

“Employers were saying they wanted employees with more breadth and the ability to integrate across different disciplines,” says Stephen Roth, Ph.D., associate dean for academic affairs in the school, adding the old program was siloed and hadn’t been revamped in several years. “A ton of faculty was involved, from design and the big picture and down into the weeds of course development.”

The new program, which will begin this fall, gives students the ability to understand how the different aspects of public health work together. The 45-credit program centers around a 14-credit core that is team taught.

For example, students used to take two courses in epidemiology and biostatistics, and now that is combined into a single course. Students also have a dedicated public health lab, to learn how to use the common statistical software.

“We think this will be a tool they will use in the field,” Roth says.

Integrating courses in health policy and health behavior into a five-credit course helps students understand how a public health intervention is designed, implemented and evaluated.

“It doesn’t help to have a policy that looks great but isn’t how people act,” Roth says, adding that it “befits our location as near the makers of policy.”

Along with the core courses, M.P.H. students can choose from nine concentrations, one of which can be done online. All require a capstone project and an internship.

“What we can offer students in Maryland is this unique location,” Roth says.

Students can intern in state and local health departments, industry, the federal government, military organizations, and NGOs and nonprofits. They can do two internships, which gives them a chance to compare how the different entities tackle public health.

The program can be completed full time in two years, and it does accommodate part-time students. •

One-of-a-kind program

Emma Sexton, B.S.N., always wanted to be a pediatric nurse practitioner and knew an advanced degree was in her future. She hadn’t quite planned on two of them, however, but a new program makes that possible.

Sexton, who earned her undergraduate degree at Villanova University, worked in a pediatric unit at Johns Hopkins and then moved to the outpatient pediatric nephrology clinic in the Harriet Lane Kidney Center.

“On the floor we did research trials as well,” she recalls.“That kind of piqued my interest, but in my head I was still like ‘nurse practitioner.’”Yet she continued to be intrigued by research in kidney injuries in children.

She applied to and was accepted into the doctor of nursing practice program, but then a month later she received an email offering her a spot in the new D.N.P. advanced practice/ Ph.D. dual degree program, a five-year program at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. She met with Jason Farley, Ph.D., an associate professor at Hopkins who directs the program, and realized she wanted to do it, excited by the opportunity to integrate clinical care and research.

She’s now enrolled in the program full time, and her tuition for the first three years is covered. Students often get grants to cover the final two years. “There’s nothing like it in the country,” she says. “It’s the terminal degree in both aspects. It’s all kind of fallen into place.” She’s used to hearing jokes about being called “Dr. Dr.” once she finishes the program, but she says with a laugh, “I’ll probably encourage my patients to call me Emma.” •

: Above left: The newly designed M.P.H. curriculum at the University of Maryland School of Public Health gives students gives students the ability to integrate across different disciplines.