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UC Berkeley | UCSF

Masters in Science Curriculum

The UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP), the only medical program in the country housed in a school of Public Health, teaches medicine in the broader context of public & community health. The master’s in science (MS) curriculum supports the JMP’s vision to develop antiracist physicians and public health changemakers by adding a framework of collaborative practice, systems thinking and critical inquiry to the traditional medical education. This framework affords students the intellectual, practical, and humanistic skills to promote and lead change processes aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities. The master’s curriculum, like the overall JMP approach, involves experiences that lead to transformation by centering inquiry, questioning dominant ideologies, and supporting the learner in the creation of new habits of mind and new points of view that result from deep reflection and emotional involvement.

Our approach is 3 pronged:

  1. structured mentorship for a master’s project,
  2. foundational courses in Public Health and Health Systems that support the student’s project and contextualizes the practice of medicine, and
  3. freedom to choose additional courses that support the student’s project.

JMP students pursue diverse scholarly approaches for their master’s projects including research based on quantitative and qualitative biomedical and social science methods, situational, social, and cultural analyses framed by critical theory; organizing and advocacy within marginalized communities; and research framed by interpretive frameworks. The broad range of scholarly topics are part of what makes the JMP MS unique. Examples include: Mapping rescue asthma inhaler use and outdoor air pollution: a geospatial-temporal analysis; How Does Income Affect Fertility? An Analysis of Oportunidades, Mexico’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program; Teaching Structure: Lessons Learned From Curricular Innovations in Structural Competency.

Master’s project topics typically align with the JMP’s mission and vision. They include traditional scientific research (i.e., creation of new knowledge) and also scholarly work focused on the application of existing knowledge —without excluding the possibility of creating new knowledge— resulting in direct contributions to communities in the forms of evaluation, organizing, advocacy, and/or service work. Previous scholarly work included areas such as: Bioengineering, Developmental Psychology, Economics, Environmental Sciences, Health Policy, Human Rights, Immunology, Law, Clinical Medicine, Public Health, BioEthics, Microbiology, Native American Studies, Neuroscience, Public Health, Public Policy, Social Welfare, Sociology, and Toxicology to name a few. Explore the range of topics that JMP students have studied in this searchable e-scholarship database, which includes the electronic version of the vast majority of submitted theses over the last 30 years (the most recent theses are embargoed for a two to three year period.)

Our MS leads to the design and implementation of a mentored scholarly project. This project is developed throughout most of the 2.5 years of master’s curriculum in parallel with education in the foundational medical sciences and clinical skills. The master’s project must constitute a substantial contribution to the academic field. A well-developed project should

  1. examine or address a significant issue or set of issues affecting the health and well-being of people/communities through an anti-racism/anti-oppression and changemaker lens,
  2. focus on a specific topic or set of highly related topics while also tying together each student’s learning from multiple courses,
  3. draw upon sound methodological principles,
  4. provide the current state of knowledge from the existing literature on the subject matter,
  5. present compelling findings based on appropriate analytical frameworks, and
  6. reflect on how the project contributes to the JMP vision.

The master’s project culminates in the crafting of a written product in the form of a manuscript appropriate for submission to a journal in the corresponding field.


Master’s courses are taken in parallel with medical courses.

The HMS MS curriculum (minimum of 29 units)
HMEDSCI 261 seriesThere are five master’s seminars: 261A (4 units, first semester), 261B (2 units, second semester), 261C (3 units, third semester), 261D (3 units, fourth semester), and 261E (3 units, fifth semester). Total units: 15.
HMEDSCI 296 and 297HMS 296 (4 units total) gives students credit for their work with their mentors. HMS 297 (4 units total) is the same, but it refers to summer work (credit given in the following Fall semester).
PBHLTH 250 A or BEpidemiology course, 3 units minimum.
PBHLTH 224EHealth care quality, 3 units.
PBHLTH 215Anti-Racist and Racial Justice Praxis,3 units.
One Research Methods course in the methods each student will use for their scholarly work. 2-4 units
One content course elective in the student’s chosen area of scholarship. 2-4 units.

What is the difference between the JMP MS and a UCSF Bridges Inquiry project?

The two undertakings differ in scope, time, and depth. At the JMP, the medical and MS curricula are intimately intertwined throughout the student’s training. The JMP Master’s project characteristics and expectations are explained above. The UCSF Bridges curriculum includes an Inquiry Project or Deep Explore which is a research activity lasting no more than 20 weeks and performed in the fourth year of the Bridges medical curriculum.

How do students fund their scholarly work?

How do students fund their scholarly work?

All students will receive up to $2,000 for justified expenses supporting their master’s project. Additionally, all students can apply for funding for one summer of their training (up to $4,500) for any of the following three programs:

  • JMP needs-based summer funding. Four to seven awards are given every summer.
  • Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association: (ACCMA). Two to three awards are given every summer.
  • UCSF Summer Explore. The number of awards received by the JMP is variable, and it is a requirement that the research mentor is a UCSF faculty.

There are additional sources of funding for student projects from UC Berkeley, UCSF, and external organizations.