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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: 1) Mapping rescue asthma inhaler use and outdoor air pollution: a geospatial-temporal analysis; 2) How Does Income Affect Fertility? 3) An Analysis of Oportunidades, Mexico’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program; 4) 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.

This 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. The substance of the master’s project must be preceded by a section (or chapter, at the discretion of the student and advisors) that contextualizes the body of work in current academic literature and a closing section that presents a synthesis, conclusions, and future directions.


The curriculum consists of foundational core courses and courses in two possible tracks selected by students. Master’s courses are taken in parallel with medical courses. Students should commit to a track once they identify a mentor and a project, which is expected by the end of the first year. The two tracks provide the curricular flexibility needed to accommodate various approaches to achieving the program’s goals. In other words, we recognize that the education of antiracist changemakers can be accomplished through different paths.

In the table below, the core required courses are shaded in green. The orange and purple shading in the table represent the two tracks. Track A (purple shading) focuses on changemaking through health policy and biomedical sciences. Track B (orange shading) focuses on changemaking through social science and humanities. The required methods course for track A is biostatistics; for track B, students, with their mentor’s advice, will select an appropriate methods course.

HMS MS course requirements, minimum 32 unitsUnits Track AUnits Track B
HMS 261, Master’s Seminar, 3 units, first 3 semesters.99
HMS 264, Master’s Seminar; 1 unit, last 2 semesters.22
HMS 297: Summer Research Field Study, at least 1 unit is required.11
HMS 296: practicum, at least 1 unit is required.11
Epidemiology course. 3 units minimum; can test out.33
Health care quality (PH224E, 3 units).33
Changemaker/Leadership course.22
PBHLTH 215 (Anti-Racist and Racial Justice Praxis).33
One Research Methods course in the methods students will use for their project. 2-4 units each course. Applies only to track B. For track A, biostatistics counts as a methods course (see below).02
Health and Social Behavior Breadth Course (PH 200L, 2 units) or equivalent required for Track B.02
1-2 content or methods electives, 2-4 units each course.34
Biostatistics course, 3 units. Required for Track A; can test out.30
Health Policy and Management Breadth Course (PH200J, 2 units) or equivalent required for Track A.20
Total number of units3232

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?

By encouraging students to join existing research projects, it is expected that most of their funding will be through their research mentor’s funding. In addition, all students are eligible for up to $2500 for their research project. There is also here is a summer grant program that provides support for summer expenses for a limited number of students with demonstrated economic need as the primary criterion. If you are working with a UCSF principal investigator, there are also opportunities for support from UCSF. There are additional sources of funding for student projects from Berkeley, UCSF, and external organizations.

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