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JMP Questions and Answers

General Questions

  • Why would I choose the Joint Medical Program (JMP) over a traditional program?

    As a society, we are living in a trifecta of concurrent public health crisis including racism, climate change, and COVID-19, our health system and country require physician leaders capable of understanding how to engage with these challenging issues at both the individual and policy/system level in order to transform our health systems.The JMP is the only medical program in the country housed in a school of Public Health and is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the intersection of medicine and public health. The JMP offers a unique course of study that integrates the study of foundational medical and clinical sciences with the participation in world class research. The JMP strives to produce physician “changemakers” who approach medicine with a broad trans-disciplinary understanding of the social determinants of health, health systems science, population health, health equity, and data science in order to improve the health of patients and healthcare systems.

  • What are the strengths of the JMP?

    The strengths of the JMP include:

    • The study of foundational medical sciences in an active student-directed case and problem based pedagogy in small group tutorials.
    • Actively promoting camaraderie, teamsmanship and strong, non-competitive sense of community.
    • The ability to study medicine while attending UC Berkeley with its diverse student body, community and political organizations.
    • Emphasizing working independently in small groups and resolving the issues and conflicts that arise. This is exactly how people are expected to work in community and academic medicine. Students learn how to ask and answer questions, including learning the art of how to dive deeply into medical and research literature for understanding and context.
  • How do JMP students perform at UCSF since the core curriculum is so different?

    The JMP is a regional campus of UCSF. We provide unique and equivalent training in all aspects of the medical curriculum. Our students have learned the requisite content and reached the equivalent competency milestones as their UCSF peers. JMP students are well prepared for and do well in their clerkships at UCSF. In addition they have honed their diagnostic, analytical, problem-solving, and research skills. The new UCSF bridges curriculum schedules the USMLE step 1 and step 2 after clinical rotations. JMP students join their peers as they prepare for these tests.

  • Will all my classes be with the same 16 people for three years?

    The core medical, clinical, and thesis seminar courses are dedicated to the 16-member cohort. The courses that form the foundation of your master’s studies are taken at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health (BPH) and include members of the broader BPH community. Thesis electives can be taken across the campus.

  • Does the JMP have the same professors as the UCSF program?

    JMP faculty members hold positions on the UC Berkeley campus, while some faculty members have joint appointments with teaching responsibilities at UC Berkeley and UCSF. Although the curriculum is organized and taught in a different format from UCSF, the content contained in the Berkeley phase of the program covers material taught during the first year and a half at UCSF. In addition, our faculty participate with UCSF faculty in course director retreats, committee work, and faculty development activities and clinical skills courses. UCSF and JMP faculty are colleagues who meet regularly in a variety of ways, including in their respective professional organizations.

  • How does the faculty at the JMP compare with those at UCSF?

    JMP and UCSF faculty are often colleagues and friends, whose paths cross at retreats, workshops, meetings, professional activities, and in community work. The faculty on both campuses are outstanding teachers and scholars and work together well. The JMP is a community-based medical program, and many JMP faculty members are clinician educators with an active community practice in their specialty.

  • Do JMP students take classes at UCSF?

    The core medical curriculum at the JMP is a comprehensive equivalent of the 1.5 year pre-clerkship Foundations 1 curriculum offered at UCSF. UC Berkeley is on a semester calendar and UCSF is on the quarter calendar, which makes intercampus exchange of coursework difficult. In spite of these difficulties, some JMP students have taken a thesis elective at UCSF. Also, many UCSF faculty serve as members of JMP thesis committees.

  • What about the final 2.5 years (MS3 and MS4 years) at UCSF? How does the 5 years JMP program play out?

    JMP students spend their first 2.5 years (5 semesters) matriculated at UC Berkeley. They have been accepted into the UCSF School of Medicine but will not matriculate to that campus until after the winter break of their third year. During the fall of their final semester, students will participate in choosing clerkships alongside their UCSF cohort and get assigned a small group coach. Foundations 2 (F2) starts at the beginning of January, is 48 weeks long and culminates in taking the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2.

  • What do your graduates do after graduation?

    Most of our students enter clinical practice and 60% of our students choose to practice in primary care, but many choose fields in a wide variety of non-primary care fields, including global health. Many JMP students will take on leadership roles in academic medicine, public health, and community-based primary care.

Student Life at the JMP

  • Do most people live in Berkeley?

    For the Berkeley phase of the program, most students live in Berkeley, though some students live in surrounding East Bay communities (e.g., Oakland, Albany), and a few live in San Francisco. Commuting from San Francisco to the JMP adds significant commute time to a frequently impacted schedule. For the San Francisco phase of the program, most students do live in San Francisco, although some JMP students do choose to maintain their East Bay residence and decide to schedule many of their clerkship rotations in the East Bay.

  • What student-run organizations are active in the JMP?

    Students are active in many organizations: American Medical Student Association (AMSA); Student National Medical Association (SNMA); Latino Medical Student Association (LMSA); American Medical Association (AMA); California Medical Association (CMA); Alameda Contra Costa Medical Association (ACCMA); American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA); Medical Students for Choice (MSFC); Suitcase Clinic (started in 1989 by JMP students and now run and sustained by JMP students, as well as a large cadre of undergraduate students). You can find more information on student groups here.

  • What do students do over the summer?

    The summer a good time to move forward with Master’s research project when there is flexibility in your schedule.

  • What is it like spending the first two and a half years of medical school away from a teaching hospital?

    Although the JMP is on an academic campus, and not in a traditional health sciences hospital-based campus, we engage with many East Bay hospitals, community clinics, geriatric care centers, and physician offices as teaching sites. There is teaching in a clinical setting and extensive opportunity for patient contact. Because of the small class size, there is often a smaller student-to-faculty ratio in clinical situations.

  • How difficult is the transition from UC Berkeley studying public health to doing clinical rotations and studying medicine in the later part at UCSF?

    The transition from the pre-clerkship to the clerkship curriculum can be challenging for many medical students. In general, JMP students are well prepared to take on this new challenge and very much look forward to it.

  • How much interaction is there between UCSF students and JMP students?

    There are many opportunities for such interaction. JMP graduates at UCSF completing their fourth and fifth years are invited to attend the JMP Welcoming BBQ during orientation. JMP students participate in the White Coat Ceremony at UCSF for all the first year students in the programs of the School of Medicine and are invited to the UCSF School of Medicine Alumni Association Welcome BBQ. The PRIME program provides frequent opportunities for students from both campuses to meet and interact around urban underserved activities open to all students. Students in various professional student groups cross paths and may work on regional committees. Social activities and friends’ networks also result in bringing students together. JMP students may do research at UCSF and take UCSF electives, meeting UCSF students and faculty in the process. Additionally, UCSF students who pursue an MPH degree do so at the Berkeley campus and interact with JMP students. JMP fourth-year students meet with JMP third-year students to support their transition to UCSF. As well, some fifth-years return to the JMP to assist with PBL tutorials as part of their elective UCSF fourth-year experiences.

  • How does the MS in Health and Medical Science compare to an MPH?

    The JMP offers a Master’s in Science (MS) which is an academic degree centered around the advancement of knowledge and student research. It is intentionally designed to complement and expand the JMP’s approach to learning medicine. In contrast, many other programs offer an MPH or Master’s in Public Health which is a professional degree meant to prepare students for a profession in Public Health.

  • What kind of patient population do JMP students interact with in preceptorships?

    JMP students participate in diverse inpatient and outpatient clinical experiences throughout the East Bay. Clinical partners include Alameda and Contra Costa County Health Systems; Kaiser East Bay; community clinics including Lifelong Medical, La Clínica de la Raza, Asian Health, and Roots Community Health Center; John Muir Health; and Alta Bates-Summit Medical Center. Starting in their second semester, JMP students are placed in an outpatient clinic. During these sessions of this year-long longitudinal placement, students get to know a single clinical ecosystem, and one or a small group of dedicated providers and real patients. In their final year, students are placed with Inpatient or Emergency Department preceptors. Students also choose from elective specialty experiences including pediatrics and geriatrics, and all rotate through a clinic serving trans* patients.

Master’s Thesis

  • Can I apply even though I have no research experience?

    Yes. The Admissions Committee looks carefully for evidence of intellectual creativity as well as the ability to apply oneself to a project and see it through. This is reflected in the applicant’s commitment to activities/projects done in-depth as opposed to many activities/projects of short duration.

  • Do I have to know my thesis topic now?

    No. Applicants with initial ideas or areas of interest may use the admissions process to determine the feasibility of finding a research home at UC Berkeley. Applicants who do not have a topic in mind will have ample time and support by the Master’s Faculty in the program’s first year to identify and pursue their topic of interest.

  • What types of thesis work do students do?

    JMP Master’s thesis work is wide ranging and explores the many systems that orbit the sphere of medicine 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.

    The broad range of research 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 to How Does Income Affect Fertility? An Analysis of Oportunidades, Mexico’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program to Teaching Structure: Lessons Learned From Curricular Innovations in Structural Competency.

    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.)

  • How does one go about selecting a project?

    Beginning with the first year in the JMP, students are closely guided and mentored by Master’s faculty in developing their topics and methodologies. Many students take advantage of the research opportunities at Berkeley Public Health, where there is rigorous transdisciplinary research into the determinants of health and our groundbreaking achievements that shape policy, education and services around the world. Berkeley Public Health faculty and students drive action that improves health outcomes for communities, locally and globally. A number of students engage in projects in other disciplines as well. Students work with their thesis advisor to seek out projects and mentors both at UC Berkeley and across the bay at UCSF.

  • What kind of academic support do you get for writing your thesis?

    There is advisory support via the Thesis Seminar which students take for the five semesters they are enrolled at UC Berkeley. In this seminar, students develop skills in designing a research question, developing a literature review, designing their methods, conducting and presenting their research.

  • How do students have time for a thesis?

    Our curriculum is spread over a 2.5 year period and is designed to allow time for thesis work integrated with medical studies in a carefully planned program of study. Since you will be doing the first part of your medical education on an academic campus you are able to take advantage of the extensive holiday and summer breaks that most medical schools don’t have. You also have an additional year as this is a 5 year program.