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Global Health – Master of Public Health

The Department of Public Health Sciences offers students the option to pursue the global health track as part of a graduate degree or earn a graduate certificate in global health. The global health track is offered exclusively online by Penn State World Campus.

Both options reflect Penn State’s broader commitment to improve the well-being and health of individuals and communities and to promote a global understanding through integrated programs in education, research and service.

The program is designed to provide a framework in which students explore public health issues from a global and culturally-competent perspective.
Through this curriculum, students understand global health disparities and discover promising health care solutions through applied coursework and international field experiences.

International fieldwork is a critical step for students to gain practical experience in global health. Through the Global Health Exchange Program, each summer, students in the Master of Public Health and Doctor of Public Health programs have the opportunity to travel abroad to study public health issues.

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MPH Global Health Practicum

Graduate Certificate in Global Health

  • This certificate is for students who are interested in advancing their knowledge and skills in key global health competencies.
  • For the 12-credit certificate, students must successfully complete two required courses (Principles of Public Health and Principles of Global Health) and two elective courses.
  • The certificate can be completed while pursuing an MPH or DrPH degree.

More information about the certificate curriculum

Global Health Exchange Program (GHEP)

Wooden buildings and market stalls in Ghana with a woman reaching into a box.

Students who participate in the Global Health Exchange Program cultivate an understanding of the link between culture and health. The goal is to facilitate a global dialogue on diverse approaches to public health challenges.

  • Penn State MPH and DrPH students have the opportunity to travel abroad to China, India, Ghana, Taiwan, Morocco, Bahrain, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Singapore and other international partner sites to study public health issues.
  • These experiences can fulfill the program’s practicum requirement.
  • Penn State students who are unable to travel globally have the opportunity to participate in a domestic global-health-focused learning opportunity.
  • As part of the program, each summer, Penn State invites graduate students from international partner sites to Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey for a three-week learning experience.
  • The students will learn from Penn State faculty, shadow and observe professionals, visit regional and national public health organizations, and participate in a cultural exchange of public health topics with students from across the globe.
  • Current graduate/certificate students are able to enroll in this program as an elective.

Please contact Dr. Kristin Sznajder, Associate Director for International Initiatives, or email globalhealth@phs.psu.edu for further information on the global health program for MPH and DrPH students.

What Students Are Saying

Here’s what some participants have said about the Global Health Exchange Program:

  • “The internship may have only been eight weeks in duration, but its effects in me have truly altered the trajectory of my career.”
  • “Going to Bahrain was eye-opening, mind-blowing, and rewarding. I got opportunities to conduct public health research projects in collaboration with local researchers. This was a precious opportunity for me to translate my skills and knowledge to real-world practice.”
  • “Having the opportunity to experience these prominent global health threats firsthand has influenced my education and has helped me to become a better, more compassionate, and knowledgeable public health professional.”

Global Health Case Competition

Savanna Ledford, Krista Hartmann, Brian Drury, Xingyan Wang, Emma Baker and Laura Guay are pictured in Zoom squares during a competition held virtually.

Out of 52 teams, Penn State placed fourth in the 2021 Emory Morningside Global Health Case Competition. The event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured are, clockwise from top left, team members Savanna Ledford, Krista Hartmann, Brian Drury, Xingyan Wang, Emma Baker, and Laura Guay.


Each year, Penn State assembles an interprofessional team comprised of students from the College of Medicine, Dickinson Law and University Park campuses to participate in The Emory Morningside Global Health Case Competition. The competition poses a hypothetical public health crisis for teams to solve. Each team must successfully work together to create and present a comprehensive plan that addresses the problem. Presentations are judged by a panel of experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), academia, State Health Departments, private industries, and nongovernmental organizations.

The Penn State team consists of up to six students from an array of degree programs such as public health sciences, medicine, nursing, engineering, biology, business and law. To participate, interested graduate and undergraduate students must apply each fall by completing an online application, along with a 500-word essay describing their experience and explaining why they want to participate in the competition.

Selected students are notified in December. Weekly team meetings and practice sessions begin in January. Below are the Penn State students that have competed each year in the event:

2022

  • Team members: Chloe Connor, Dr. Ryan Holcomb, Samuel Jump, Kaci McNeave, Josheili Llavona-Ortiz and Bukola Toyobo
  • Topic: Developing Health Action Plans to Improve the Health of Indigenous Peoples
  • Winning team: University of Alabama at Birmingham; Penn State’s team earned an honorable mention out of 43 teams.

2021

  • Team members: Emma Baker, Brian Drury, Laura Guay, Krista Hartmann, Savanna Ledford and Xingyan Wang
  • Topic: Addressing the Challenges of COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution, Hesitancy, and Equity
  • Winning team: Duke Kunshan University; Penn State’s team placed fourth out of 52 teams.

2020

  • Team members: Michael Smith Jr., Madyson Popalis, Chandat Phan, Pierce Curran and Jacob Balamut
  • Topic: Government policies and effective initiatives for the eradication of measles in one of the following locations: India, Madagascar, Nigeria, Syria or Ukraine.
  • Winning team: Emory University

2019

  • Team members: Gabrielle Gundermann, Taylor Beth Haddad, Ryan Kingshill, Sarah Peiffer, Paddy Ssentongo and Yanxu Yang
  • Topic: Implementing Innovative Hurricane Disaster Preparedness Strategies in a Changing Global Climate
  • Winning team: University of Melbourne

2018

  • Team members: Nirmal Ahuja, Alyssa Brandt, Bryan Caffrey, Mallory Hidinger and Madison Taylor
  • Topic: Containing an Outbreak During the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
  • Winning team: Emory University

Case competition team members in the news

Penn State Global Health Center

Learn more about global health opportunities, such as the Global Health Scholars Program available for medical students, through the Global Health Center

Latest News in Global Health