CaRES Internships versus MPH Internships

UAB Public Health students enrolled in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program must complete an “MPH internship” (field experience of 180 hours) in order to earn their degree.  Some MPH students think that completing a CaRES internship will satisfy their MPH internship requirement.  Is this true?

The answer is . . . maybe or maybe not, depending on the nature of the CaRES project.

CaRES projects that are laboratory-based “basic science,” focus on animal research, or are computer-based data analysis projects, generally are NOT acceptable as MPH internships. 

An MPH internship must involve human subjects and typically includes some sort of health education or public health practice that the student could not deliver if doing basic science research, animal research, or statistical analyses.  One way of judging whether or not a research project includes an element of “public health practice” is that a public health practice experience generally benefits the human subjects of the study (for instance, people at high risk for cancer, or people recovering from cancer).  In some research studies there is no direct benefit to the subjects studied; the benefits are to the next generation of subjects for whom cancer prevention is better understood or cancer treatment can be more effectively rendered.  Such may be the case for a study of biological specimens of deceased cancer cases, for example.  All CaRES projects count as “research” but not all CaRES projects include some “public health practice.”

The CaRES projects that would probably be acceptable as MPH internships are those projects that study people who have cancer or who are at high risk of cancer.  For example, a CaRES project that explores the effect of weight change on the speed of recovery of women who have been treated for breast cancer, may be acceptable as an MPH internship if the women are given counseling on diet, weight control, and exercise.  Another example is a study of residents of rural Alabama to assess their environmental and lifestyle risk factors for cancer, and to advise them about how they can reduce their cancer risk.  Typically, when research on human subjects is done, recommendations for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding disease are given to the subjects of the study, or can be added to a study at the request of a CaRES student.

In summary, not all CaRES internships will satisfy the requirements of an “MPH internship.”  MPH students who want to complete a CaRES internship to fulfill their MPH internship requirement should meet with their academic advisor and with the MPH Internship Director in the Office of Student and Academic Services in the School of Public Health, to determine whether the CaRES project they have in mind is acceptable as an MPH internship.  Dr. Waterbor can give general guidance on this issue but final approval of the MPH internship rests with the student’s academic advisor and with the MPH Internship Director, not with CaRES.                         

UPDATED JANUARY 18, 2017