DrPH Practicum Policies and Procedures

All DrPH degree candidates in the School of Public Health are required to complete a minimum of six credit hours (360 contact hours) in a practicum experience. The practicum is a field experience which bridges professional academic preparation and advanced public health practice. Advanced knowledge and skills, based on the DrPH competencies and learned in the DrPH courses, are applied in an agency setting under the direction and guidance of an experienced supervisor/mentor. The practicum for DrPH students must incorporate higher level skills (policy development, epidemiologic analyses, etc.) compared to the MPH internship experiences, although the settings may be similar. These higher level skills are expected to reinforce the competencies attained in pursuing the DrPH degree. Through the DrPH practicum, students should be responsible for the completion of at least one project that is meaningful for an organization and to advanced public health practice. The work product may be a single project or a set of related projects that demonstrate a depth of competence.

The student, faculty advisor, and practicum mentor/supervisor should work together to develop project goals and objectives that are appropriate for each DrPH student, allowing for the practice of advanced skills and knowledge and providing evidence of achieving the competencies associated with this degree. 

Given the nature of public health practice, students may be analyzing, interpreting and perhaps even contributing to the collection of data. If there is any question as to whether a student’s practicum will require IRB approval, the student with his or her faculty practicum advisor’s approval must submit an application to the IRB. Students should be advised that the IRB approval process might significantly extend the time needed to prepare for a practicum. It is important that each student discuss the scope of the practicum with his or her practicum advisor so that no IRB infractions occur.

Students should consult with their department's practicum faculty advisor to receive department and/or program practicum requirements which may exceed the minimum outlined in this policy. 

Agency Practicum Sites

Students should investigate practicums that provide them with opportunities to practice their newly acquired general public health and discipline-specific skills. Students are encouraged to work with their faculty advisors and to seek out organizations and agencies.

Examples of appropriate practicum sites include, but are not limited to federal public health agencies, (i.e., the CDC, HRSA, and NIH), state and county departments of health, community-based organizations, non-profit organizations, private industry, community hospitals, and other organizations involved in public health work. The practicum should take place within an organization external to the student’s school or program so that it is not merely an academic exercise, but application of learning to a “real world” setting. While the majority of the practicums will be completed with agencies and organizations in and around Birmingham, students are not required to stay in the local area for their practicums. There are a variety of other regional and national and international agencies and organizations that could provide practicums. Students may investigate opportunities wherever they may be available, provided the host agency and proposed practicum experience meet the School’s requirements for an appropriate public health practice practicum.

DrPH students may currently be working in a public health organization and can only do a placement in his or her regular place of employment. However, the practicum must be beyond or something other than his or her regular work duties, allowing for the application of advanced knowledge and skills acquired in the academic program.   

In regard to the on-site supervisor or mentor, it is preferable that the student be assigned a mentor who has training and a degree beyond the master’s level. This mentor could be a higher level organizational official that would meet with the student on a regular basis, but the student’s day to day work may be supervised by someone without that advanced training or degree. At least one initial meeting should occur between the high level official, the day to day mentor, the faculty advisor and the student.

Potential practicums that do not clearly meet this criterion should be discussed with the faculty practicum advisor and must be submitted in writing to the academic dean for final approval. Normally, faculty research projects are not appropriate venues for practicums nor are jobs that are primarily administrative or research in nature. If students encounter any problems of a personal or professional nature, such as a need to withdraw from the practicum before the end of the term or how to deal with an uncomfortable or hostile work environment, they should contact their faculty practicum advisor.

Program Procedures 

Students generally must complete the core classes in their area of specialization before registering for a practicum. Variations of this policy will be granted at the departmental level. Each department will have an individual course number for the practicum experience (***793) and students will register for the practicum course in their department. This number will be obtained from the department program coordinator. Students will register for the practicum experience through a faculty practicum advisor. The faculty advisor will serve as the course master for the student’s practicum experience. 

According to university policy, international students must complete an additional form for the International Scholar and Student Services office in the Hill University Center before beginning their practicum. 

While it is desired that the practicum requirement be completed in one semester, some instances require that practicums last longer than one semester. Students must register for a total of six credit hours during their academic program; however, the course may be split into two semesters, allowing students to register for three credit hours during one semester and three credit hours the following semester. In such cases, the student will document the plan in the Practicum Description/Agreement form so that the practicum faculty advisor and site supervisor will be aware and in agreement.

Registration

Prior to registering for the practicum experience, the student must complete the UAB School of Public Health's Practicum Description and Agreement form online through InternTrack. InternTrack is the School of Public Health's system for managing internships and practicums. This form includes information on the student's practicum project including: a description of the proposed project, goals, and activities; the public health issue and background of the problem justifying its significance; the expected outcomes or results and the competencies that will be addressed through the practicum experience; and outlines the student, faculty advisor, and preceptors' roles, responsibilities and expectations.

The UAB School of Public Health has selected three DrPH foundational competencies which must be reinforced through the DrPH practicum including DrPH Foundational Competency #2, DrPH Foundational Competency #5, and DrPH Foundational Competency #11. In addition, students should work with their practicum faculty advisor to select two (2) departmental competencies. For each of the foundational and departmental competencies selected, students should be able to describe which of their practicum goals and aims will help you meet the competency.

The faculty advisor and site mentor/ supervisor must approve the practicum description and agreement form online in InternTrack prior to the student registering for the practicum.

Deliverables 

During the practicum, students should complete a monthly reflection at the start of every month of their practicum period to describe the progress of the experience. These monthly reflections must be completed online in InternTrack and will be reviewed by the student's practicum faculty advisor. In addition, the preceptor must complete a midpoint and final evaluation of student performance, available for completion online in InternTrack. 

At the conclusion of the practicum, the student will develop a written report (approximately 20 pages) summarizing results with suggested recommendations for action. This written report should also include a reflective component  of the student’s expression of personal and/or professional reactions to the applied practice experience and describe how the practicum demonstrated the five competencies selected in the Practicum Description and Agreement form. 

The student will also prepare of 30-45 minute presentation to be presented to his/her DrPH colleagues in the SOPH. The final product should be submitted the last week of the semester through InternTrack. The student and the agency supervisor will also complete an evaluation of the practicum online in InternTrack.