Field Immersion

Field immersions are an integral part of the Harvard DrPH Program.  The Program seeks to ensure that students gain practical experience in public health while collaborating with senior public health practitioners and leaders. This complements academic coursework and helps develop and demonstrate advanced foundational knowledge and leadership competencies in a real world setting.  The curriculum includes three periods of field immersion and experiential learning over the course of the Program: Winter and Spring Year 1: Team-based (3 weeks full time in January, reduced hours in Spring 1), Summer Year 2 (8-10 weeks) and Winter Year 2: Experiential Learning Engagement (3 weeks).  At present, the program is able to support transportation costs for the Year 1 Team-based immersion. For the Summer Year 2 and Winter Year 2, students must ensure their own support, something that should be kept in mind in financial planning for the program. For the summer program, many students have been able to combine field immersion with paid employment and/or receive funding in the form of fellowships and other funding opportunities.

Students Resources  •  Host Organization Resources


Winter Team-Based Field Immersion:

Moving from Individuals to Collaborative Teaming

DrPH Students at Intermountain Healthcare, Winter 2017 (Photo Credit: Primary Children’s Hospital, Salt Lake City, UT)

DrPH students will use a teaming approach that includes assessing or analyzing a problem or situation, an opportunity for program expansion or development, or “a new idea or approach” to a public health or systems challenge in a practice setting.  Value for the partner organization is created when the team develops ideas, recommendations or solutions that the organization finds useful, and can adopt within a few months after the team’s departure.   International and domestic partner organizations host teams of 4-5 students for three weeks during the WinterSession.  This field immersion experience is closely tied to the DrPH signature Enabling Teams course.

Past Winter Projects:

  • The team proposed a health systems framework to consciously and systematically incorporate the needs of conflict-induced displacement groups including “Ethnic Health Organizations” (EHOs) into all aspects of health services financing, policy, planning, implementation, and evaluation at Community Partners International in Thailand.
  • Conducted a rigorous evaluation of our current health training curriculum, with the goal of identifying areas where content is missing, or could be improved upon at Gardens of Health, in Rwanda.
  • Developed process for engaging local communities and internal stakeholders across the region and within the organization in a collective impact approach that created interest in the process to develop and achieve Implementation Strategies for 22 communities served by the system at Intermountain Healthcare, in Utah, US.

Summer Field Immersion:

Kuanysh (Cohort 2) in Vietnam

Using Research as a Catalyst for Change

An 8-10 week, full-time, individually based experience. Students concentrate on tackling a public health challenge while stretching forward in their leadership skills. Students start the process of scheduling informational conversations with organizations of interest and identifying placements by late fall-early winter. Over the course of the spring semester, students work closely with their prospective host organizations to develop a project that will meet the needs of the organization, the requirements of the Program and advance the personal and professional growth of the student. This field immersion experience is connected to the DrPH signature Enabling Change curriculum.

Past Summer Projects:

  • Examination of Springfield’s Implementation of the Massachusetts Pregnant and Parenting Teen Initiative (MPPTI) at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health
  • Process Evaluation of a Pilot Study to Optimize Adherence to Anti-Retroviral Therapy Amongst Adolescents Living with HIV in Rwanda with RTI International
  • Primary Healthcare and Health System Transformation: development of case-based materials on primary care models in the Netherlands and Estonia, Harvard Chan School of Public Health
  • Developing a Point of View on the Financing of Global Public Goods for Health for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Review & Recommendations for Drug Innovation Policy at Brigham & Women’s Hospital
  • Developing Sector-Based Guidance for Impact Measurement at the Global Impact Investing Network
  • Community Needs Assessment for Innovation Freestanding Birth Center in Dorchester: The Birth Sanctuary

Winter 2 Experiential Learning:

DELTA Doctoral Project Preparation

The purpose of this period is for the student to focus furthering ideas and goals related to the DELTA Doctoral Project. This period can take a variety of forms including participation in a winter session trip or formal field immersion experience, enrollment in a course that will strengthens the skills needed to pursue a DELTA Doctoral project, visits to potential organizations DELTA Doctoral Project exploration, and partnership with a faculty member to work on a research question that is related to a DELTA Doctoral Project.  This experiential learning experience is connected to the Fall/Spring DELTA Seminar.