"It's a whole new way of thinking for physicians," said Matthew Boulton, director of the Residency in General Preventive Medicine and Public Health.
The two-year program aims to fill what Boulton describes as a critical shortage of medical epidemiologists---that is, people who examine disease at the public health level. These are the physicians who monitor and prepare for bioterrorist attacks, who staff the Centers for Disease Control, and who aid in developing plans for immunization.
Initial participants are just completing the residency, and already have landed jobs in the field. For example, David Persaud recently accepted a position as medical director for the Kent County Health Department, though he will not complete the U-M program until July, while Azra Hashmi has become a faculty pediatrician and associate residency director for Oakwood Hospital in southeast Michigan.
Michigan, like most other states, suffers from an acute shortage of qualified physicians to serve as medical directors and physician administrators in the state and local public health system. Many medical directors cover multiple jurisdictions or serve on an interim or part-time basis. Because of the shortage of available candidates, physicians in private practice without public health experience or training are sometimes asked to provide coverage for health departments on a part-time basis simply because no other options exist.