The heart of community engagement activities that translate research and science into practice.
The Office of Public Health Practice (OPHP) at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health is a hub of community engagement activities that translate research and science into practice. The office promotes and facilitates collaborations among the school’s students, faculty, staff, and community partners locally and globally. These partnerships are vital to improving population health and advancing health equity, and provide essential hands-on learning experiences for FSPH students while elevating the mission of our collaborators, including community organizations and government agencies.
Working with staff from the five UCLA Fielding departments and with assistance from the school’s Career and Professional Development Office, OPHP expands opportunities for students’ applied practice experiences and experiential learning by cultivating strong community partnerships; managing umbrella protocols and procedures; and collecting and interpreting data from the MPH APEx program. The office focuses on providing rich and meaningful practice experiences for the next generation of public health leaders.
APEx for MPH Students
Among the office’s primary functions is oversight of the Applied Practice Experience (APEx), the robust 400-hour experience required of every student in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program. Through these immersive experiences, MPH students apply their coursework knowledge in a practice setting while working at a health- or health-related organization. Under the guidance of a public health-trained preceptor — in many cases a UCLA Fielding graduate — students hone their skills, demonstrate competency attainment, and gain the confidence to take on leadership roles as public health practitioners. APEx complements the student’s interests and career goals while mutually benefiting the community organization.
For these applied practice experiences, UCLA Fielding students fan out across Greater Los Angeles, California, and beyond, including Atlanta and Washington, DC, and numerous countries abroad. They work in community-based organizations and advocacy groups, public health departments and federally qualified health centers, and in legislative settings, tackling issues that include vaccine promotion, gun violence, racism and gender inequities, the unhoused population, access to mental health and other healthcare services, and more. In many cases, these opportunities serve as springboards to students’ post-graduation careers, whether with the same organization or engaged in similar activities. Students bring their practice experiences back to FSPH classrooms, ensuring that the school’s curriculum remains relevant and is addressing pressing public health challenges.
Through the Office of Public Health Practice, UCLA Fielding students can apply for the UCLA Public Health Training Program on Population Health Advocacy, in which they are placed in a Los Angeles-area community organization for nine months of hands-on training and professional development focused on building their capacity for advocacy and policy work. Selected master’s and doctoral students receive funding to dedicate 650 hours toward their assigned advocacy projects by working part time in the spring quarter, full time during summer, and part time in the fall. In addition to the experiential learning component, the fellowship is designed to broaden the scope of advocacy exposure and skill development both for fellows and the FSPH community through workshops and structured peer-to-peer learning.
UCLA Fielding’s pathways programs leverage the school’s close community partnerships to grow the pipeline into public health and increase the diversity of the public health workforce by providing internships, structured workshops, and leadership and professional development to undergraduate students during the summer. Through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Minority Health and Health Equity-funded UCLA Public Health Scholars Training Program, the UC-HBCU Initiative, and supplemental funding from the California Endowment for undocumented students, these programs support students from across the country for health-equity-focused training and mentorship, both at UCLA Fielding and in community-based settings. In addition to providing pathways to current undergraduate students and recent graduates, UCLA Fielding offers the California Pathways into Public Health Initiative Fellowship Program (Cal-PPH), developed through a collaboration with the California Department of Public Health and UC San Francisco in response to the COIVD-19 pandemic. Cal-PPH builds capacity to respond to public health emergencies by training and providing a workforce pathway for early-career public health professionals from all areas and communities across the state. After a three-week training with the California Virtual Training Academy, Cal-PPH Fellows conduct communicable disease prevention and control, community engagement, and emergency response activities at the individual and community levels for two years at a Local Health Jurisdiction host site.
PH 401: Public Health as a Profession
Part of the MPH core curriculum, PH 401: Public Health as a Profession introduces MPH students to concepts that are critical to the successful practice of public health, including interprofessional collaboration, team building, leadership, communication, and cultural humility. Students participate in a systems-based healthcare course with dental, medical, and nursing students to highlight the interdisciplinary nature of public health.