First M.D./M.P.H. dual degree graduates leave with great memories, experiences

May 1, 2012

Junaid Niazi
Junaid Niazi

Being the first to do something can be both exciting and intimidating. Luckily, for Junaid Niazi and Kasia Kimmel, who will be the first two graduates of BCM's M.D./M.P.H. Dual Degree Program, they had each other for support throughout their experience.

A collaboration with the University of Texas School of Public Health, the five-year program allows medical students the opportunity to enhance their education by training in specific areas of public health.

Niazi and Kimmel became interested in the dual degree program in different ways.

Niazi knew he wanted to go into medicine since he was young, and a trip to Ghana between his junior and senior year of college exposed him to various public health initiatives, including helping with vaccination campaigns and HIV/AIDS education.

Kimmel's interest in public health came from her mother, who received her masters in biometry from the University of Texas School of Public Health. Since college, Kimmel has been involved in emergency medical services training and work and knew that this would be what she pursued in medical school. To do this, she knew she needed experience in public health.

Kasia Kimmel
Kasia Kimmel

"It's a great, useful degree that helps you understand medicine on a different level," said Kimmel.

Both Niazi and Kimmel were at the right place at the right time. When BCM announced the opportunity to pursue an M.P.H. through a dual degree program, both students jumped at the opportunity they always knew they wanted.

Within his public health training, Niazi specialized in community health practice in the division of management policy and community health. This allows him to work with populations at the community level addressing health needs by designing, implementing and evaluating interventions.

"It's a way to put the community first and work with them rather than just for them," said Niazi, who will pursue a combined residency in the internal medicine and pediatrics program at the University of Minnesota.

Kimmel specialized in health promotions and behavioral sciences. She gained experience in understanding why people do and do not visit their doctors as well as in the development and understanding of health programs for prevention and treatment. She will pursue a residency in emergency medicine at BCM and hopes to go on to do a fellowship in EMS and disaster medicine.

Although they were the first and there were a few kinks to iron out in the new program, both consider the program a worthwhile experience.

"It was a really great experience, and it's worthwhile for a doctor to have this training," said Kimmel.

"Never has it been a more important time for public health principles to be applied in the medical field. We have to move beyond treating patients and focus on health promotion and prevention of disease and illness," said Niazi. "We're thankful for the support we received from both schools throughout our training."