New WPI Master’s Degree Program Seeks To Improve Global Health Through Socially Responsible Technology
Recognizing that the future of global health lies at the intersection of technology, science, and humanity, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is introducing a master of science (MS) in Global Health. The degree program will prepare students for leadership roles in this growing field by equipping them to turn technical knowledge into innovative solutions that will improve people’s health and increase equitable access to health care globally.
“Technology is transforming global health in multiple ways, from drug discovery to disease detection,” said Mimi Sheller, dean of The Global School, which is administering the program. “WPI’s master’s in Global Health will provide students with skills to create new technologies and bring these innovations to the places they are needed most with a central focus on the social, human, and ethical ramifications of technology in health care."
Starting in fall 2024, this new program will help students learn how to develop socially responsible technology that can help improve health – with greater equity – for people around the world. Such complex goals require an interdisciplinary approach, and this program is designed to allow students to learn from faculty with expertise in areas such as biology, biomedical engineering, computer science, data analysis, global studies, interactive media, and social science. Such focused, yet varied, expertise will guide students to use data-driven research to help create advancements in areas such as digital healthcare technologies, artificial intelligence, virtual reality/augmented reality, 3D-printing, robotics, wearable sensors, electronic health records, and telemedicine.
Karen Kashmanian Oates, professor of biology & biotechnology, will direct the program that expands on an existing minor in global public health at WPI. "The MS in Global Health takes a different approach from other global health programs,” Oates said. “The core courses ground students in the fundamentals, but it goes beyond the biology and policy of infectious and chronic diseases. Our program will focus on how technology is being leveraged for better health, so our students can design global solutions. These solutions could include affordable biomedical devices, mobile apps, and new AI-assisted machine learning.”
Graduates will stand out thanks to WPI’s expertise in data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), biomedical device innovation, mobile applications, and other emerging technologies. They’ll also benefit from this customizable program’s distinct approach to learning, which includes hands-on, real-world internship and research experience, and access to international partners, such as government, non-governmental organizations, and medical research institutions, and more than 50 global project centers in nearly three-dozen countries. This customizable approach will create pathways for students seeking to expand upon engineering, computer science, and other technical degrees through co-creation of knowledge in diverse cultural settings — as well as those from humanities and social science backgrounds who want to strengthen their skills in quantitative methods, data analytics, or management.
Career opportunities in this field exist in international organizations, medical and pharmaceutical companies, public health departments and in research, health systems management, tech start-ups and entrepreneurship. Demand in this area is exemplified by Bureau of Labor Statistics projections of job growth of greater than 25% for careers in medical and health services management and data science, including health data science.
“Our program will address the increased need for both technical and non-technical responses to global health challenges that are led by experts with training in a wide array of disciplines, which include the social sciences,” said Tsitsi Masvawure, a medical anthropologist and assistant professor in the Department of Integrative & Global Studies. “Students will learn about the social determinants that produce unequal health outcomes—locally, nationally, and globally— and re-imagine socially just technical solutions.”
Under the new master’s program, students will complete a practicum or project in one of four concentrations: global health management and assessment, analytics and modeling in global health, mobile applications for global health, and engineering solutions for global health. They’ll have the opportunity to complete this work at one of WPI’s Global Project Centers on six continents. Students in the program will learn from faculty in all four schools at WPI: The Global School, the School of Arts & Sciences, the School of Engineering, and The Business School.
“This new degree pathway adds to WPI’s portfolio of interdisciplinary, global, project-based graduate-level programs,” said Sheller. “This includes the Master’s in Community Climate Adaptation and the Master’s in Science and Technology for Innovation in Global Development to secure our position as a leader in ‘CleanTech,’ ‘GreenTech,’ and ‘HealthTech.’” To learn more about the MS in Global Health and to apply, visit the program website.