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Meharry, Wharton Partner on Dual Degree Program

A. Dexter Samuels, PhD, MHA

Students Earn MD & PhD in Health Care Management

This summer, two prestigious academic institutions announced they have joined forces to foster greater diversity in healthcare leadership. Meharry Medical College and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania unveiled a new partnership that creates a joined MD/PhD program with students earning their medical degree from Meharry and doctorate in Health Care Management from Wharton.

Launching in 2021, the partnership represents the first of its kind for both institutions. Although Meharry has an established MD/PhD program for medicine and biomedical research, this is the first foray into a doctorate focused on the health policy side. "There has been such a paucity of people of color in health policy," noted A. Dexter Samuels, PhD, MHA, senior vice president for Student Affairs and executive director of the Center for Health Policy at Meharry. "There is a real need to increase the pipeline, and Meharry is going to do its part."

While the program is new, Samuels said collaboration between the two schools was already in place. "We've had an ongoing relationship with Wharton as part of the Center for Health Policy," he noted, adding Wharton has representation on the Center's National Advisory Board. Faculty from Wharton have presented in Nashville, and Meharry faculty members have participated in Wharton's Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics (LDI) annual Summer Undergraduate Minority Research program for nearly a decade. "It's been a very fruitful relationship for both of us," said Samuels.

With that foundation in place, this next step was a natural outgrowth of the relationship and of critical need. Pointing to current events and the well documented disparities seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, Samuels said, "This is a ripe opportunity for our students to be involved on the medical/clinical side and on the research side to really focus on health equity and health disparities."

While the detailed mechanics of the program are still being finalized, Samuels said the plan is to begin recruiting now with a December 2020 deadline to apply for the first cohort in 2021. He added students would likely begin their medical degree in Nashville, go to Pennsylvania for their doctoral work, and then return to Meharry to finish their medical degree before heading to residency. Potential students are being recruited internally on the Meharry campus, but Samuels said there is also a robust recruitment plan nationwide.

"Fostering a more diverse healthcare arena has been Meharry Medical College's goal since our founding," said Samuels. "We are so proud of the collaboration we have maintained with LDI over the years, and this agreement is another example of our combined efforts to change the landscape of the healthcare workforce."


Meharry Medical College

Center for Health Policy at Meharry

Wharton Health Care Management

Penn LDI


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Center for Health Policy at Meharry, Dexter Samuels, Dual Degree, Health Care Management, Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, Meharry Medical College, University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School
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