Categories: Newsletter Issue 2021:1

An Interview With A. Dexter Samuels and Guy David About the New Meharry-Wharton Joined M.D./Ph.D. Program

By: David Slusky

Dr. David Slusky: What was the impetus behind starting this new joined Meharry-Wharton program?

Dr. A. Dexter Samuels: When two institutions with legacies like Meharry Medical College—commitment to service to the underserved and the marginalized; and Wharton—the benchmark for scholarship and innovation in health business management—can come together in their know-how and accomplishment to educate the next health care leaders engaged with devotion to health equity, how do you not take advantage of that?

Dr. Guy David: The leadership of Wharton Health Care Management and LDI have a long standing relationship with Meharry. This MD/PhD program is a natural continuation of numerous collaborative educational activities between the schools over the years and the recognition that minorities are highly underrepresented within the elite academics who hold both an MD and a PhD.

Dr. David Slusky: Why these two schools in particular, where are 800 miles apart?

Dr. Guy David: Meharry Medical College is the first and largest medical school for African Americans. It is an honor for our 35 years old doctoral program in health care management and economics to join forces with Meharry and enhance our mission to promote a breadth of knowledge around health care policy as well as our commitment for creating a more diverse, just, and equitable society.

Dr. A. Dexter Samuels: Distance is really not a consideration or relevant in today’s world. What matters is the scope and commitment of the institution. Meharry is one of four historically black medical schools in the U.S.—we’re a national institution, not regional, and our 14 decades of advocacy for health equity and mission is well known nationwide. Where our interests combine with Wharton’s, it’s really a small world after all academically, and we are excited about the opportunity for Meharry students to participate in this joined program.

Dr. David Slusky: What if any key curricular differences will there be from the existing MD/PhD programs (e.g., the one Wharton already has with Penn’s medical school)?

Dr. Dexter Samuels: For Meharry students to be a part of the Wharton environment, an amazing cross-cultural infusion takes place. There has been a longstanding collaboration with LDI at our Center for Health Policy, and we’re eager to see it develop through this M.D./Ph.D. program. It’s an opportunity to combine influences from outside our respective spheres of scholarship into a powerful joined degree program.

Dr. Guy David: Unlike the MD/PhD program at Penn, which is a joint program (degree provided by a single institution), this one is a joined program, where student will earn their MD from Meharry and PhD from Wharton. Other than that, the structure of the program is very similar to Penn’s MD/PhD and this joined program will benefit from years of experience with our own MD/PhD program.

Dr. David Slusky: What are the ideal first job placements for the initial cohort of graduates from this program?

Dr. Guy David: The typical first job placement for graduates of the MD/PhD program is a faculty position at a top medical school, where clinical duties are balanced with protected research time. The goal is for the graduates to harness their clinical and policy knowledge to advance solutions for problems that lie in the intersection of medicine, economics, management, and policy.

Dr. Dexter Samuels: The career opportunities for these students will be immense. Students may practice medicine; become a researcher; work for the government; join a hospital health system; or seek employment in the non-profit space.

Dr. David Slusky: What would be ideal peak-of-career positions for the graduates of this program?

Dr. Dexter Samuels: I can see the graduates of this program moving into positions of influence and change that are national in scope and for decades to come—advisors to government at all levels, presidents of colleges and health sciences centers, business leaders in health care affecting national policy—all with a devotion to health equity and commitment to care for the most vulnerable.

Dr. Guy David: I believe that the sky is the limit. My hope is that this program will produce a strong cadre of academic leaders who will not shy away from influencing policy and inspiring younger generations to dream big and find their voice in our society.

A. Dexter Samuels is the Senior Vice President for Student Affairs & the Executive Director of the Center for Health Policy at Meharry Medical College.

 Guy David is the Gilbert and Shelley Harrison Professor of Health Care Management, Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy, and the Director of the Health Care Management Doctoral Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

 David Slusky is the De-Min and Chin-Sha Wu Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Kansas, and the Editor of the ASHEcon Newsletter.