UTRGV, UTHealth to offer dual medical degree programs

BY Jennifer L. Berghom

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley is offering two new dual degree programs for its medical students: a Doctor of Medicine/Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics (MD/MSBMI) and a Doctor of Medicine/Master of Public Health (MD/MPH).

The UTRGV School of Medicine is offering these degree programs in partnership with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health (SPH). The MPH and MSBMI programs will be offered primarily online.

Starting with the Class of 2022, medical students can apply to these programs through the SPH if they are in good academic standing at the School of Medicine. Certificate programs are being considered for both programs.


Students who enroll in the MD/MSBMI program will learn how to decipher large amounts of data related to patients to make the best clinical decisions regarding patient care, including patient safety, and to inform the development of public health and clinical research initiatives.

“Much of the decision-making in medicine, research and population health is based on data,” said Dr. Leonel Vela, MD, MPH, senior associate dean for Medical Education and Academic Affairs at the UTRGV School of Medicine.

A biomedical informatics degree is useful in clinical and research settings, he said, because it allows healthcare professionals and researchers to take large amount of data, information and knowledge to make inferences regarding medical treatment, drug development and clinical trials.

With biomedical informatics, healthcare providers can develop protocols to improve care – such as reducing medication errors or hospital readmissions – and improve patient safety. At the population health level, biomedical informatics can help spot trends and assess the burdens of disease, including financial and economic burdens, to make decisions about interventions.

“Twenty to 30 years ago, it was difficult to get data,” said Dr. Andreas Holzenburg, FRMS, a professor at the UTRGV School of Medicine. “Now, we’re living in a society where the biggest challenge is how to filter and extract data from huge databases.”


The MD/MPH dual degree program is similar to the programs the SPH has with other medical schools throughout the state. According to the SPH, the MPH allows students to learn and develop skills in the “core public health disciplines of biostatistics, environmental and occupational health, epidemiology and disease control; health promotion and behavioral sciences; and management, policy and community health.”

UTRGV School of Medicine students will be able to complete the MD and MPH programs in four years because of shared credits between the two institutions.

Classes begin in Spring 2019.