PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Science Program Overview
Guest: Dr. Bonne Martin-Harris – Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery
Host: Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatry, MUSC
Dr. Linda Austin: Dr. Bonnie Martin-Harris is Professor in the College of the Health Professions, as well as the College of Medicine. And, Dr. Martin-Harris, I know you have some very exciting news, so I’ll let you announce it.
Dr. Bonnie Martin-Harris: Well, we’re very excited to have the first PhD degree in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences in the College of Health Professions at MUSC. We’re one of only 12 in the entire country of like programs. This degree will train scientists to be team scientists and approach disorders that cause functional limitations from a very broad-based interdisciplinary perspective across systems.
Dr. Linda Austin: What is it about this PhD program that will be unique?
Dr. Bonne Martin-Harris: This program is unique in that it’s an interdisciplinary degree. These are individuals that we will train to be, eventually, independent investigators who will go beyond a specific focus of science and apply that expertise to cross-system functions. For example, you may come into this program with a Bachelor’s degree in bioengineering. Your ultimate goal is that you wish to study tissue properties of the vocal folds because you’re hoping to develop a tissue re-engineering strategy to ameliorate scar formation, which is debilitating in terms of voice; especially someone like you, who uses their voice all the time.
In order to do that, as an engineer, you have to learn about the vocal system. You have to learn about laryngeal function and laryngeal tissues. So, you would take your concentration courses in those areas. And, we would pair you with a mentor with expertise in those other areas. So, it’s not that we’re training one person to do all things, but we are training individuals to be able to build collaborative teams that will effect solutions to complex disorders that impair people’s function.
Dr. Linda Austin: So, would a graduate student, then, in this new program have the option of taking courses in all the different colleges of MUSC?
Dr. Bonne Martin-Harris: That’s what’s so unique about MUSC; our affiliation with a medical university. We are medicine. And this is truly bridging Rehabilitation with Medicine, with Basic Science, Clinical Science. So, yes. In fact, our advisory committee for the PhD program consists of seasoned investigators from across campus, and across departments. As a PhD student, it’s very exciting to have access to that type of mentorship.
Dr. Linda Austin: So, a student, then, could really get a clinical perspective and basic science perspective in their coursework. Could they, then, choose, as their primary advisor, their PhD research mentor? Would that person need to be in the College of Health Professions?
Dr. Bonnie Martin-Harris: No, they could be from any college. In fact, we would encourage that. And it may even be that a member of their dissertation committee would be from Clemson or the University of South Carolina. Dr. Sothmann, the dean of the college, has acquired buy-in and strong support from both our sister universities to work with us on this program. There are no programs like this at Clemson or the University of South Carolina.
When a student comes into this program, we pair them, very early, with a mentor. In fact, most of the time, students come here because there’s an individual on this campus they’d like to study with. They will take a core concentration of courses. That would include all of your Biostatistics courses; your Epi courses. And those will be conducted with the College of Graduate Studies students. So, from the very beginning, we are integrating our students with bench science students so that they understand how to talk to one another, and truly be able to translate basic science into clinical practice.
Dr. Linda Austin: The career goals for somebody who might pursue this degree would be, what sorts of things?
Dr. Bonnie Martin-Harris: It’s really quite varied, and these graduates will be highly marketable. In fact, the statistics from the University of Pittsburgh, which has the longest standing like program, they cannot fill the positions that are available. There aren’t enough students. So, these students will most likely be independent investigators who will have academic positions at universities. Some will go into industry. Others may go into the private sector and do research in a private practice-type setting. But they will be across the board in terms of the type of colleges they would be in. They could be in the College of Medicine, like I am, and in the College of Health Professions, like I am. In fact, many of them would have dual appointments because of their dual skill.
Dr. Linda Austin: Will the all the areas of focus, though, be in some way clinically related, as opposed to, let’s say, policy related or administratively related; for example, the college has an MHA (Masters of Health Administration) program? Will they all have some sort of science or clinical focus?
Dr. Bonne Martin-Harris: Some science or clinical focus, however it may be health systems delivery and measuring the outcomes of health system delivery. So, there are three tracks that a student can specialize in. One would be Functional Limitations. Examples of that would be ambulation, speech production. Then, there’s Pathology Impairment, which would be more cellular level tissue property of muscle, for example. Then, there’s a third track, called Health Services, which would deal with the outcome of delivery services; for example, studying health economics outcome of delivering a certain new treatment to a patient population.
Dr. Linda Austin: Who is eligible to apply?
Dr. Bonne Martin-Harris: This is a post-baccalaureate degree. So, you can enter this program with a Bachelor of Science degree. It’s 90 credit hours. Of course, if you came with a Masters degree, many of those courses that you’ve already taken would be redundant in terms of your core, so you wouldn’t need to take 90 hours. But, essentially, it’s a Bachelor’s degree in some area of science or health services. So, it’s a very broad group of students who could actually meet candidacy for the program. And, of course, there are certain requirements in terms of your accumulative grade average, your GRE scores; which are required. Some of your prerequisites are also required before you enter the program.
Dr. Linda Austin: How many students do you anticipate starting in the fall?
Dr. Bonne Martin-Harris: Because we’re new, we want to really keep our first cohort small. So, we project our first year somewhere between three and six students. In about three years, we think that will be up to about 30 students.
Dr. Linda Austin: How can an interested person get more information about this?
Dr. Bonne Martin-Harris: Students can certainly contact me directly. By e-mail is best: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Office of Enrollment Services at MUSC is also very helpful and familiar with all the criteria.
Dr. Linda Austin: Well, best of luck in what sounds like a very exciting program. I couldn’t help but fantasize about what kind of degree I would like to get if I were at a time in my life when that was feasible. It sounds so fun, and really thrilling; and visionary.
Dr. Bonne Martin-Harris: Thank you. I’m very excited.
Dr. Linda Austin: Congratulations.
Dr. Bonne Martin-Harris: Thank you.