MPH Applied Learning Experience

The Applied Learning Experience (ALE) is a practice experience, undertaken in the final two semesters of the program which offers students an opportunity to integrate and apply public health knowledge and skills gained in the classroom to a real-world public health problem. This experience gives students a body of work that can be used in seeking employment upon graduation and serves as a way for faculty to evaluate students’ readiness for public health practice. Finally, it is an opportunity for students to provide service to the community.

What are the criteria for an ALE project?

The best ALEs involve a well-defined project that is needed by the host agency and can realistically be completed within one semester. Students spend a minimum of 160 hours over the course of a semester performing their work on behalf of their field agency. ALE projects must be:

  • Population based
  • Related to the student's public health concentration (epidemiology and biostatistics, health services management and policy, nutrition, health communication, or global health)
  • Conceptualized such that the student can demonstrate knowledge and skills in public health practice
  • Blend theory and practice
  • Organized into “phases” so that the student can identify and move through the project with concrete accomplishments
  • Of significance to the agency or organization in which it is based

What are the steps in putting together an ALE project?

Students identify their ALE field sites in the second-to-last semester of study and use most of that semester to develop work plans to guide implementation of their projects; they spend their final – semester implementing their projects. At the end of the planning course, the student must submit a Draft Work Plan outlining what she or he intends to do in the field during the ALE implementation phase. ALE Course Directors, concentration leaders and Career Services staff all assist in helping the student identify a topic, find a site, identify and propose a project to a preceptor, and get all approvals necessary for implementation.

Students are encouraged to develop a project that reflects their career interests. The definition of what constitutes a public health agency is kept broad so long as the project is a public health project as defined above, and so long as the preceptor is considered to be a public health practitioner.

Can a student complete a global health ALE?

Yes, students in any MPH concentration can complete their ALE working on a global health project. To do so students must take at least one approved global health course and attend two global health focus workshops. Students may complete a global health ALE located at a Tufts affiliated site or at an independent site that meets ALE requirements.

What are the criteria for placement?

To qualify as an ALE placement site, an agency or organization must be willing to designate a preceptor who will provide guidance to the student, be available to meet with the student on a regular basis, hopefully weekly, and provide feedback on student performance to the ALE course director.

What are some examples of ALE projects?


  • A Comparison of Time to Diagnosis Between Neuroendocrine, Pancreatic, Colorectal, and Esophageal Cancers: Are these cancers being missed?
  • Geographic analysis of work-related injuries using emergency department data
  • The Impact of Bariatric Surgeries on the Prevalence of Diabetes in a Medicaid Population

Population Health Promotion

  • Developing Community-Driven Solutions to Address Stress in Jamaica Plain's Youth with Nuestro Futuro Saludable
  • Improving Teen Access to Nutritious Meals During the Summer: An Assessment of the Summer Food Service Program in Massachusetts
  • Information to inform the Development of Communication Strategies to Recruit New Southeast Asian Patients for the Metta Health Center

Health Management, Services and Policy

  • Creating an Evaluation Toolkit for Title IX Girls Running Club
  • Reducing Hospital Readmission through Urgent Outpatient follow-up: A Retrospective Cohort Study of Congestive Heart Failure Patients
  • The Top Five List: A Prescription for Emergency Department Cost-Control in Maine


  • An Identification of Factors Associated with an Overweight or Obese Pre-Pregnancy Body Mass Index in Massachusetts Mothers
  • Developing Best Practices of Sugar Sweetened Beverage Reduction Initiatives
  • Nutrition on a Dime: Strategies for Eating a Whole-Food/"Real" Food Diet on a Budget

What about the MD or DVM Applied Learning Experience?

For students in the MD/MPH and DVM/MPH programs the field (practice) and culminating experience are separated, due to the inflexible nature of the clinical curriculum.

The ALE gives students an opportunity to integrate and apply public health knowledge and skills gained in the classroom to a real-world public health problem. The ALE has a planning and implementation component and requires the same culminating competencies as required by the MPH ALE. Students draw on all the knowledge and skills they have acquired in the core curriculum and in their required courses area, and apply them to a public health project that they must do independently but with supervision, taking the project from conceptualization through planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation, and presentation. The only difference from the MPH ALE is that students do not necessarily have a practice component with a field preceptor, although they are encouraged to do so. Students must still identify a preceptor and project, but that preceptor may be in academia and the project may be a research project that has no practice agency or community dimension to it. It must, however, have public health importance and use a public health perspective and methods.

Field Placement

The public health field placement is an opportunity for students between their first and second year of medical or veterinary school to work on a real public health problem, in a real public health setting. The field placement is a required one credit course in the DVM/MPH and the MD/MPH curriculum. The most important expectation of the placement is that students have an opportunity to observe and participate in meaningful work designed to improve health status through a population approach. Ideally, students should have an opportunity to work on a defined project, needed by the organization, which has a beginning, middle, and end. Students should also be exposed to preceptors who can serve as role models for including opportunities for using a population health approach in one’s career.

Sample field placement projects DVM

“Herring Gulls, Lavus argentatus as vectors of patrogenic ecoli I coastal environments”
Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (N. Grafton, MA)

“The use of Directed Education to Improve the Rate of Hand Washing in a Veterinary Hospital”
Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (N. Grafton, MA)

“Identification of Potential Health Hazards and Zoonoses Associated with the Butchering Process in Chitwan, Nepal”
Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine (Grafton, MA)

“The Serological Surveillance of Rhinolophus Megaphyllus for Australian Bat Lyssavirus
Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries (Queensland, Australia)

Sample field placement projects MD

“SDSU Research Foundation MOVE/Me Muevo”
San Diego State University — SDSU MOVE/ Me Muevo (San Diego, CA)

“Local Improved Wells: A Cheap, Clean Water Source for Rural Areas”
Ruvuma Mission to the Poor and Disabled (PADI) (Dar Es Salaam, South Africa)

“An Assessment of Nutritional Deficiencies in the HIV/AIDS Refugee Population of Kampala”
Makerere University (Kampala, Uganda)

“Social Marketing in Public Health”
Population Services International (Yangon Field Office, Myanmar)

“WHO’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network”
Taiwan University College of Public Health (Taipei, Taiwan)