Hadassah offers International Masters Degree in Public Health
A general practitioner in Honduras, Dr. Jose Pietro Aparicio always had an interest in public health. He was working for SOS Children’s Villages, tending to the needs of orphans in his homeland, when he met an oncologist who told him about the Israeli government’s Foreign Ministry program to sponsor the education of physicians from developing countries at the Hadassah Medical Organization’s Braun School of Public Health. He went to the Israeli embassy, received the necessary information about the program, applied, and was accepted.Dr. Aparicio greatly valued the broad nature of the educational curriculum. As he says: “It was an eye-opening experience. I realized that public health is a much bigger field than I expected.” Thanks to his Hadassah education, he came to understand that public health medicine is not just providing basic health services, like immunizations, at a health center. “It’s about improving quality of life in a community,” he says. It involves examining the infrastructure, the water system, and the quality of the roads, which may prove an obstacle to health care. He learned, too, that the public health care team needs to include not only physicians and nurses, but engineers, businessmen, and politicians as well. You have to understand “who is defining health policy and who is making the decisions,” he adds.“A wonderful thing about the HMO program,” notes Dr. Aparicio, was its international flavor. As he explains, his roommate was from Colombia, next door were two doctors from Nigeria, and others on his floor were from China and Kenya. This international exposure, he says, helped lead him to the positions he’s held since graduating from the program, as well as his long-range career goal of working for an international development agency.Immediately after graduation, Dr. Aparicio returned to Honduras to work for SOS Children’s Villages once again and started preventive health education programs.
About five years ago, he came to the United States and began working on a volunteer basis for “Aid for AIDS,” where he served the Latin community in New York. As he relates, there were many HIV-positive illegal immigrants who were not receiving treatment and his role was to establish a structure to reach out to this patient population. The organization “had a good heart,” he says, but did not know how to organize their outreach. Dr. Aparicio also served as a mediator between HIV specialists in the United States and doctors in Latin America to help the latter evaluate and improve their treatment regimens.

Later working with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, Dr. Aparicio consulted with attorneys and helped to write affidavits for Latin American residents undergoing HIV treatment, who were being threatened with deportation. “We were able to get asylum for many of them,” he says, “because if they were sent back, they would be persecuted and stigmatized and not be able to continue their treatment.”

At present, Dr. Aparicio works for the Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. His role has been to develop a program to dispense antibiotics with more of a public health interest in mind. A major problem facing the hospital, he explains, is the over- prescription of antibiotics, which not only is expensive, but creates a resistance to the drugs, making them ineffective when truly needed.

In addition, he is teaching Community Oriented Primary Care (COPC) to medical residents at Lutheran Medical, which he learned while in the MPH program at HMO.
The COPC program, which tailors health care to the particular needs of the specific community, was created at HMO, first used in South Africa, and later exported to the United States, where Dr. Aparicio says, “it became a big hit.” Dr. Aparicio keeps in touch with the HMO professors who were in charge of the COPC program for international students.

Today, Dr. Aparicio’s main goal remains international in scope: to help the developing world. Hadassah International takes pride in knowing that Hadassah gave him the foundation and intellectual tools for his medical journey in the field of public health.