Two medical students listen to their professor.

Transforming health care by broadening the perspective of future physicians

August 6, 2015
Cecilia Benz, M.D., received her Doctor of Medicine degree, and also a graduate certificate in Advanced International Affairs from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

A new graduate certificate in Advanced International Affairs from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University provides an enhanced educational experience for future Aggie physicians.

Cecilia Benz, M.D., just graduated from the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and is packing up to begin her general surgery residency training at the University of North Dakota. She says she’s not just leaving A&M with a degree, but with a new perspective.

This May, Benz received her Doctor of Medicine degree, and also a graduate certificate in Advanced International Affairs from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

Benz is the first student to complete the graduate certificate program at the College of Medicine, but certainly won’t be the last. The partnership with the Bush School is one of many the College of Medicine is cultivating across The Texas A&M University System to provide the best and most well-rounded educational experience possible for its graduating physicians.

The college has been working to provide customizable education for its students, which places their medical education in a larger content – which in turn, makes the best doctors for patients and creates physician activists within the health care system.

Benz explained that she “absolutely recommends” the program to other students. And while she may not be able to apply her knowledge of international affairs until after residency, she plans to stay involved with the politics of medicine and hopes to continue to work toward “sustaining health care founded on a good education to broaden the perspectives of other physicians, here and outside of the US.”

“This experience enhanced my medical education and gave me a new perspective,” Benz said. “I know these additional courses have made me a better-informed health care provider by allowing me to delve into understanding the larger global structure of medicine. I’ll also be able to better relate to my patients, particularly those from an immigrant background.”

Ruth Bush, M.D., J.D, M.P.H., vice dean for academic affairs and vice dean for the Texas A&M College of Medicine Bryan campus, explained that the courses fit well with the new curriculum being introduced with the incoming Class of 2019, which allows for Areas of Concentration (or AOC’s) during the fourth year. She adds that the new curriculum and the certificate program help to “round out” the educational experience at the College of Medicine.

“This is such an added value for our students and we hope to see many more explore this option,” Bush said. “Not only does it place medicine in another context and expose them to thoughts and information they may have never seen before, but it has a direct added value as our students compete for residency matches during their fourth year. This is another step toward making students as competitive as possible.”

The graduate certificate courses are online and led by faculty who are actively engaged in research and located across the United States to give a multi-faceted experience.

Benz completed the certificate courses during her final semester of medical school. While Benz chose the Advanced International Affairs concentration, the Bush School also offers certificates in Nonprofit Management and Homeland Security.

Lisa Brown, director of Extended Education at the Bush School, explained that 80 percent of the students who take the graduate certificate course credits are full-time professionals and about 20 percent are active or former military.

“Many of these students are already engaged in public service, which brings a wealth of experience to share among themselves, enriching the course conversations and allowing students to be exposed to and absorb a wealth of knowledge,” Brown said. “Such an interprofessional group of students really enhances the discussion-based portions. They’re learning to be critical consumers of information and interpretations.”

When asked about how her education through the program will influence her as a doctor, Benz said, “The College of Medicine and the Bush School showed me the importance of my role in providing care, but also in catalyzing change by educating my peers and patients. It also reinforced the importance of taking the initiative to make changes in health care that will directly impact my practice – as well as the lives of those that I may never treat first-hand.” 

Learn more about the online graduate certificate programs at certificate students may contact the Bush School Advising Center at 1-866-988-2874 or by email at for more information.

— Katherine Hancock

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