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Applied Practical Experiences for MPH Students

What are Applied Practical Experiences?

The Applied Practical Experience (APE) – also commonly called a practicum – is a community-based experience in the practice of public health.

All Master of Public Health (MPH) students at the Dornsife School of Public Health complete an APE as part of their degree requirements.

The APE is a supervised project or an internship learning alongside one of Dornsife's community partner organizations, generally over one term (quarter).

Applied Practical Experiences Provide Hands-On Opportunities

The APE is one way that Dornsife MPH students gain practical career experience in addressing critical public health challenges while earning their degree.

Students engage in real-world public health practice with external organizations and communities, expanding skills and networks outside the classroom.

In Dornsife’s MPH programs, students have multiple options for completing their practicum requirement, each providing a supported and enriching experience in the field of public health.

The public health practicum is a key part of the MPH program and ensures that students:

  • Gain new and enhance existing knowledge and skills
  • Widen the scope of professional activities, relationships, and networks
  • Integrate public health theory and research with practice
  • Apply public health concepts and methods to solve real world problems

The APE is "designed to create something tangible for the student that they’re going to have as a part of their portfolio” after graduation, explains Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH, Dornsife Associate Professor of Urban Health and Associate Dean for Education, in Fortune Education.

Applied Practical Experience Student Examples

A student’s practicum complements their coursework, combines academic and professional goals, and builds confidence in their abilities as a public health practitioner.

Below are just some of the rewarding APE experiences of Dornsife students, in their own words:

Kylie Brinson headshot

Student experiences

A Passion for Serving and Contributing to Impactful Change

Kylie Brinson, a Dornsife Fellow, completed her APE at Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual DisAbility Services (DBHIDS) over the summer.

Read Brinson's full story on the Dornsife SPH Life blog.


Tommy Ferrari headshot

Student experiences

Impacting Quality Improvement at Philly's Top-Ranked Children's Hospital

For his APE Tommy Ferrari pursued hands-on learning opportunities at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), which is located close to Drexel’s campus. He supported CHOP's Improvement Advisors with quality improvement and patient safety projects.

Read Ferrari's full story on the Dornsife SPH Life blog.


Sage Elise Krims headshot

Student experiences

Working Towards Health Equity for Underrepresented Populations

As part of Sage Elise Krims’ APE, they hope to highlight the needs and challenges of sexual assault survivors and identify potential obstacles and/or gaps in response to survivor services in Philadelphia.

Read Krims' full story on the Dornsife SPH Life blog.


Darlice Rocha

Student experiences

NYC-Based Alumnus Shares How Dornsife Prepared Her for Her Career

Darlice Rocha's healthcare career got a head start through her applied practical experience at Dornsife.

Now she works to increase access to essential healthcare in New York City.

Watch Darlice's video on the Dornsife SPH Life blog.


Other examples of Applied Practical Experiences are provided by the Dornsife Ambassadors, who are student representatives from our master's programs.

Finding an Applied Practical Experience Opportunity

Dornsifes' Symplicity database houses a variety of potential practicum experiences, including the Applied Practical Experience.

Students may also find these experiences by connecting with faculty members, alumni, professional or personal contacts, or other independent research on opportunities.

Read about Dornsife student practice experiences and learn more about the process of finding an APE placement.

Finding a Virtual MPH Applied Practical Experience Opportunity 

Some public health APEs shifted to a virtual format during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, the APE provided a valuable way to gain real-world experience in the field of public health.

Experiences of Dornsife MPH students who completed their APE remotely and successfully include:

Practicum Preceptors

All APEs are supervised by a site preceptor who has experience in public health. The preceptor serves as the practicum or internship supervisor.

Preceptors meet at least bi-weekly with students to provide guidance and oversight. They do not assign a grade, but they provide feedback to the student’s faculty advisor. The preceptor determines the project tasks, deliverables, and weekly schedule for the APE in collaboration with the student.

Read about Becoming a Preceptor for a Public Health Student.

Learn More About Drexel Dornsife's Applied Practical Experience Program

The Applied Practical Experience provides MPH students with real-world training that supplements their knowledge gained in the classroom.

Students gain resume-boosting practical experience by confronting critical public health challenges.

Drexel Dornsife’s Public Health programs can take you in many different directions. Request more information to speak with a member of our admissions team about programs and applied practical experiences.