By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun   September 25, 2012
Maryland’s two largest public research universities launched a joint public health program Tuesday, the first of a series of planned collaborations designed to break down barriers between the two campuses.

Officials say the joint program will enable students to draw upon the University of Maryland, College Park’s expertise in subjects such as biostatistics and the social sciences while benefiting from opportunities for clinical research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“This is the first of a series of announcements on these new programs being created between the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Maryland, Baltimore,” said state university system Chancellor William E. Kirwan.

The joint public health initiative is one of several collaborative programs announced earlier this year under an effort called MPower Maryland. University officials hope the collaboration will create more opportunities for students to study, research and work in public health.

The program will “train a public health workforce we need so badly in this state,” said Jane Clark, dean of the University of Maryland School of Public Health in College Park.

The first students are expected to receive master’s degrees from the joint program in 2014. The public health schools at both campuses will remain accredited. Students will be able to enroll in classes in both College Park and Baltimore and have the option of taking more online classes, officials said.

Students will have “wider access to opportunities than they might have had if they stayed on their own campuses,” said Jay Magaziner, chair of the medical school’s department of epidemiology and public health.

Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller, who had called last year for a merger of the two campuses, said the joint public health program represents “incremental progress.” He said he is eager to see similar cross-campus collaborations in engineering and medicine.

“Leaders in both areas need to see the key words are ‘collaboration’ and a ‘joint vision,'” Miller said. “Currently, they’re siloed off from one another unlike any other state institution.”

A task force convened last year stopped short of recommending a merger between the two campuses, but did recommend more collaboration. The MPower initiative grew out of those recommendations.

Officials unveiled plans this year to connect the campuses, including teaming up on new projects in Shady Grove in Montgomery County and creating a program to turn technological advances into new businesses. The project was estimated to cost $44 million.