Mason’s Community Health Program Gives Competitive Edge for Future Physicians


Bachelor of Community Health Clinical Science concentration student Safa Yosufzai chose the program as preparation for medical school.  

Image of Safa Yosufzai

Safa Yosufzai has wanted to become a physician since she was a child living in Afghanistan. She noticed her community members were traveling to different cities and countries to receive specialty care, and she wanted to do something about this health care access disadvantage. Her dream of becoming a doctor led her to Mason’s Community Health program’s clinical science concentration, where she learns skills to impact communities around the world by promoting health, preventing diseases, and increasing awareness while building a competitive application for medical school. 

For Yosufzai, the clinical science concentration provided the best of both worlds; she is building a strong foundation in public health education while meeting the prerequisites for medical school. The concentration is an increasingly popular choice for pre-med students due to the program’s flexibility in tailoring the public health curriculum to meet the requirements for various clinical health graduate programs, such as dentistry, pharmacology, physical therapy, and medicine. 

“The [clinical science] concentration is useful because I can get most of my pre-med prerequisite courses done, and I don’t have to worry about taking extra classes, which allows me to be involved in other activities,” Yosufzai said. “Plus, this concentration requires students to take higher-level sciences, so this [concentration] will help ease that transition to med school in the future.”  

A Strong Public Health Foundation 

Students in the clinical science program become knowledgeable public health scholars by studying the social determinants of health along with other public health components, such as biostatistics, epidemiology, health care policy, and ethics. Their public health education incorporates opportunities to pursue cutting-edge research alongside Mason’s faculty, work directly in their local communities through public health outreach, and gain hands-on experience in the field. 

Yosufzai, who wants to specialize in dermatology with an accelerated Doctor of Medicine-Master of Public Health (MD-MPH) degree, knows obtaining a public health undergraduate degree will help her become a well-rounded physician. “A doctor will learn about patient care in detail, but it’s unlikely that future physicians will have the opportunity to understand health policy, epidemiology, and health management,” said Yosufzai. “I thought to myself, ‘if I am going to work in this field, I better have this holistic understanding.’ A degree in public health will allow me to build the foundation early and have the opportunity to explore health care leadership in the future.”  

Yosufzai encourages other students to consider the clinical science concentration for the added value it gives students interested in advanced clinical careers. 

“I am learning a lot every time I take a new course,” Yosufzai said. “Hearing from the professors about their own involvement with public health, their past jobs, and their research experience has been amazing. So, I would definitely recommend [the clinical science] concentration and the [Community Health] major.” 

Making an Impact Now Through Research 

Yosufzai is not waiting until she becomes a doctor to make an impact in her community. By working at a free clinic and participating in faculty research, she is further building her public health background to demonstrate how public health principles are crucial to health care.  

This summer, Yosufzai is working with Michelle Williams, assistant professor in Global and Community Health, on a research study that examines the effects of COVID-19 disparities among pregnant Hispanic women. Previously, Yosufzai worked with Nancy Holincheck, assistant professor in the College of Education and Human Development, on several research projects, including one that examined the experiences of women in STEM majors and careers to analyze the internal and external factors that support their continuation and development in STEM.

In anticipation of her May 2023 graduation, Yosufzai plans to take a gap year before medical school to pursue a National Institutes of Health research opportunity, which she thinks will further build on the foundation she created at Mason. From there, she will continue her goal of becoming a medical doctor to help low-income patients access quality health care.