Electives and Research

Health Care Policy Advocacy Elective

The Des Moines branch campus offers fourth-year medical students a Health Care Policy Advocacy elective from January to March. The elective is four weeks long.

Students will choose an area of interest in health policy advocacy and will work with senior legislators, policy advisors, state health department representatives, or advocates of various professional organizations who are involved in advocacy efforts for health policy. The mentor will guide and educate the student regarding advocacy efforts on the chosen project. Medical students must receive prior approval regarding which health policy issue they want to work on and which individual or professional organization they plan to work with during their on-site experience. 


  • It is anticipated that students involved in the advocacy elective rotation will be in Des Moines for a minimum of four weeks in order to fully realize the impact of health policy, advocacy, and best practices. Students may be asked to participate in meetings outside of the four-week, on-site experience.
  • Students will provide a brief paper and presentation in the spring about their advocacy experience to the distinction track leadership, advocacy elective rotation faculty, mentor, and colleagues.
  • Evaluations will also be distributed to the students about their experience and the individual/organization for whom they worked. 
  • Housing is provided to students for free while in Des Moines for this elective.


Students must be enrolled in the Healthcare Delivery Science, Management, & Policy distinction track to qualify for this elective.

Public Health Medicine Elective

The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) offers a four-week elective rotation for fourth-year medical students. This is an opportunity to learn the public health issues of acute disease while actively participating in ongoing projects. In addition, this rotation can provide insight into future training and/or career opportunities in public health practice.


  1. Learn the public health impact and response to communicable disease, poisonings, and other acute events.
  2. Participate in an outbreak investigation.
  3. Learn the organization and function of a state health department.
  4. Learn how public health policy is developed and implemented.
  5. Develop a written report for publication (if possible).
  6. Learn core functions and 10 essential services of public health.

The objectives will be accomplished by:

  • Participating in the investigation of an acute disease outbreak, should one occur during the rotation.
  • Participating in one of several ongoing projects, such as studying the impact of RAGBRAI on health behaviors.
  • Participating in public health grand rounds, a weekly discussion of current activities.


Students interested in this rotation should contact the state epidemiologist's office within IDPH before enrolling in this course to ensure a slot is available. Students must contact the state epidemiologist one month in advance of the start of the rotation to discuss specific interests and projects.

Research Opportunities

The Des Moines branch campus offers summer research opportunities for up to two medical students between their first and second years of medical school.

Students are provided a list of available research opportunities and are paired with a mentor from an organization advocating for the student’s topic of interest. 


  • The student will provide a brief paper and presentation in the fall about their research experience to the distinction track leadership, research elective rotation faculty, mentor, and colleagues.
  • Housing is provided to students for free during the summer term.
  • Stipends are available.