The Genesis of NextGenU.org and The Ulrich and Ruth Frank Foundation for International Health

The inspiration for NextGenU.org — the world’s first free learning portal co-offering free certificates with distinguished university and governmental partners — came from a Newsweek article in 2001. It focused on the potential for online education, and founder, Dr. Erica Frank, had a vision for democratizing education and began implementing that vision, seven years before Massive Open Online Courses were even whispered about. Many people, particularly in Low- and Middle-Income Countries, do not have access to health education or opportunities for professional development. As the first online platform to offer free, accredited higher education to anyone, anywhere in the world, NextGenU.org is removing barriers and making health education globally accessible.

Our growing independent learning community includes students registered from every country in the world, who benefit from our expertly-created, competency-based courses, free certification, and open-access learning resources. By offering professional enhancement courses for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers, we are improving the capacity of the global health workforce in addressing needs in clinical practice, public health, and community health. NextGenU.org facilitates public health education for learners from a variety of settings worldwide by offering the first-ever, free curriculum for a Master’s Degree in Public Health that is adopted and then contextualized as a curriculum base for new Masters in Public Health Programs at multiple university sites. NextGenU.org also offers its own volunteer-facilitated public health program at Public Health U where students can study public health topics and receive a Master’s in Public Health through partners at EUCLID University.

As a key partner and sponsor, The Annenberg Physician Training Program: Abstinence-Based Recovery from Addictive Disease (APTP), contributes to the creation of courses, curricula, and training programs for physicians and their teams to prevent and treat substance use disorders. With more than 10 courses directly addressing substance use and mental health, and with substance use information threaded through all courses, the APTP program has been shown to increase knowledge and decrease stigma around substance use issues so that physicians and their teams across specialties can competently prevent and treat substance use disorders. Public health curricula are also a requirement for specializing in preventive medicine which has a sub-specialty in addiction treatment. The graduate-level public health training, therefore, is a stepping stone to residency programs in prevention while the substance use and mental health-specific course materials can support psychiatric residency programs whose trainees can also sub-specialize in the treatment of substance use disorders and addiction medicine, and primary care providers.

The World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), North Atlantic Treaty Organization Science for Peace and Security Programme (NATO), Harvard, and Stanford have all collaborated with and provided financial support for this free model of healthcare education (CDC and WHO alone sponsoring 14 courses ongoing).

The NextGenU.org learning platform has been successfully tested in North America, Kenya, and India, in the medical field, with community health workers and primary care physicians. Our students have shown identical knowledge and competency gains and greater student satisfaction when compared with conventional learning models.

The courses offered by NextGenU.org range from undergraduate and community health worker training through graduate medical and public health education, and include a local or global peer community, along with skills-oriented mentorships. Interested learners, teachers, volunteers, universities, and organizations can contact us here and visit our website to browse our available courses.

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