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Why M.D/MPH instead of either MPH or MD alone?

Discussion in 'Public Health Degrees (Masters and Doctoral)' started by IllinoisStudent, Jul 11, 2004.

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  1. IllinoisStudent

    IllinoisStudent Senior Member

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    I have been doing some research on kind of jobs you can get with M.D/MPH. It seems that most of the MPH jobs don't require you to be a physician. And those that require you to be a physician don't utilize the physician part of your education to a significant extend. It seems like a waste to get medical education and then not being able to use it.

    So my question is why get both degrees when you are going to use only one of them? Just to satisfy ur ego?

    Or some of you guys plan to use your MPH degree for a side/part time job/volunteer work that involves community development? I had the impression that with MPH degree you can be a full time practitioner, and use your MPH degree to assist the hospitals in developing community development programs. Apparently, it doesn't seem like the case.
  2. Heal&Teach

    Heal&Teach cogito ergo sum

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    The Master of Public Health degree is a free-standing professional degree that allows its constituents to practice in a number of different arenas, including Health Policy & Management, Health Education/Behavior, Biostatistics, Environmental Health/Toxicology, Epidemiology, and so on and so forth. Public health careers within and between any of these disciplines varies widely, which makes public health difficult to define so generally outside of explaining its individual parts. The MPH is not terminal, but it can serve as a terminal degree for many (while some choose to continue on to obtain the PhD or DrPH).

    When a clinician chooses to pursue a public health degree, s/he typically does so with some goal in mind (e.g., community health programming, etc.). This means that there are some people that go to medical school with the specific goal of being researchers, whether clinical or bench. Some know that they will practice for a few years, but want to work moreso at the administrative level to improve the way that healthcare is delivered. Some just want to practice without incorporation of anything else. Either way, the public health degree is flexible, not finite. Public health is not just about having an additional degree to satisfy one's ego, it is essentially a way of understanding things.

    When you consider the traditional medical model, the practice of medicine is focused on the clinical aspects of science. It involves the treatment of each patient on an individual basis. When you consider things from the public health standpoint, you would expand the individual view to one that is population-based, and treatment would instead be a focus on preventing a person from having a disease in the first place (or at least teaching people how to manage their illness so that they prevent further deterioration due to a disease). Thus, having knowledge of public health expands the viewpoint of the clinician to consider things that s/he may not have considered without knowledge of these principles. Each concentration in public health allows for anyone that desires to make an impact on public health to do so in a way that is most productive for them and the most beneficial for the constituents that they serve.

    There are many clinicians that practice public health but do not have formal training in it. Public health and medicine were once "one", but made a split inthe earlier half of last century. Now, there is more of an emphasis on public health in medicine. Honestly, it is difficult to imagine medicine without the practice of public health and the understanding that with each patient, there is an opportunity to impact overall community health.

    So, to answer your question, the utility of the public health degree is not in actually having the additional letters behind your name, but moreso in the everyday incorporation of public health into your thought processes and practice. Public health is just an adjunct that may allow (not guarantee) you to be a better physician, but medicine is not a necessity as far as strengthening public health - which stands on its own to effect change.

    Hope this answers your question.
  3. apgmph

    apgmph Member

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    I don't think you fully understand what public health is actually about. Heal&Teach did a great job in explaining it. Public health takes looking at health issues on a population basis rather than the individual. It's about changing the health outcomes for the masses. It's for the betterment of the health status of the population, preventing and/or eliminating disease. I have a MPH, but not a MD. I am perfectly satisfied with a MPH. It's all dependent on what it is that you are interested in. A MD with a MPH does not necessarily mean you have to work in a public health setting...but overall, it can help you in your practice. It's not about satisfying an ego! It can be as simple as using it in your practice to educate your patients on prevention and risk reduction. From my experience working in public health, many doctors do not fully understand the work of public health and many are hesitant in working with us. (I'm not saying all doctors are this way, but I've experienced this attitude many times.) We should all be working together, so having some additional knowledge of another health field can only be a plus. My personal opinion is that if you are a MD, a public health degree or even some knowledge of the field can only benefit you in your career and the overall care you can offer your patient.
  4. Zweihander

    Zweihander Billygoat Gruff

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    My purpose in pursuing the dual degree is because I want to do work in systems planning in the future. The MPH gives you an understanding of healthcare systems and how they work and is concerned with populational medicine, whereas an MD focuses on how to treat individual patients. A medical education does not give you nearly the background that is required in healthcare or public health at large for you to just have an MD and grasp this field.

    The above posts are great explanations of the specific advantages that MPHs confer.
  5. IllinoisStudent

    IllinoisStudent Senior Member

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    Thank you all guys, esp H&T. i really appreciate it. I feel I have a better insight of what Public Health is about :)
  6. Nakhrewali

    Nakhrewali Go Bears!

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    That was a brilliant reply Heal & Tech! :clap:
  7. dmaes

    dmaes Junior Member

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    I have to second that! :thumbup:
  8. DrJosephKim

    DrJosephKim Advisor SDN Advisor

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    Need more convincing? Read this AMSA article:
    http://www.amsa.org/cph/mdmphguide.cfm

    Here are some excerpts:

    Why should you do an MPH…before medical school?
    • "I did my MPH between undergraduate school and medical school. I was really interested in international health and environmental health, and also health policy. I was interested in medical school but I felt that I needed to explore public health in a structured way first (as my interest in medicine was very much based in what I could do in public health in the future). I think I actually would have quit medical school with all its frustrations and myopic view of health if I didn't have the base of public health to go on."
    • "The full public health experience" - a full year (or two) devoted to public health, and an MPH's perspective while attending medical school
    • Don't have to juggle medical school and public health school classes
    • Many people who earn an MPH before medical school do so as deferment of entry (either for academic or personal reasons). Those who do it mindfully have a very broad perspective that usually is grounded in personal experience (peace corps, family history, etc.).
    • Great suggestion for pre-meds that didn't get into med school right away and are looking for experience, a degree, and an extra "umf" to their resume.
    Why should you do an MPH…ever?
    • To approach health as a population-based issue rather than an individual one
    • To contextualize health: social, economic, cultural, religious, etc.
    • To gain research skills (e.g. epidemiology and biostatistics) that build the foundation of public health
    • To develop and implement health programs in limited resource settings that are tailored to the specific needs of the community and in partnership with that community.
    • A broader range of career options
    • Increase networking potential - access to key people in the public health world in your community
    • Opportunity to travel or experience health from a different perspective
    • It gives you credibility in public health circles and trying to advocate for change in your community (or outside of it) on a policy level
    • Access to an institution with resources that can be used for the communities with which you work
    • "One of the best things about any MPH program is the group of people that you're surrounded by. Everyone has different goals, experiences, focuses, but we're still like-minded in many respects. Most of us want to make a change, or to become part of change that's already taking place. We push each other to think through conversations within and outside of class. We recommend books to one another, and we let each other know about lectures that are taking place nearby. We force each other to look at things differently. This environment - in addition to the classes, obviously - is extremely conducive to learning and thinking about public health issues, as well as for making friends and connections that will likely remain for years… The classes are extremely engaging and truly help me to see how medicine is practiced on many levels."
  9. sewcurious

    sewcurious I'm not obsessed...

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    BTW, I'm pretty sure that the current head of the CDC (or a recent one) was an MD/MPH
  10. bobdogsam43

    bobdogsam43 New Member

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    ......from Berkeley's School of Public Health.
  11. FUNinDC

    FUNinDC

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    Having gone through the MPH program confirms my passion for medicine (and honestly, I don't think I would have decided to pursue medical school if it wasn't for what I learned during the course of my MPH study). I have to agree with a few of the posts above that having an MPH can only help you as a physician. To all those who are debating on doing a dual degree (MD/MPH or DO/MPH), I strongly encourage it!
  12. Artemis D

    Artemis D

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    I was wondering what about a MPH encourages you to be a MD? A MPH helps you be a better doctor, does it work the other way around? does a MD help you better practice public health?

    I want to work in global health, and I'm trying to decide between a MD/MPH or just a MPH. I know doctors work in global health, but they often become no more than technicians, or as OP said, barely uses anything from the medical training. On the other hand, I've hear people say a MD helps your career advancement, though I'm now doubting whether the years of youth and intense debt are worth it. Any thoughts?
  13. DoorknobQuestn

    DoorknobQuestn

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    I am aware of a masters in Global Medicine. The only one that I know of (I am sure that there are more) is at USC. I think that this might fit you slightly snugger than an MPH.
  14. PublicHealthDoc

    PublicHealthDoc

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    Hi Artemis--

    I have an MD and an MPH and recently published a book on public health careers. In my experience, if you only want to do "MPH" things, like program development, evaluation, social marketing, epidemiology... You don't need the MD, and I think your concerns about the debt and giving up your 20s are spot on. (Honestly I think it would be great if all high-level public health folks had MD-type knowledge, but that's not the way of the world right now.)

    If you want to take care of patients as part of your work, or you want to take on a medical director role, you'll need the MD. Or, at least for the patient-care part, you could look into a nursing degree instead--less investment and there are some RNs doing really cool things. And yes, there are some "top jobs" that require an MD, but there are also many interesting opportunities that don't.

    Oh, and I agree with pretty much everything other folks have posted here about the MD/public health issue :)

    Good luck, and I hope you find the path that's right for you!

    --Beth
  15. trunxkam45

    trunxkam45

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    I'm in a similar jam. For the longest time I've been interested in vector borne diseases. Recently had a paper published on mosquito behavior based on my UG work at Rutgers. I'm currently enrolled in an MPH program and for the longest time I wanted to do both. But I'm not sure if I can handle medical school, especially after not getting in. Right now I'm going with the "Public Health experience first, explore careers, then determine what's right" but then comes time. If I am certain now shouldn't I enroll in a postbacc program or carib school and earn a second degree while in med school??

    My holy grail-- to be able to plan population based programs as well as treat patients is something that I feel will always be out of reach. Maybe I'll just be focused on getting a stable job as I move on in life and eventually have a wife and kids.

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