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Epi vs. global epi?

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cerealrhapsody

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I'm applying to MPH epi programs this fall and I was hoping someone could help me out. I'm undecided about what specialty within Epi I'm interested in, but I'm very passionate about social justice and health disparities and issues on a global scale, so global epi programs such as emory's seemed perfect for me.

But now I'm starting to have some reservations and wondering if i should just apply for "plain vanilla" epi programs.

First of all, global programs are more competitive. I know UWash suggests at least 2 years of full-time work experience in a developing country to be competitive for their global epi concentration. I have studied abroad and traveled a lot during college, but I have very little public health related experience. Would I even be able to gain an acceptance to say, Emory's global epi program?

Second, what kind of jobs are available to people specializing in global epi? Are they the same sorts of jobs for epidemiology in general (government, CDC, WHO, NGOs, etc.) or more skewed toward NGOs and international settings? I'm an avid traveler, but I'm not sure I could handle living and working in a developing country long-term. Traveling and especially working overseas is exhausting, and I have some chronic illnesses that would make me wary to commit to this sort of career. Do you have to leave the US (especially indefinitely or long-term) to work in this field?

Health and illness aside, what about starting a family? Not that I'm thinking of that any time soon, but I'm sure eventually I will want to settle down when I'm in my 30s or 40s. How do people do that if they're living overseas or constantly moving?

I want to follow my passion and what I'm genuinely the most interested in, but at the same time I want to be realistic. It's a really tough balance to find.

EDIT: I should also add that I don't speak any other languages besides English, and I feel that is yet another barrier to doing international work.
 
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JMM051

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I'll let the epi people answer most of this question but I wanted to throw it out there that I have 2 friends at Emory in gh ep (glepi as its called) and both went straight from undergrad to Emory so they didnt have extensive work/overseas experience.
 

socialepi

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Hey cerealrhapsody
I struggled with many of the same questions when I was applying. I can't speak to life post-graduate school, but here are some of the reasons why I went with the epi route (with a global health focus) rather than a global health degree.
1. Global health degrees tend to be harder to get into. For example, because I didn't have a solid 2 years of international experience, I couldn't get into UW's global health program (which is dominated by peace corp volunteers and international students)
2. To a certain degree, global health is something that you can learn on the job, while epi is something that is much more difficult to self teach or learn on the fly
3. Many people advised me to treat graduate school as an apprenticeship through which I would learn a specific skill set, as oposed to an opportunity to gain expertise in a specific area (you have the rest of your career to do this)
4. Epi is more marketable and more versatile than global health - with an epi degree you can always work globally, with a global health degree, it may be more difficult to work in specific positions

If you're set on both, have you considered epi focused global health programs? In particular, I'm thinking of Emory's combined GLEPI degree, Columbia's school-wide global health degree, or Hopkins International Health degree in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control.
 

MPHestudiante

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Hey, I know I'm a little late replying to this, but I just wanted to put in my 2 cents. I am getting my mph at Emory in global epidemiology and think it is a great program and definitely worth applying to if you are interested in both. As a global epi student, you're part of both the global health dept in addition to the epi dept so you get some benefits when it comes to applying for global field experience during the summer (global students get priority funding).

IF you want to choose one, I 100% agree with socialepi & say to definitely go for epi over global health. You can get global experience as an epi student, but it is harder to get epi experience without the epi degree.

& as for admissions, I had ZERO int'l public health experience when I applied & still got in (though I have lived & done zoological research abroad so I don't know if that went into the decision).

Finally, to address your point about traveling, you really don't have to live abroad to do global work. There are int'l divisions in about every branch of the CDC that are made up of people who never travel as well as people who are constantly or sporadically traveling. The same applies to academia & I'm sure countless other organizations. & though a handful of foreign languages may help you, if you work abroad you will be with an english speaking team most of the time anyway so only speaking english shouldn't be a barrier.

Good luck!
 
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