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International Public Health Careers

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fivebass

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I am very interested in a career in international public health. I would ultimately like to end up working for the CDC and possibly the WHO. Up to this point in time, I have been under the impression that an MD or MD/MPH would be the most versatile and offer the widest range of possibilities. It seems that most of the professionals working in this field are MDs.

My question is how valuable is an MPH in international health on it own? And what kind of opportunities are out there for an international MPH?

Thanks!
 

huruta

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fivebass said:
I am very interested in a career in international public health. I would ultimately like to end up working for the CDC and possibly the WHO. Up to this point in time, I have been under the impression that an MD or MD/MPH would be the most versatile and offer the widest range of possibilities. It seems that most of the professionals working in this field are MDs.

My question is how valuable is an MPH in international health on it own? And what kind of opportunities are out there for an international MPH?

Thanks!

It really depends on what type of work you want to do with your MPH, where you want to work and your breadth of international experience. You'll have a lot better luck working internationally if you have lived overseas, particularly in a developing country for an extended period of time, i.e. Peace Corps or some other long term volunteer/work.

These days there are a fair number of residents in many developing countries that have MPHs, often from good American universities and so you are typically at a disadvantage (you'd be more expensive and don't know the culture/area as well). CDC does have a MD bent, and I think it's pretty hard for anyone but especially MPHs to get permanent positions there without an advanced degree and a wealth of experience.

Personally, I think if your not going to do an MD a PhD in public health is a better option. Fewer internationals have PhDs in public health and you'd really have a skill set to offer. My admission is that is what I'm doing. I'm a returned peace corps volunteer working on my PhD in Epidemiology right now, so I may not be the most objective in my advice!

The best of luck!
 

fivebass

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huruta -
Thanks a lot for the good info. As a matter of fact, I am currently in the process of applying to the Peace Corps. I am still waiting for my medical clearance and hope to be going to Africa sometime around May. I can't wait!!!!

By the way, where are you doing your PhD? From what I have researched on MPH programs, George Washington and Emory seem to be pretty good for international public health. Thanks again for your post.
 

secretwave101

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A recent graduate of our medical school program who works in a refugee camp in Africa returned to our school and gave a lecture about preparation for this kind of work. He said (as an MD/MPH, and the MPH was from the best...Hopkins) that the whole "MPH emphasis" thing was stupid because in practicality it wasn't useful at all in the camps. He said the whole degree would have been a waste (of money, especially, considering that he is trying to help people who are totally destitute) except for the epi and biostats portion of the degree. He said the heavier the emphasis on epi/biostats, the better the program from the perspective of international health.

He then gave some expamples of why he made those assertions, and it was pretty convincing.

So, depending on your area of research, a PhD could probably be extremely useful. However, the MD is a biggie. If you can get one, I'd do it. Maybe do the PhD on top of it, if you can handle all that schooling.
 

tara14

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An MD would probably give you the biggest edge, but I don't think it's impossible to work in international health at the CDC or WHO with only a MPH. But you would need a lot of experience and doing the peace corps route would give you a lot of experience vs. someone who has a MPH with little/no experience. If you are deadset on just getting a MPH, I would say the key would be to do some sort of internship during the school year or summer at the CDC or WHO to get some experience at those organizations as well as to get yourself known and make some connections. I worked at the CDC while I was gettng my MPH (but I was in epi so my experience is a little different), but I can tell you a lot of the MPH students in my class got jobs at the CDC, and a lot of it had to because they had one foot in the door there already from doing student internships. The power of networking and connections can really pay off, especially if they know your abilities already. But this is a tough one and you would really need to take in all your options especially since a MPH degree is pretty expensive with little/no scholarships available to fund the degree. You may be better off getting in a PhD program because most PhD programs you won't have to pay for and will get a stipend on top of it.
 

huruta

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fivebass said:
huruta -
Thanks a lot for the good info. As a matter of fact, I am currently in the process of applying to the Peace Corps. I am still waiting for my medical clearance and hope to be going to Africa sometime around May. I can't wait!!!!

By the way, where are you doing your PhD? From what I have researched on MPH programs, George Washington and Emory seem to be pretty good for international public health. Thanks again for your post.

Fivebass,

I'm at the Univ. of WA right now and love it. My dissertation is not in international health and that's a downside, but as another poster said the more valuable skills abroad are epidemiology/biostat skills and the UW is one of the best schools (not that I'm biased!) in the country for epi and biostat (UNC and Harvard also have fantastitic epi programs; Hopkins, I've heard, is particularly strong at the MPH level in all areas and is well known internationally; Emory also has a good school and has the advantage of being right next to the CDC).

My husband is a 4th year med student (we met in the peace corps). Our education has been tremendously different as one would expect -- he has had A LOT of memorization and clincial exposure whereas my focus is writing grants, publications, tutoring/teach epi and tons of data analysis. It's definitely worth thinking about what is a better fit for your personality and preferences. I'd have been miserable in med school and he'd have been miserable in grad school so I'd really try and sort out where you feel you fit best and head in that direction.

Good luck and best of luck in the Peace Corps. It's well worth the time and will influence you for the rest of your life.

huruta
 

OntheRoof55

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on this same note, I'm currently a first year med student interested in international health. are there any good summer program out there? I was considering doing md/mph after my 3rd yr of med school.
 
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