Is a Micro-level Perspective Needed for PH?

Discussion in 'Public Health Degrees (Masters and Doctoral)' started by pantouka, May 3, 2012.

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  1. pantouka

    pantouka 5+ Year Member

    Jul 10, 2011

    I'm an undergraduate student still looking for the right medicine/public health/biology career or program "fit." Right now, I'm leaning toward work in public health, specifically biostatistics or a quantitative subfield of epidemiology. My question is generally relevant to all public health practitioners, though. I realize that a general, broad knowledge of biology is helpful for any work in public health, but I was wondering--have there ever been times, in your practice/research, that your ignorance of the microbiological/biochemical details of a disease, drug, etc., seriously impaired your research goals? Or usually could you learn, or solicit from other experts, any relevant information on a need-to-know basis? Have you ever wished that you had gotten a research degree (MS/PhD) or professional degree (MD/PharmD) to acquaint you with the basic-science details of your research topic before you began analyzing the problem from the macroscopic lens of public health?
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  3. Stories

    Stories Life Afficianado Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Mar 13, 2009
    Los Angeles, CA
    If you do molecular epidemiology research, you need very good knowledge of your specific field of biology. You can always learn it, but you do need to investigate deeply and understand the biology of what's going on. Then again, you generally don't work in an area you wouldn't be comfortable in.

    I was a biology major in undergrad, and the knowledge I learned from there, in particular, molecular biology and genetics, have been critical to my work as a researcher now. There are times when I wish I had taken medical school classes in pathology and oncology, as well. Although since I've read so much in oncology and work in cancer epidemiology, I get a lot of it now.
  4. EBT12

    EBT12 2+ Year Member

    Jun 20, 2011
    I started out in pharmacy school and decided I was really interested in population health. I am finishing up my PharmD degree (graduating in a few weeks!) and am also finishing up my first year of MPH classes (in a 2 year program). For me, having clinical training was very helpful. I expect to draw upon both sets of knowledge during my career.
  5. pantouka

    pantouka 5+ Year Member

    Jul 10, 2011
    What kind of public health work do you plan to pursue?
  6. GUH

    GUH Underdawg 7+ Year Member

    Jul 13, 2010
    Eastern US
    I'm wrapping up my MPH now and only have a little bit of experience in the field, so take this with a grain of salt, but here goes: Much of epidemiology is done in local and state public health agencies. You do not need an extensive background in microbiology to carry out basic food-borne outbreak investigations, for example. Write down who got sick when from being exposed to what, send the samples to the lab to confirm, draw up your odds ratios based on the numbers, and present your findings. You do not need an extensive knowledge of the cellular response to trauma or aging in order to examine WISQARS or NHANES data and make important discoveries, or to look at BRFSS data and draw conclusions about trends in health behavior in your state.

    Does all the wet lab experience and a doctorate in molecular this-and-that help open up new (and higher-paying) opportunities? Probably. But you don't need those things in order to work in public health or even as an epidemiologist. You probably do need to get a firm grasp on basic biostatistics, but this can be accomplished once you're in an MPH program.
  7. LaughingMan

    LaughingMan Avoid Arrogance Lifetime Donor 5+ Year Member

    Mar 30, 2012
    Yeah--I was surprised to see two pharmacists in one of my MPH classes. Wasn't aware that transition was attractive to PharmDs. Best of luck in your career and good luck!

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