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sushi18

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Hi there, I am a non-traditional pre-med conflicted as to whether or not to pursue an MD. I have always been interested in public health, and want to devote my career to improving the lives of disadvantaged populations. Perhaps I want to have my cake and eat it too, but my dream is to be doing this at a high level in terms of impact (e.g. national/international) and make sure I have enough saved up to retire comfortably.

I've been accepted to an MPH program, however I'm considering not going and instead working + doing pre-med coursework, then applying to MD programs a few years down the line (combined MD/MPH programs would also be of interest).

Before I throw away my MPH admission offer, I wanted to weigh the pros/cons of having an MD in the public health field. What doors will an MD open for me that I wouldn't have open with an MPH or BA?

Preliminary thoughts:

Pros
- Ability to treat patients and train doctors in low-resource areas where care is needed most
- *Respect afforded to MD could mean access to higher level jobs (e.g. medical NGO director) and greater platform to influence change
- Challenging, meaningful, and varied work (e.g. teaching, clinical, research all open to me)
- Once I become a full-fledged doctor, will be making quite a bit of money and should be financially stable

Cons
- Delay first "real" job 'til my early 30s when I could have better work/life balance and make money in my 20s
- Work hours can be grueling with little time for family and friends
- Potentially large student loan debt ($150K to 300K+)
- *May not be able to pursue all facets of the work I'm interested in as many of the MDs I've talked to in public health have not practiced for many years and only do teaching/research... Concerning because it points to clinical + non-clinical work being hard to balance
- *Have heard stories about the lack of autonomy given to doctors and wonder if this is the case even in public health/NGO settings

*these are ones I'd particularly like second thoughts on!
 

trobinsonmd

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I did public health in undergrad... it is a great field, but I would never take an MPH over an MD. I don't think con #1/3 are valid, sure you won't make jack until you are 30, but once you are making your salary, you will be making way more than you would with an MPH doing research. Some doctors do not have a lot of autonomy, others have more... depends on your practice and sometimes even specialty...
 
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sushi18

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Thanks for your insight :) Do you think the MD leads to more opportunities in the public health and global health field compared to an MPH?
 
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Thanks for your insight :) Do you think the MD leads to more opportunities in the public health and global health field compared to an MPH?

It should come as no surprise that having 7+ years of training, board certification(s) and a license to practice medicine will, indeed, lead to more opportunities in public/global health.
 
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MedicineN'Jazz

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Or...
You can get your MPH and your MD degree. But you didn’t hear that from me ;)
 
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sushi18

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It should come as no surprise that having 7+ years of training, board certification(s) and a license to practice medicine will, indeed, lead to more opportunities in public/global health.
@Med Ed What kind of opportunities would I have access to that I wouldn't with an MPH + 7 years of work experience? I don't want to merely assume the MD will be better.
 
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@Med Ed What kind of opportunities would I have access to that I wouldn't with an MPH + 7 years of work experience? I don't want to merely assume the MD will be better.

That's sort of an odd question. An MPH might get a job as a public health officer or epidemiologist, and 25 years later that person may be a public health officer or epidemiologist with 25 years of experience. A physician, on the other hand, can work right up to the top of any clinical or research career, either in the private or public sector. Look at the CDC's organization chart; many people have MPH's, but the only person with "just" an MPH is in an acting role.
 
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gonnif

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I certainly have had applicants tell me they were asked at interview but in most cases that seemed to be simply the way the conversation was going and curiousity of interviewer then a planned attempt to get info from applicants
 
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JSReed

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I got an mph from a top 10 a few years back, and have worked in the global scene ever since (usaid, usaid contractors) at levels ranging from coordinator up to country director. So I feel pretty confident in saying the following.

It's great that you want to help VPs (truly mean that), but you need to figure out HOW you want to do that. That's going to come down to what you enjoy as well as what you are good at (ex. Development econ fascinates me, but I'm awful at econ). If the thing you really want to do is seeing patients, then it makes sense. Only docs can see patients, oversee patient care, and provide tech oversight to those types of programs. If you're not planning to go into care and treatment, I'd advise not going the MD/DO route. Pivoting from clinical care to PH roles generally involves a pay cut, and being a doc doesn't necessarily give you a leg up (seeing as you've been hitting the books while everyone else has been out getting experience). Also, while your technical knowledge will be much higher as a doc, your operational, administrative, m&e, program design, etc. skills will need significant strengthening. So honestly, I would go for mph over MD for anything except for care and tx (including disease testing, sbcc, m&e). Just my 2 cents, and fyi I'm currently applying md/do (because I specifically want to do care and tx).

Don't worry about time. True happiness is way more valuable than all the lost income and "lost" time. If you don't have a clear answer to the above question, maybe try getting a entry level PH job for a while and see what you think.
 
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