Oct 20, 2013
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I didn't realize that there was a dedicated forum to us non-trads. Neat! I originally posted this on the pre-MD board, but figured it would be better suited here.

I am pursuing my MPH (public policy) and I'm hoping to be back in the lab full-time in January (academic, though I've quietly applied for a few positions in biotech simply for the change of scenery). I intend to apply for med school for the class of 2016, but I received an email this past week about a new MPH to DPH bridge program at my university (state school). The DPH is in epidemiology (something I'm very interested in; the public policy MPH track just happened to be online and allowed me to go back to work full-time when my health permitted) and is only an additional 60 credits, 20 of those credits are a part of the dissertation. So if I keep on track with my program and scale back at work during the last year of the program, I could graduate in 2018 and apply for med school for the same year.

Public health is incredibly important to me and a field I feel very passionate about. It is something I hope to be able to incorporate into my medical practice down the road, so in either case, it would not be seeking a degree just for the sake of adding it to my resume. My question is how much value would the DPH truly add to my application? Would I be better off still applying for 2016 or as a non-trad would it be such a big difference between applying with an MPH vs a DPH that I should pursue the doctorate regardless? In the long run, two years really doesn't seem like that much time and there is quite a bit I could do in academia or in the public sector with a DPH if (god forbid) I am never accepted to med school!

ETA: I don't know if it matters, but my top choice school is my current university and this DPH program is one of their options for their MD/PhD dual degree programs. I would not be going that route directly, but it would mean interacting with many of the same students, faculty members, and administration.

Any thoughts?
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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Very little value. You already have an MPH. If you want to be a physician, then you need an MD, not a DPH. Medical training is long and expensive enough on its own. Don't waste your time or money on an extra degree that you don't need.
 
OP
NZM33
Oct 20, 2013
23
12
Southeast
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Other Health Professions Student
Thanks for the reply! Yes, I definitely need that pesky MD if I'm going to be a physician! My question was more - and perhaps I didn't make this clear enough in my OP - how much more weight would a successful PhD (DPH) program add to an application in terms of attractiveness to an adcom? My undergraduate career was extremely unusual (I've posted about it previously) and while I walked out with a respectable cGPA and a competitive sGPA, I'm not going to the top of the pile based on my scores. I didn't know if going beyond the master's and pursuing the DPH would be more of a "proving ground" in terms of my ability to sustain myself through a difficult program. Perhaps I should have linked that previous thread here as it may have made the situation a bit more clear (http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/patient-to-doctor-or-how-to-approach-this-on-an-app.1038311/).

tl/dr, it took me 8 years to finish undergrad for a myriad of health reasons. I'm doing well and very stable, but I'm pretty sure adcoms are going to need a bit more than my word about that.

FWIW, the program is under a grant and provides a modest stipend so it won't cost me a dime and there's already money set aside for medical school.

But if it's really not going to make a difference to an adcom whether I finish an MPH or a DPH regardless, then I guess that answers that question!
 

ChE04

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Thanks for the reply! Yes, I definitely need that pesky MD if I'm going to be a physician! My question was more - and perhaps I didn't make this clear enough in my OP - how much more weight would a successful PhD (DPH) program add to an application in terms of attractiveness to an adcom?
As both Qs stated: very little weight.

Two years might not seem like much to you now, but wait until you have two years left in residency. You want to be a physician, or an epidemiologist?
 
OP
NZM33
Oct 20, 2013
23
12
Southeast
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Other Health Professions Student
Thank you :) The very honest answer? I'd love to be both ;) But that's a bit like a child saying "I want to be a police man and a firefighter when I grow up!". I suppose I'll apply to the DPH program as my backup plan while I'm applying to medical school. There are certainly more academic opportunities in my area for someone with a DPH than with an MPH should med school not pan out for that round of applications.

I suppose I see time very differently because I really can't see two years being a long time in any context! It's certainly not like I need to get out of my residency as early as possible to start making money to pay back loans. Med school is coming out of my own pocket and I never need to take a salary to "get by", so I'm very, very lucky in that regard. Perhaps I'm just an abnormally patient person. Heck, maybe if I don't do it before medical school, I'll do it after I've retired from practice. Who knows?
 

beBrave

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You talk about your passion for public health. I would suggest Shadowing and volunteering more to make sure medicine is right for you. It may sound good in your head however if your focus is on public health it may not pan out. Simply getting a Physicians education to make you a better public health specialist is not a good motivation to attend medical school. It would really suck if you went to medical school and did not end up practicing medicine; ad-coms hate that and sniff like bloodhounds for it.
 

wholeheartedly

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I'm finishing an MPH in Epi. I think having the epidemiology background can be very useful, but there's a huge BUT involved in this. You have to want to use it with your MD and have an idea of how you're going to use it. Getting a doctorate to be more competitive is NOT a good plan as medical school admissions doesn't work that way.

Also, quality of your doctoral work is going to be worth more than than just the piece of paper. People say getting an MPH doesn't make you more competitive, but what I've seen from my classmates is that seems to be a function of what you do with it. So if it's an online program and you scrape by just meeting bare minimum requirements to graduate, it's not going to be helpful. If you do some interesting quality research, have a great field experience, do some volunteering, and build up a solid skill set I think that changes things immensely.

All that said, I pretty much agree with Q here that the MPH should be sufficient. If you want to strengthen your epidemiology background there will plenty of opportunities down the road that don't require the time investment of getting a doctorate such as programs through places like the CDC.
 
OP
NZM33
Oct 20, 2013
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12
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Other Health Professions Student
You talk about your passion for public health. I would suggest Shadowing and volunteering more to make sure medicine is right for you. It may sound good in your head however if your focus is on public health it may not pan out. Simply getting a Physicians education to make you a better public health specialist is not a good motivation to attend medical school. It would really suck if you went to medical school and did not end up practicing medicine; ad-coms hate that and sniff like bloodhounds for it.
I have 200ish hours of formal shadowing experience (and probably 1000+ hours of informal shadowing experience), 10+ years of volunteer experience, and the advantage of a parent who is in occ health and a professor specializing in global medicine. I've been very much raised in medicine, but with the focus that your career should be about serving your community first and worrying about everything else second. I want to be a physician, absolutely, but I want my skills to be put to use treating patients in settings where public health is a major concern. I want to have the skills to help change my patients' circumstances through education, policy, and certainly a broad understanding of epidemiology would be of great use should I pursue that track. Treating the individual is wonderful, but being able to treat or even prevent the problem at its base is the first step towards a healthier community.

My mother and all of her colleagues have their MPHs in addition to their medical degrees (my mother also has her SciD and her MHA, but she's just one of those freaky smart overachievers ;)) so it was the natural progression of things for me to pursue my MPH regardless. In my situation, it was also a way to show adcoms that I was able to complete a rigorous course of study in the "time allotted" so to speak, but I digress.

I figured by being on this forum my passion for medicine would be implied, but alas!
 
OP
NZM33
Oct 20, 2013
23
12
Southeast
Status
Other Health Professions Student
I'm finishing an MPH in Epi. I think having the epidemiology background can be very useful, but there's a huge BUT involved in this. You have to want to use it with your MD and have an idea of how you're going to use it. Getting a doctorate to be more competitive is NOT a good plan as medical school admissions doesn't work that way.

Also, quality of your doctoral work is going to be worth more than than just the piece of paper. People say getting an MPH doesn't make you more competitive, but what I've seen from my classmates is that seems to be a function of what you do with it. So if it's an online program and you scrape by just meeting bare minimum requirements to graduate, it's not going to be helpful. If you do some interesting quality research, have a great field experience, do some volunteering, and build up a solid skill set I think that changes things immensely.

All that said, I pretty much agree with Q here that the MPH should be sufficient. If you want to strengthen your epidemiology background there will plenty of opportunities down the road that don't require the time investment of getting a doctorate such as programs through places like the CDC.
Thank you for replying! It's great to hear from someone on the other end of an MPH program.

I replied to a post above yours as you were posting, so I won't repeat myself, but I most certainly intend to use the MPH in practice. I am currently working with a group of MD/MPHs and a few DPHs to secure funding for a community health center in my extremely rural and underserved county. The goal is to offer preventative medicine and educational programs to the community with a focus on substance abuse, obesity, and smoking cessation (statistically the most pressing issues in the community) and eventually to be able to expand to also providing a mobile free clinic, a women's clinic, and community outreach programs for children and teens. I am hoping that my work with this program will become a significant part of my master's thesis!
 

beBrave

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OP don't misunderstand. The Medical field is broad. Everything you have said sounds like an MPH. A Physician treats sick people, prevention is at an individual level in the clinical setting. There are many miserable Physicians as well. Simply posting on SDN does not mean that being a Physician is your implied passion. Going to med school for many of us is like a ringing in the ear. I was a Ph.D student so I get where you are coming from. You sound passionate about public health and research but not treating patients. Ad-com cares about what they ask for, if they glance at anything else consider it a bonus.
 

wholeheartedly

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Your passion for public health isn't in question and if you are equally passionate about medicine, that's awesome. That doesn't change my thought that the DPH in your case might be unnecessary and over kill with an MD on board. You should be able to get the most out of merging those passions with just the MD/MPH.

The people I know doing those things all have been highly successful with just those two degrees and to reiterate, there are plenty of opps to supplement more epidemiology or clinical research training without the investing in a full doctorate. Lots, and a lot of these will be geared towards physicians so it'll give you better ideas about how to integrate the two areas in a meaningful way.

Also I'm curious about the format of the degree, ie online, in person, working while you do it etc. No one I know in our PhD programs is that confident about finishing in a certain time-frame, especially one thats only like 4 years. Credit-wise it might seem doable, but dissertation projects, especially in something like epi or hard sciences tend not to work that way. Things seldom just work like you planned and there can be a lot of going back to the drawing board.

Lastly though, if you're going to insist on doing them both, do them in a combined program. It sounds like that's an option where you are and while MD/PhD programs are highly competitive, knowing you want the DPH going in and already having an MPH and some connections and recommendations might help. So talk to people at you school involved in that about whether or not that's a viable option for you.

But again, I think it's overkill and I'm someone who would be going MD/PhD in epi if I was a few years younger. For what you want to do the MPH should be enough and it would probably be a better investment in your time to focus on bolstering your med school application side of things.