Want to do MD/PhD - have the option of a paid-for MPH

Aug 18, 2014
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Hi guys,

I want to do an MD/PhD in Epi. I'm currently looking at a fellowship that would allow me to earn a stipend-supported, free MPH if I stay on for an additional year.

At first I wasn't going to consider it because it's an additional year in the already gargantuan trek for MD/PhD. Also, I've been told by the health professions advising office at my university that applying to only MD programs while also applying to MD-PhD makes the dual degree look like an afterthought. I figured the same could be said in this case - there are very specific reasons why I'm interested in the PhD, and the MPH-MD alone wouldn't cut it. Or at least make achieving my goals a lot more difficult.

Then again - free MPH at a public health school that I am incredibly, incredibly excited to be studying at. Even if I don't get the MPH I'll be able to take courses/find mentors/generally immerse myself as much as I can. I'll be doing research as part of the fellowship anyway, as well.

Would love to hear people wiser than I weigh in. Thank you!
 

StIGMA

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What program are you in now (that is allowing you to stay for the MPH)? Are you an undergraduate or do you already have a bachelors? How much epi research have you completed? Have you won the fellowship or have a reason to think you are competitive for it?

There are not very many reasons why you need a PhD in epi as opposed to the MPH. In most cases, doing the MD/MPH would be preferable to an MD/PhD in Epi, because the PhD is not providing any additional value to the persons career goals. A free MPH only sweetens the deal.
 
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Aug 18, 2014
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I have won the fellowship and finished my bachelor's this June. What I've heard so far is that an MPH would be fine for clinical epi, but not if you want to be a PI, especially for international jobs/research.

Thank you so much for your input! I would be curious to hear why you think the PhD is only marginally beneficial over the MPH?
 
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Aug 18, 2014
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How much epi research have you completed?

My thesis was on an epi topic using epidemiological methods (1.5 year endeavor, independent field research, etc). Working on publishing the results currently. The fellowship even without the MPH will be an additional two years of solid quantitative instruction that I feel very strongly about acquiring, in addition to research experience.
 

StIGMA

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I have won the fellowship and finished my bachelor's this June. What I've heard so far is that an MPH would be fine for clinical epi, but not if you want to be a PI, especially for international jobs/research.

Thank you so much for your input! I would be curious to hear why you think the PhD is only marginally beneficial over the MPH?

You will have a doctorate (MD) and therefore unique skills, goals, and intentions for your future research. Basically anything you could do with the PhD you could do with the MD/MPH as well (as long as you learn whatever skills & techniques that you will use).
 
Aug 18, 2014
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Hmmm, ok. Thank you for your advice.

Would still welcome any other opinions, especially from those who have pursued a non-basic science MD-PhD
 

QofQuimica

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Agree with Stigma that it makes more sense for you to get the MPH and then apply to med school as MD-only. As he already pointed out, an MD/PhD does not make you better qualified to be an epi PI vs. an MD/MPH, and considering the saved time and opportunity cost of doing the MPH instead of the PhD, I can't see much of a downside.
 

wholeheartedly

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Not sure I entirely agree with the other posters on this, mostly, but not entirely.

Generally, for most people, the MD PhD route in Epi is going to be overkill. As mentioned you'll have a doctorate and some Epi skills that will a allow you to lead solid research. Most of the MDs doing population research at either of my institutions are MDs with a masters in either Epi, clinical research, clinical and translational science, or an MPH.

An important thing to note though is that an MPH is a public health degree first and you're generally majoring in Epi, whereas the other options are more focused.

The thing about Epi is the strength you get in study design and data analysis and the PhD curriculum's additional courses are focused on advanced methods like: design and analysis of group randomized trials in Epi, bio statistical modeling, statistical methods for human genetic and molecular biology, validity concepts in epidemiologic research, clinical trials design and implementation. These are things you could learn about independently, but sometimes with the data analysis stuff it's easier to work through under the guidance of an instructor. Alternatively you can collaborate heavily with biostats too.

So it depends on what you plan on doing with it. I'm three classes shy of having my MPH in Epi and while I feel I have a strong foundation in Epi at this point, for the type of clinical practice/research mix I'd like to have someday, I still feel like I'd like a stronger foundation in some of the data analysis methods and design things like clinical trials design. So even though I've opted out of the MD PhD at this point, I'll still be looking for some additional coursework/ training down the road.

But that's just me, I think there's an MD PHD Epi grad on these boards that's probably in a good position to give some input.

In your case it probably still makes sense to do the MPH in Epi as part of your fellowship and then see where you are at.
 
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Aug 18, 2014
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Hi guys, thanks for the thoughtful replies, I really appreciate it. I think I'm going to continue to get opinions from other epi MPHs/PhDs that I encounter in the course of taking classes here, and make a decision closer to when I need to confirm my attendance in the MPH program.
 
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