ON Rich GrisetAugust 25, 2022, 5:46 pm
The Immunization Section is located at the Orange County Department of Health in May 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Paul Hennessy – NurPhoto/Getty Images)
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic sparked a surge in interest in medicine — a phenomenon dubbed the “Fauci effect” — the percentage of students pursuing a dual MD and Master of Public Health degree has skyrocketed in recent years. Between 2010 and 2018, a study published in the peer-reviewed public health journal Public Health Reports predicts a 434% increase in the number of students earning a dual degree.
“It gives them a completely different perspective on caring for the population,” says Dr. Jo Marie Reilly, co-author of the report, professor of clinical family medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and director of primary care at the University of Southern California. Initiative. “They feel like it completes their training, for lack of a better word, and gives them a set of skills that will make them better doctors.”
The healthcare system is increasingly looking for physicians trained in community health (a term for efforts to improve the health of entire populations) who can apply leadership, epidemiological and medical data management skills to address community health problems.
This is where participation in the MD-MPH program can be valuable. MD-MPH holders can address a wide range of issues, such as improving the ability of health systems to deal with pandemics and infectious diseases, or helping to address other public health issues such as the opioid crisis. Students pursuing a dual degree usually begin their coursework for a Master of Public Health degree after their first or second year of medical school in a four- or five-year program.
Read on to find out if MD-MPH is right for you.
What is the MD-MPH degree?
Reilly knows firsthand the growing demand for MD-MPH holders. After receiving her medical degree from Georgetown Medical School in 1991, she returned to college to complete her Master of Public Health from the University of Southern California in 2017.
“The world has changed,” she explains her decision to pursue a master’s degree in public health. “When I went to medical school, they didn’t teach much of what the MHs teach now, and more and more medical schools [now] teaching, to some extent. I wanted this set of skills to improve the work I did.”
These days, Reilly says earning a M.P.H. can strengthen physicians’ abilities, such as leadership and a better understanding of health care delivery, public policy, systemic care, advocacy, epidemiology and biostatistics work, and populations. health.
Dr. Benjamin Springgate, an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine, received his MD in a joint program from Tulane University two decades ago and says he was motivated to pursue a dual degree to make an impact on the health of large groups of people.
“If we look at the major health issues that the United States and the world are facing today, many of them are public health issues,” says Springgate, who is also LSU’s chief of community and traditional medicine and director of its MD-MPH. program. “A master’s degree in public health can provide a physician with the opportunity to learn how to manage health care systems and improve the availability and quality of care.”
What does earning an MD-MPH degree entail?
Generally, there are two ways to complete the MD-MPH joint program: a compressed four-year program, and a program in which students complete the standard four-year MD program with an additional year spent on MPH coursework. Typically, students begin their graduate studies after their first or second year of medical school.
Reilly says there are a few schools that run MD-MPH programs in four years, but most of them take five years. USC offered the program for four years, but Reilly says it hasn’t been “very successful” for a variety of reasons.
Some schools, including USC, pay students an additional fifth year to earn a master’s degree in public health. Some schools have agreements to receive government funding for a portion of the MPH with the idea that these students will continue in leadership positions and work with underserved communities.
Reilly says the MD-MPH high school enrolls up to five students a year; larger programs typically run up to 10 per year.
“It gives them a completely different understanding of the systems of care in the world than they practice, which they have no idea about,” Reilly says of students enrolled in a joint program. “They just don’t get that kind of training in medical school. It gives them a completely different perspective on caring for the population.”
In addition to preparing medical students for jobs in the field, earning a master’s degree in public health gives them a break from some of the requirements of earning an MD degree, Reilly said. “Four years of medical school is really a treadmill for learning clinical and diagnostic skills,” she says. “It’s very fast paced and there’s not much room to step back, read, breathe in, consider the larger system they’re going to work in.”
Completing a dual degree in four years essentially means that students forgo any free time they might have for non-clinical training. “It takes a weekend, an evening, and whatever summer vacation they might have,” Reilly says. “Students just need to understand that this is a foot-on-the-gas approach.
In both four- and five-year programs, students typically complete a public health internship with a public health agency to apply their acquired health knowledge and skills.
“It’s definitely rigorous and unlikely,” Springgate says of earning her MD-MPH degree. “Everyone who applies to medical school and gets into medical school is already doing well academically, has already shown that he can work hard, has already shown that he can balance a number of competing demands. To be honest, anyone who is interested should take a look and decide if it suits them.”
What jobs does the MD-MPH degree prepare you for?
The dual MD-MPH degree prepares graduates for even more career opportunities than holding just one of these degrees. Health professionals holding this dual degree can go on to work in academia, government, health departments and agencies, research, policy development, international and non-profit organizations, and healthcare delivery systems.
Having an MD-MPH degree is especially beneficial for people who are interested in working with data, research, and statistics, Reilly says. “Students who will be practicing in 2022…need these skills, of course, in order to be in leadership positions and also in order to practice good medicine.”
What’s more, the pandemic has pushed the medical field to be more interested in public health as it relates to infectious diseases and access to medical care for low-income patient groups, Reilly adds.
Many MD-MPH graduates go on to work in city and state health departments, federal health agencies, and major healthcare systems, Springgate said. Some people work in the industry, developing new drugs or leading the development of clinical trials for therapeutics or diagnostic tools, he adds, while others with double degrees may specialize in epidemiology or behavioral health, working on issues such as HIV, hunger and malnutrition. .
“While being an experienced clinician and doctor is one way to solve health problems, having the added ability to think about the population and how to solve population health problems would add value. [combatting] the types of problems we face as a society,” Springgate says. “There’s actually a wide range of potential endpoints.”
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