Benefits of MD/MPH programs

What is an MPH?

While medical training emphasizes clinical skills to treat individual patients, training in public health allows students to study ways to improve community health. Students pursuing a masters in public health (MPH) degree gain knowledge about the various threats to population health and learn ways to promote health and prevent disease.


The MD/MPH dual degree has become quite popular, as over 80 medical schools currently offer it. Some medical schools allow their students to complete both MD and MPH degrees concurrently. Others offer their students a leave of absence between their third and fourth years of medical school to complete their MPH degree.


Although an MPH is useful, it costs a lot of money, like other degrees. And, you can explore public health without pursuing an MPH—for example, as an MD student, you can still certainly help out in a public health research lab, if you’re interested. That’s why, before deciding to pursue an MPH, you have to consider how an MPH will enrich your medical education and how you’ll use it in your career. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself: how will I benefit from pursuing an MPH?




Benefit: In-depth training in research methodology

As I mentioned earlier, you can do public health research without pursuing an MPH. However, an MPH will provide you with the skills needed to create and lead large-scale research projects—which is especially useful if you’re interested in conducting clinical research as a physician. Many MPH programs offer courses in biostatistics, epidemiology, and outcomes research that’ll equip you with skills necessary for research methodology. Without this in-depth knowledge, you may have to rely on a staff of biostatisticians to do a lot of work for you, and this could limit what you’d like to accomplish as a researcher. Also, some MPH programs hold journal clubs where you’ll analyze primary medical literature and learn to develop evidence-based practices from it. Some schools even allow students to devote an entire year off to a research project.


Benefit: Have a holistic impact on your patient’s health

MDs are trained to treat biological ailments. The training that an MPH provides, nonetheless, may open your eyes to the social determinants that affect your patient’s health—and you may begin to see your patient more holistically. For example, MPH programs offer courses on how social factors such as race, ethnicity, and income can be significant contributors to a patient’s illness. In this case, you can practically apply what you learned as an MPH student to your clinical practice as an MD. By being able to see your patient as a ‘whole,’ you may be better able to seek out social services to help improve your patient’s total well-being.


Benefit: Become a well-trained advocate
While MD training will open your eyes to the illnesses that affect populations, MPH training will teach you how to prevent illness on a large scale through policy change. Some MPH programs, for example, provide courses in public health law that’ll teach you how certain health laws came to be. Other programs even offer a health policy management focus that’ll teach you the decision making skills necessary to translate scientific evidence into health policy. In all, whether you’re interested in working in the public or private sector, for a non-profit or a consulting firm, an MPH will teach you ways to make systemic change to improve the health of communities.


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Imaz Athar

Imaz Athar is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, double majoring in Neuroscience and Sociology. He aspires to become a physician and plans on attending medical school in Fall 2017. Imaz fell in love with the art of writing at a young age and is currently the Publisher of Pitt's undergraduate-run science magazine The Pitt Pulse. When he's not writing or keeping up with classes, Imaz enjoys running, playing basketball, watching Empire, singing (in the shower), and listening to all kinds of music.