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The Benefits of a M.D./M.P.H. Degree

The Benefits of a M.D./M.P.H. Degree

January 25, 2016 - by Reggie Jones, Physician Recruiter, Starmed 

For many aspiring physicians, the pursuit of the M.D. is exhausting to even think about, much less entertaining the idea of a joint degree. However, it’s hard to argue with the many benefits and payoffs of earning a Master of Public Health degree alongside an M.D. In fact, there has been a significant increase in the number of medical schools offering joint M.D./M.P.H. programs, now topping 75 throughout the country.

So what are the benefits of a M.D./M.P.H degree? Arguably the most important is a greater opportunity to uphold the Hippocratic Oath and truly impact the overall health of communities at large. Earning a degree in public health can educate clinicians about medical policy and how to speak the language of public health policymakers. This enhanced perspective allows physicians to better care for people through a broader understanding of how decisions are made for individual patients impact the entire community.

The reality is healthy communities require more than medications. Over the last few decades, causes of death in the U.S. have transitioned from acute, short-term illnesses to chronic, long-term diseases such as, diabetes and cancer. This is due to public health initiatives such as, vaccination programs, policy changes in vehicle safety and tobacco/drug laws, and establishing standards in clean air and water.

Within the healthcare arena, we know that primary care physicians are in the best position to manage chronic illness before they manifest into more serious, life-threatening situations. This is achieved by promoting healthy lifestyles which include balanced diets, regular exercise regimens, routine health checkups, as well as the basic requirements of clean air, water and an eye on communicable diseases.

Bridging the Gap between Patients and Community

Simply put, physicians who also hold a M.P.H. degree are better equipped to bridge the gap between patient and community. With a broader understanding and perspective provided by the Master of Public Health, physicians are able to consider each patient in the context of the originating community while considering the larger implications of care.

In addition, these M.D./M.P.H.-degreed clinicians are in a position to advocate and provide needed guidance to public health or policy officials to help shape collective policies that have great implications for individuals. Often, public health policymakers lack the firsthand knowledge of how health systems operate on a day-to-day basis. Working collectively, public health-trained physicians and policymakers can better solve public health issues, such as overpopulation, food scarcity and clean water.

Getting Started

If all this sounds up your alley, here are a few tips to consider before you embark on expanding your medical education with a Master of Public Health:

  • Seek out medical schools that also have schools of public health, or that offer a combined M.D.-M.P.H. program.
  • If you are already attending a school that doesn’t offer a school a public health, or you choose to attend one, look for potential schools in the surrounding area that can be easily commuted to during medical school.
  • If you intend to take a hiatus during medical school (many students choose to do so between second and third years), consider attending public health school during the break. Many students take a one-year hiatus between years to complete their public health schooling.
  • Consider finding a mentor in public health who can answer questions, provide guidance and offer suggestions to help you navigate the process.
  • The good news is with most M.P.H. school applications, they will accept your MCAT scores so there is no need to take the GRE.

Public health is an evolving and expanding discipline, and many physicians are choosing to gain the broader framework and understanding of healthcare at the population that an M.P.H. can provide. For more information on joint M.D./M.P.H. programs, contact the Association of American Medical Colleges website. If you are interested in learning more information about the career opportunities a joint degree can afford, contact me at:

Phone 314-236-4573


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