After four long years of undergraduate education, and another four long years of medical school, it seems bizarre to even consider another year of school. Mix in residency and it all seems overwhelming. However, as you walk through the hospital looking at white coats you’ll realize there are a couple of prevalent degrees, besides the MD, held by physicians.
The Case for a Master's Degree in Public Health
A master's degree in Public Health is not only a degree that many physicians have, but it is a degree that is often sought after. The public health curriculum focuses on 4 core principles: epidemiology, biostatistics, health policy and management, and environmental health. At a far look, you can see these four core principles would be useful for a physician.
Understanding population health patterns through epidemiology can help senior and administrative staff to predict health trends and patterns. This training can help you lead the forefront of disease prevention and treatment. For example, assessing the rates of bacteremia from central line infections is a booming topic around health systems in the United States. Documenting, mapping, and analyzing these trends can help shed light on what the etiology is and how to prevent CLABSIs.
The training in biostatistics ensures that you will be able to read and understand scholastic literature. It will also confirm your ability to conduct research projects. The utility of this training lies in applying for research grants, conducting scholastic and pertinent research in your field, and being an active part of the research community. Often times most academic positions for physicians require some research. And often times there comes a bonus when you do research. Overall, the extensive training in biostatistics will allow you to be able to map and analyze population health data.
Courses in health economics and health policy will help you see the bigger picture and truly understand complex healthcare systems. This knowledge will give you a huge advantage over other physicians and fast track you into a highly sought administrative position. Take for example the impact of creating a new policy regarding protocol for use of MRI in patients with pacemakers. Redefining which pacemakers are safe for use in the MRI scanner can save the health system millions of dollars in pre screening examinations and questionnaires. It will also enhance patient safety, increase the diagnostic values of the MRI scans, and build a trusting relationship between patients with a pacemaker and the radiology staff.
Lastly, environmental health classes will give you a deeper understanding regarding hazardous environmental exposures in your community as well as an in-depth look at toxicology. As a public health student in Grenada, I visited the water treatment plant and got an overview of how clean water is accessed and distributed. In addition, we learned about how a small minority of the country gathers and stores clean rain water. Remember the water crisis in Flint, Michigan? Check out what they’re doing at the University of Michigan to help solve this problem.
Overall, a Master's in Public Health is one of the most useful supplementary degrees to your Medical Degree. It will open opportunities in highly sought senior administrative positions as department chairs and section chiefs. Additionally, it will train you to become a better physician.
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