We’re actually trying to lay the groundwork for a healthcare world and jobs that don’t even exist yet…. There’s nothing wrong with the traditional, but we want our students to prepare themselves for the future. —Roland Eavey, MD
Explore This IssueSeptember 2019
Degrees in Public Health
Current and future challenges to public health are real—and massive. The World Health Organization has identified 10 current threats to global health, including widespread antimicrobial
resistance, vaccine hesitancy, and air pollution/climate change. Breakthroughs in medical science push the edge of the moral envelope, raising new questions about ethics, privacy rights, and religion. Meanwhile, the United Nations predicts that there will be 300 million people 65 years of age and older worldwide by 2025.
Tackling such sweeping and complex challenges requires a broad understanding of how health systems work at every level, and an overall population point of view that is developed through the targeted education and training provided by a public health degree program. Professional degrees in public health include the MPH (Master of Public Health), the more academic and research-oriented MSPH (Master of Science in Public Health), MMSPH (Master of Medical Science in Public Health), and DrPH (Doctor of Public Health).
Like an MBA, an MPH is available in a dual MD/MPH degree program. Most students undergo the MPH portion of the program after completing their first or second year of medical school, at which point they select a specialization or concentration that enables them to direct their careers accordingly. Physicians with degrees in public health enter fields such as epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, health policy, and health administration, and social and behavioral sciences. The Association of American Medical Colleges lists more than 80 MD/MPH programs in the United States today.
Stacey Ishman, MD, MPH, is a pediatric otolaryngologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She started her MPH program at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore just two weeks before the end of her fellowship at that institution, and did her coursework over the next two years while working as an attending physician. “My decision was made to help jumpstart my academic career,” she said. “I wanted to be better at designing studies and understanding the epidemiology and the biostatistical side of the research.”
For Dr. Ishman, the program has delivered in multiple ways. “On a day-to-day basis, it has helped facilitate my research career because I became better able to design and interpret the studies and the data I collected, which was my original goal,” she said. “The unexpected benefit is that I really understood the value of a systems- or population-level approach. And so, while my original goal was to take better care of each individual patient in my clinic, I began to realize that, by creating an evidence base to create best practices for my area of interest, my research could have far broader implications if we could create something that was a best practice for a population.” Indeed, she and her colleagues were able to create standardized algorithms to help aid and
target their treatment of pediatric sleep apnea, an area of medicine for which there is little in the way of evidence or best practice.