I realized I have yet to tell my background story here. So here goes.
When I was a child I knew I wanted to be a doctor (original, I know). Before I knew that public health existed, I was articulating my professional interests in medicine in terms of global public health. At Berkeley I was pre-med but stayed far away from the horde of pre-med students majoring in Molecular & Cell Biology. I settled on being one of the only pre-meds in the Rhetoric department, joking that I preferred to use both sides of my brain. It wasn’t until my last year at Cal that my career path crystallized in my mind. I signed up for public policy and global health courses, and started harassing the Global Health Policy program at George Washington University. It was the only program to which I planned to apply.
After a crazy stint as an education consultant in rural China where I lived on a couch, worked 6 days a week, didn’t get paid for months along with a host of other trickery, I escaped back to California disappointed, but more determined than ever to get an MPH. Every job I wanted required it.
My friends finally convinced me to apply to other programs besides GWU. UM was among them because I knew some SPH graduates and it had a great public policy school in addition (I considered a dual degree for a moment in time). Come January, my applications were submitted and I was off to volunteer for The Uganda Village Project while I waited. By the time my interview rolled around, UM was my first choice given all I had learned about it in the interim. I remember doing it from Uganda with Dr. McLaren during a power outage and a rain storm, hunched over my old school Nokia flip phone trying to convey passion and enthusiasm despite the poor MTN network.
And voilà. Michigan.
I remember the joke at Cal was that public health was only for pre-med students who couldn’t hack it. Funny –because I’m still going to medical school. I tend to get a “You’re going to be in school forrrrreeevvvvverrr!!” look-of-horror from the 30-somethings in my program who are, well, still in school, while the physicians give me ominous advice to “never go into medicine.”
Looking to the future I have two questions that are always in the back of my mind: How do physicians balance a career actively shaping health policy and still practice medicine? Also, should I apply to MD/MBA programs to further explore market-based approaches to public health or should I just get an MD and be done with it already?
I welcome your opinion.