How did I get here?


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.

2 thoughts on “How did I get here?

  1. At some point in life, a fellow has to decide what s/he wants to be when s/he grows up. When you say that you want to earn an MBA so as “to further explore market-based approaches to public health…” it makes me wonder if you think all knowledge comes from the class room. That’s a fallacy.You can get ten more degrees and still be staring into a vast unknown regarding the workings of the market economy.
    But more important: I wonder if you are not trying very hard to avoid going to Med School? I say this because in my humble but considered opinion, most people who really want to be physicians, do all their possible best to get into Med School ASAP. So, if you really want to be an MD, why not go get the MD degree first before you get brain fatigued from being in school too long? And then, if indeed you want to get into the economics of public health, and your buttom is not too numb from sitting in class rooms, then do that as well?
    On a more personal note: is this a subtle way of announcing to Mummy that you really don’t want to be a doctor as Mummy has been strongly urging you to become? if so, I am publicly freeing you of that burden. After all, it is YOUR life and this is not a dress rehearsal for the real thing. You get only one chance. You cannot afford to dance to anybody else’s tune…including Mummy’s. You must live an authentic life and that means living your dream–not your Mummy’s
    And it goes without saying that Mummy would still love you no matter what you decide.
    With all my love,

  2. I am a Junior at U of M right now and am going through exactly what you went through. I too wanted to go to medical school, and am getting a B.S. in cell and molecular biology, with a minor in biological anthropology, but am realizing I really don’t want to be in school that long and I don’t want to do half of the rotations I would be required to do. I had thought before I couldn’t do both- public health/see the world/have field experience and go to medical school. I see now that you are potentially well on your way to doing it all. While I don’t have any advice for you, since I too get the “never become a doctor” talks, have you ever thought of getting a PhD instead? You could still practice the research part of medicine while shaping policy through your findings. I have considered that recently.
    I am glad I stumbled on this post. If there is any advice you could give me about just getting into the field you are already in I would appreciate it. Especially how you got into field volunteering.

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