MPH and premed

Hey - I was thrilled to find this site! So, quickly, my situation and then my question:
I’m 30 yrs old. I served in the Peace Corps as a Rural Health and Nutrition volunteer and then came back to the US where I have been working in Public Health advocacy. Now I want to move away from politics and get more hands-on and clinical. I’m planning to start a Master of Public Health program in Fall 2004, and then I want to move on to med school. I have NO premed courses now. (graduated 1996 from U of Illinois, Urbana with Poli Sci degree. Oops.)
Has anyone, or do you know of anyone, who has done an MPH with pre-med courses concurrently? I’ve talked to advisors and they say it’s possible (esp. since I’d be in an accellerated MPH program - about 1 semester shorter than the average program), but I’m looking for any words of wisdom.
Thanks, and I hope to be coming around here as I start this enormous and daunting process!

Welcome to OPM. You will gain a lot of information from this website.
Coming to your question, MPH + Premed, in my humble opinion, is doable, especially if you work according to a schedule. I’m also getting an advanced degree and doing premed concurrently. However, some semesters you might have to take fewer premed classes which means you might have to spend an extra year finishing up the prereqs. I think eventually it boils down to personal things like study patterns, work load, family support and support of your mentor.
Ofcourse, the others on this site will have much more input, so let’s wait to hear from them
Hope this helps.

Thanks! I’ve been surprisd at the number of people who say that it is totally possible since otherwise I feel like there are a lot of warning about how hard the whole pre-med process is!
Anyway, I’m sure I’ll be popping in here from time to time, and I look forward to learning other’s stories/struggles/successes!

Welcome back to the world RPCV! I was a Peace Corps Volunteer back in '80 in community health while in the Philippines and have since received my MSPH. After working in state health departments for 20 years, I am taking pre-med classes in a mid-life redirection. You can do the MPH and sciene classes at the same time, but it will require you to stay at your university for a longer period of time (and expense) as your degree curriculum is already set with room for few electives. However, I think you should take a few classes while you are in the “college mode” with good study habits. Addressing “the med school dream” becomes more difficult after you’ve developed and become burdened with more life experiences (read marriage and kids, if you are not already in this situation, and debt). So, go for it but don’t overburden yourself! Aloha.

Hi Trixie! Welcome to OPM. Your life story is really interesting, esp. the Peace Corps stuff. (It seems like so many people have done this! I’m starting to develop a huge complex now because I haven’t done something nearly as cool although I’d like to someday).
As others have said, you can do the MPH and premed stuff at the same time but you’ll just have to schedule your time accordingly and not overload yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t do it. My high school swim coach used to say, “There’s no such thing as ‘can’t’ only ‘won’t.’”

Playing devil’s advocate, since many medical schools have combined MD/MPH programs, have you considered doing solely the premed first, perhaps by a postbacc program, and then a combined program for MD/MPH?
Now that I said that, I’ll counter my own question: it would seem, at least on the surface, less strenuous to do a the premed & the MPH than the MD/MPH. Also, having the MPH under your belt may help in getting acceptance to Med School.
never mind

I am going to do the M.D/MPH and I think of course this is just my humble opinion that pursuing the MPH with the M.D will be easier than if I did the pre-med reqs and the MPH. Because we are non-trad grades do matter and if you are doing both pre-reqs and MPH maybe something will slip? I do not know how rigorous the MPH is but I can tell you that some pre-med classes are very tuff and I could not imagine doing them along with MPH classes. On the other hand once I am in medical school specially if it is pass/fail then the MPH after year two will be something different and very rewarding…just my 0.2…

I agree with efex. I had quite a few classmates doing an MPH alongside their M.D. studies and it did cut into their time somewhat but as far as I could tell it was manageable. I don’t think anyone flunked out over their MPH classes!

However, the distraction of pursuing an MPH alongside your premed prerequisites seems hazardous to me. You can NOT let anything keep you from posting excellent grades in these important classes that are going to be among the first things seen by AdComs. I know I say this ad nauseum, but you don’t get any do-overs on these grades. You MUST do very well in them. Don’t let anything distract you from that - the timing of virtually every other single thing related to the application process can be tinkered with in order to make sure the grades are solid.

One other thing - an MPH is a “nice” thing to have as part of your application but it is not a hard-core science degree and it won’t make up for iffy grades in prereqs or iffy MCATs. So I don’t recommend thinking of the MPH degree as a way to bolster an application. It’ll give further shine to an already-impressive application but its polishing effect is definitely limited.

You sound really committed to the MPH. The MPH and prereq together are doable. However, as others have said you must do well in the prereqs. If your passion is in public health I say go for it!
There are programs that have MD/MPH programs. Some of these programs add an addtional year in med school. For example, here at Mayo the MPH has only recently been offerred. MS1 MS2 MPH MS3 MS4.
Only you can decide which option is the best for you. It is clear in your post that you really want the MPH. Having the MPH before med school may give you you a different perspective while in med school.
Good luck with your decision.


One other thing - an MPH is a “nice” thing to have as part of your application but it is not a hard-core science degree and it won’t make up for iffy grades in prereqs or iffy MCATs. So I don’t recommend thinking of the MPH degree as a way to bolster an application. It’ll give further shine to an already-impressive application but its polishing effect is definitely limited.

Well, even if it won’t bolster an application, it shows that you care about the public health impact of medicine. Many doctors do not fully realize/appreciate the hand-in-hand relationship that exists between medicine and public health.
Your application must shine and the MPH will add to it. Best of luck in deciding what to do. Also, as a side note, your MPH workload will depend on the concentration you choose (International health, Social and behavioral, Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Health services, Maternal-child health, etc…). Essay-writing, or number-crunching, reading journals and text books versus reading readers and coming to lectures, meeting in groups for group projects… You should keep these things in mind as you decide. You will be pulled in multiple directions, especially if you’re completing your pre-reqs simultaneously.
Don’t worry, just think about what you can realistically accomplish and go for it without looking back.

There’s nothing wrong with your plan, but I have to agree with Mary that your priority in your pre-med years has to be pre-med stuff; and the MPH, although helpful to you and possibly also inspiring to you, will not particularly help you with med school given that you already have great experience along the same lines. That is, Peace Corps and public health advocacy–the MPH is sort of just continuing that thread in your life.
Now, from the point of view of life generally, I endorse the MPH plan because it sounds like you’re interested in it and I believe in doing things you’re interested in, for their own sake. On the other hand from a strategic point of view, I’d give another point of view.
1. The premed classes should be your priority but if you’re in an MPH program at the same time the premed classes will seem like more of a drag and will be difficult to focus on.
2. You can complete the MPH in an even shorter time in med school or after med school; and if you do it in a post-med school fellowship, you can even get paid to do it. (e.g., in an ID fellowship).
3. The thing your application could use more of is not more evidence of committment to public health, of which you have plenty; but, I might guess that it might benefit from more evidence of exposure to clinical medicine and/or science. So, from a strictly strategic point of view you might well be better off volunteering in a clinical setting or working on a research project, etc.
4. You also need to make sure to have time to breathe, go on dates with your honey, eat yummy food, see nature, etc–whatever makes you sane and happy–while you are taking the premed prereqs.
5. If you are taking the MPH as a kind of “what if I don’t get in to med school?” hedge, this is a different issue; I still recommend against it because from the sounds of your experience and commitment, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t be able to go to med school. But from a strategic point of view, this is another question which deserves a separate discussion.
Therefore, unless the MPH is part of #4–what will keep you sane and happy while you take the prereqs–I recommend against it. Please feel free to totally disregard my advice however, and let me know what I can do to be helpful in the future.
best regards

Yeah, I’m one of those that said you could do it. But, I guess, I didn’t think about the premed grades which are so very important to med school application. Since I started my PhD way before I decided to go to med school, I did not think of an MD/PhD program. But, your case is different. Also, I have a science background.
You could do an MD/MPH. Therefore, as all the other posters have said so far and I totally agree with them, make sure you maintain your grades and have time to do other things like eat, walk, sleep, travel and volunteer in a clinical setting. Stay focussed and committed. There will be times when you can and probably will despair but hang in there, especially if you are going to do your premed and MPH.
Please feel free to write if you have more questions.
OPMers rock, they give us such valuable advice and guidance.