As I wrote in my chapter “My Journey to Becoming a Teen Doc“ in The Chronicles of Women in White Coats 2 book, I have wanted to be a doctor since I was ten years old. During my adolescent medicine fellowship, I enjoyed working with my patients one on one but I always thought that I could do more. I began to consider that I could better support the health of women and children at the population level. However, at that time, I was burned out from residency, and getting another degree seemed exhausting. As I settled into attending life a few years later, my desire to get an MPH did not dissipate. I began to consider many factors to determine if this would be the right path to take.
Here are some things to consider when thinking about getting that additional degree.
1. Will getting this second-degree help to achieve your career goals?
Are you interested in medical directorship, hospital administration, working at the Food and Drug Administration, or something else entirely? Depending on your interests and goals, having only an M.D. degree may be sufficient. This is where networking is essential. There are many resources available to us. Log into LinkedIn, where you can tap into and even expand your current network. Look for people who are currently in the position that you want. Examine their profile and see how they got into their role. Don’t hesitate to send them a message. Another useful tool is Facebook. I know Facebook is highly problematic for many reasons. However, there are many good Facebook groups for physicians. There are groups for physician leaders, entrepreneurs, and others looking to change their career path. Lastly, consider traditional networking through our professional organizations, through their websites, listservs, and conferences.
2. The financial cost after taking out student loans to pay for medical education.
The idea of taking out more loans to pay for another degree is daunting. One could cut costs by attending a state or city institution. Besides, take a look at your benefits package. Your hospital or academic institution may have a tuition reimbursement program for employees. One should also look into a loan repayment program for medical school loans. If you are in a primary care field, your job site may qualify you for a loan repayment program.
3. Find the right program to fit your lifestyle changes.
As we all know, the schedule of a physician can be very tough. We work 12-hour shifts, weekends, late nights, or have massive paperwork to do after a full day of scheduled patients. Also, we may have children, a significant other, or act as a caregiver to a loved one. It is essential to find the right program that will fit into your life. Many programs have both full-time and part-time offerings. Part-time programs offer classes on nights and weekends. Many executive programs cater to busy professionals by providing courses over a long weekend once a month. When I started my MPH program, it was only one of a handful of online programs in the country. Now, there are many programs in many fields where you can take classes from your living room.
I enjoyed getting my MPH degree. The information I learned about our healthcare system, health equity, health policy/management, and social determinants of health has made me a better physician and better prepared for my current management role at my institution. It is essential to consider if getting an additional degree aligns with your career goals, is financially feasible, and can fit into your current lifestyle.
Dr. Jennifer Davis is a Women in White Coats Fellow and the co-author of the Chronicles of Women in White Coats Book two. Follow her on Instagram @ Jaydee_MD