MPH for clinicians

Many clinicians have a perception that MPH is a degree that should be studied by only those who intend to build their career in public health. Those who are determined to continue as clinicians do not need to study MPH at all. I will argue that this school of thought is not fully correct.

The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree provides clinicians with an introduction to the concept of Public Health. This introduction helps in creating the public health mind-set in clinicians which is essential to improve health of the people and deliver health care in new ways. The MPH degree provides more than a new way of viewing health and health policy issues. Clinicians can consider the added value of earning an MPH in at least three ways:

1. For optimizing individual patients care
2. For maximizing one’s potential to contribute to Public Health
3. For learning to participate in clinical research

Caring for individual patients: MPH training can help clinicians do their clinical work better in several ways:

First, enhance skills to read the medical literature critically. This helps clinicians know which research findings are more valid than others and how to apply evidence to their own patients. The MPH provides the decision tools that help clinicians determine the extent to which research findings can be generalized to a specific patient, and whether the benefits outweigh the harms.

Second, by helping clinicians understand the health care system within which they deliver care, particularly giving clinicians the tools they need to understand and use such concepts as quality of and access to care. Individual patients will not achieve the most desired outcomes if they do not have access to care, or if they have access to care that is of poor quality. MPH training helps clinicians think through system lens, using these and other concepts to understand how health care systems can be designed to optimize access and quality for individual patients.

Third, by helping clinicians understand the critical role played by prevention in clinical medicine. This means learning how to consider the problems of prioritizing preventive care interventions and how to provide the most appropriate preventive care to each patient.

Maximizing one’s potential for making a contribution to the health of the population: Clinicians can practice public health along with their clinical practice and contribute enormously in improving population health. This needs acquiring public health mind-set and skills. Many times the solutions to health problems lie outside the clinical encounter. Understanding both clinical and public health views makes it easy to see how similar the goals of public health professionals and clinicians are. Public health and clinical medicine are not totally different disciplines, but rather groups of professionals working in different places, and in different ways, toward the same goals. Public health training gives clinicians a new set of eyes and a new set of tools with which to expand their ability to improve the health of the people. The health care leaders of tomorrow will be people who can think BOTH in terms of individuals (as taught by the medical school) and in terms of groups (as taught by the School of Public Health).

A clinician who has earned an MPH degree can begin to improve health beyond the medical encounter. He or she can work with others in the community (including public health professionals and community members) toward preventing disease and improving health in various venues, and in various ways. Clinician with an MPH will play an important role, in concert with others, in understanding and beginning to solve health problems on local, regional, national, and global levels.

Training to participate in clinical research: People often assume that the MPH degree is primarily a research degree. The fact is that many people earning an MPH never intend to conduct clinical research. However, the MPH can also be the beginning of a career with a primary focus on clinical research. The MPH curriculum is flexible.

Clinicians interested in conducting research can take courses that prepare them for these types of careers (clinical epidemiology, clinical trial etc.). Indeed, it is difficult for many young clinical researchers to establish themselves as researchers without an MPH or similar training at the beginning. Thus, although an interest in conducting research is NOT a prerequisite to earning an MPH, an MPH is desired entering into the research arena.

Earning an MPH degree gives a clinician three broad new sets of tools for integrating the perspectives of medicine and public health. The MPH degree produces clinicians who understand the connections between the health of their individual patients, the health care systems through which they deliver care, and the health of the broader communities–and the world–in which they and their patients live.


Prof. Dr. Dipak Mitra
MBBS -Sher E Bangla Medical College, Barishal
MPH- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
PHD -Johns Hopkins School of Public Health
Department of Public Health
North South University.


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