My name is Lizzy and I am currently enrolled in the joint MD/MPH program at SUNY Upstate Medical University, which means that I plan to graduate in 2017 with a doctorate of medicine (MD) and a master of public health (MPH) degrees.

Everyone knows what an MD is, but what about this public health business? Studying public health is quickly becoming more popular because it looks at the health of a community, instead of just individuals.

For example, traditional medicine might think about obesity as “This one person is overweight. He needs to eat less and exercise more.” But public health looks at the fact that obesity rates are high for a whole city and asks “Do the grocery stores sell fresh food? Are the fruits and vegetables affordable? Do people feel safe walking outside? Are there designated bike lanes for people to ride to work?”

In other words, public health tries to look at the root causes of health for a community. I chose to take an extra year* of classes and learn about public health because I think it is important to be aware of the bigger picture.

While medical school training is very important for learning how to diagnose and treat disease, public health taught me to think about how factors like education, income, race, neighborhood environment, and health insurance also affect our well-being. And the experience has fully met my expectations: I’ve learned to consider problems from a new perspective, to look at the world differently, and have also gained practical experience in program planning and health research.

Here are 10 of the greatest things that public health has achieved in the last 100 years. With my MPH training, I hope to add to the list!

  • Recognizing that tobacco is a health hazard
  • Decreased heart attack and stroke-related deaths
  • Vaccines
  • Safer workplaces
  • Motor vehicle safety (Seat belts)
  • Control of infectious diseases (Hand washing)
  • Safer and healthier foods
  • Fluoridation of drinking water
  • Family planning
  • Healthier mothers and babies

If you are interested in helping others to live healthier lives or in making a difference in your community through health initiatives, you should consider a public health degree. For more information about the Central New York MPH program and to see what graduates are doing with their degrees, check out their YouTube channel:

*Most MPH programs are a 2-year graduate program and MD programs are usually 4 years long, but Upstate’s MD/MPH joint degree is letting me finish both in 5 years.

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