Blog Global Health Center

Paving a career in health care: Opportunities in MPH, PhD & MD programs

Written by William Hutson, WUSTL undergraduate and Centene Institute for Advanced Health Education Scholar in the 2021 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program

One of the many advantages of taking part in the Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program, Public & Global Health Track is being connected to many students from diverse backgrounds who also seek to improve health outcomes in communities worldwide. It’s important that more people pursue careers in health care, as the World Health Organization estimates that we need 18 million additional health care workers to achieve Universal Health Coverage worldwide by 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic has stressed how crucial physicians, scientists and public health workers are in achieving this mission.


In the workshop Planning and Preparing for Careers in Public and Global Health moderated by Ericka Hayes, MD, we learned about MPH, PhD and MD programs and how they can be used to pursue a wide variety of careers. Associate Dean for Public Health at the Brown School, Rodrigo Reis, PhD, began the seminar by discussing public health’s roles in addressing the global burden of disease and health disparities that systems of oppression perpetuate. Assistant Dean for Public Health, Angela Hobson, PhD, then shifted towards talking about the Brown School’s MPH program, and how students are able to obtain additional degrees, and tailor their educational experience to their interests by specializing.

Associate Professor Christina Stallings, PhD, continued the seminar by highlighting the creative, collaborative and interdisciplinary nature of PhD programs. She shared that the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences alone has 13 PhD programs. She emphasized her enthusiasm for creating new knowledge and how a PhD gives you access to a wide plethora of careers in different industries.

At the end of the seminar, Dr. Gregory Polites, MD, associate professor of Emergency Medicine, gave us an insider’s guide to medical school admissions. As somebody who has taken his MedPrep I course, I’ve found much of his advice to be helpful in my pre-medical journey. His presentation stressed that medical schools take a holistic approach to reviewing applications, and that demonstrating a passion for medicine and the extracurricular activities that you truly enjoy goes a long way.

My biggest takeaway from this seminar is that there is no one-size-fits-all career in health care. As a pre-medical student who will be applying to a 3-2 MPH program this year, I felt reassured by this seminar. I want to pursue a career that allows me to both treat and prevent illnesses by addressing the underlying risk factors in underserved communities, and this seminar highlighted many ways this can be done.