Medical student decision making regarding pursuit of a public health degree

Sarah L. McFarland, Peter Meyers, Robin Sautter, Amanda Honsvall, Jacob Prunuske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Few US medical school graduates receive a public health degree. We sought to identify factors involved in medical students’ decisions to pursue dual medical and public health degrees and describe the decision-making process. METHODS: We conducted focus group discussions and telephone interviews with medical students considering, or enrolled in, a public health degree program. Participants described early exposures to public health, perspectives on physician public health roles, advantages and disadvantages of a public health degree, and the relative importance of factors influencing their decision to pursue a public health degree. Data were coded using open codes, and thematic analysis was performed. RESULTS: Medical students’ decisions about pursuing a public health degree are based on consideration of advantages and disadvantages of academic, personal, and financial factors. Students place weights on various factors and value guidance. CONCLUSIONS: Access to training and information about public health programs and career opportunities may facilitate decisionmaking. Knowledge of factors involved in students’ decisions and the decision-making process will allow mentors, advisors, faculty, and staff working to recruit students into MPH programs to support students interested in earning dual medical and public health degrees. Future research should explore avenues for supporting medical student decision-making and further reducing barriers to public health training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-211
Number of pages9
JournalFamily medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. All rights reserved.


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