Navigating the Best Dual MD/MPH Programs: A Personalized Approach

Published on: Nov 5, 2023

There has been a 434% increase in the number of students pursuing dual MD/MPH degrees since the early 2000s1. Over the past decade, the United States has shifted from traditionally siloed medicine to a focus on population and community health, adopting a holistic approach to medicine. With this shift in focus, over 90 medical schools have created MD/MPH dual degree programs to equip their future doctors with the education and skills they need to most effectively and comprehensively treat their communities and patients. MD/MPH programs can vary in concentration, geographic location and involvement with the neighboring community, mode of delivery, and much more. 

This article provides information, guiding questions to consider, and profiles of top MD/MPH combined degree programs in the United States.

Factors to Consider in Selecting a Dual MD/MPH Program:

  • 1) Learning Style and Program Structure

    When selecting an MD/MPH dual degree program, it is important to choose a school and program that can be tailored to your preferred learning style and structure. Below are a few questions to consider.

    Do you perform better in smaller or bigger class sizes? According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, medical school enrollment has increased by over 25% since the early 2000’s2. Medical school class sizes vary, from 400 students per class to over 1000 students per class. If class size is important to you, inquire about the number of people typically enrolled in each cohort for the medical schools and public health programs that you are considering. 

    Do you have a preference for when you complete your public health coursework? There is flexibility in the timeline of MPH coursework completion. Some schools allow you to take a whole year off from your MD degree to complete your classes and MPH fieldwork, while others offer MPH courses at night to accelerate your degree

    Do you have specific public health interests? Many programs offer specific public health concentrations, such as health policy, health administration, biostatistics, or global health. If you want to pursue a career in something like policy or hospital management, look at a program that allows you to specialize in one of your public health interests.

  • 2) Accreditation and Program Quality

    There are over 90 accredited MD/MPH dual degree programs in the United States. Medical degree programs become accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and public health programs are accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health. Both are independent agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. MD programs and MPH programs are rated separately by U.S. News & World Report for their academic quality and ranked against all other accredited medical and public health degree programs. Medical schools are ranked in two categories: primary care and research.

  • 3) Area of Specialization and Concentrations

    There are numerous dual degree specializations available for MD/MPH students, including, but not limited to, population health, family medicine, health promotion, biostatistics, health policy, healthcare management, epidemiology and preventive medicine. You can also look at the curriculum for the dual degree program, which should list core required courses, and choose one that aligns with your interests.

  • 4) On-campus versus Hybrid On-Campus/Option

    While medical school is typically in-person, some schools, like St. George’s University, offer online MD classes. For dual degree programs, the University of Minnesota, offers their MPH degree fully online. This type of program is especially helpful for individuals who are working part time, have families, or want to spend the year away from campus. In-person programs are great for folks that want to fully delve into their public health education, as they often enable more socialization, networking, and engagement with your professors and cohort.

  • 5) Financial Considerations and Scholarships

    It is no secret that graduate medical education is expensive. A study found that altogether the world spends $100 billion every year on medical education3. We don’t want medical school tuition or MPH tuition to break the bank, so it’s important to take finances and scholarships into consideration when looking at graduate programs. 

    Public Service Loan Forgiveness - is a federal program that allows loan forgiveness for government workers or non-profit employees. After paying a percentage of one's loan that is proportionate to their salary for 120 months (non-consecutively), the remaining balance of an individual’s loans are forgiven. Many hospitals are categorized as non-profit organizations, and therefore will qualify their employees for public service loan forgiveness. 

    Graduate Assistant and Teaching Assistant Positions - the first few years of your education will most likely be lecture-based learning, and most graduate schools offer GA and TA positions to students in exchange for stipends and/or reduced or free cost of tuition. Individuals will often be paired with a specific course or professor and be assigned research, grading, or other similar entry-level work. Typical hours can range from 5-20 and are often completed asynchronously. These positions are advertised on university websites, so take a look at your prospective program’s opportunities. 

    MPH Scholarships - there is an abundance of public health scholarships that you may be eligible for. In addition to school-specific scholarships, there are over 70 private, non-profit, and government sponsored scholarships available for students studying public health. Many scholarships target specific concentration areas, such as health administration, public health practice, health policy, and environmental health

    MD Scholarships - the Association of American Medical Colleges maintains an up-to-date database of loan repayment, forgiveness, and scholarships for MD students entering medical school. There are also many school-specific and specialty-specific scholarships and financial aid opportunities offered to medical students. 

  • 6) Research Opportunities and Facilities

    Many schools will offer research opportunities as part of their dual MD/MPH degrees. Most MPH programs require students to complete a capstone project, many of which result in peer-reviewed publications. Most medical schools also provide ample opportunities to conduct clinical research with fellow students and faculty that similarly result in publications. U.S. News & World Report ranks medical schools for research, so if research is important to you, take a look at their ranking system and see where your prospective schools fall. 

    Additionally, many schools will offer scholarships for summer or semester research fellowships, so reach out to the program administrators to express interest in research.

  • 7) Location

    With a surplus of MD/MPH dual degree programs in a variety of geographic environments, it’s important to consider location in your search. Some questions to consider: 

    Where do you want to live during your graduate studies experience? There are dual MD/MPH programs located in urban, suburban, and rural parts of the country. If you have a location preference, consider a school located near where you want to live. 

    What type of job do you want to have after graduating? If you want to work for the government, consider a program near the state capitol or DC. If you want to work for a large academic medical institution, consider a school like the University of San Francisco or University of Pennsylvania with a large hospital system. If you want to work in community medicine, consider a school that has deep ties to their community and offers clinical rotations or fieldwork in the school district or local health center. 

  • 8) Networking Opportunities

    We know that networking is an integral part of professional life nowadays. Being in graduate school cultivates countless networking opportunities, both with your fellow medical and public health students and the program faculty. Many schools have offices of student affairs to promote student engagement both within the university and outside in the local community. Schools have relationships with neighboring non-profit organizations, hospitals, public schools, nongovernmental organizations, and government officials. 

    MD/MPH students will have clinical rotations focused on patient care, and most likely some type of public health internship incorporated into their curriculum. Look into the partnerships that your school has developed and choose a program with partnering organizations that interest you. Additionally, universities will sponsor career fairs, mentorship programs, and often have at least one administrator dedicated to student employment and community outreach. With MD/MPH degrees becoming increasingly common and sought after, the question is not can I get a job, but which job will be the best fit for me?

Conducting Thorough Research

  • 1) Utilize Official University Websites and Program Brochures

    Each public health and medical program has established webpages, and often schools will have a separate section or page for dual MD/MPH programs. Explore the websites and note the dual degree focus (i.e., population health, preventive medicine, global health, etc.,) curriculum, faculty, length of program, job placement, and clinical partnerships offered. Many public health programs are already housed within the schools of medicine, such as University of Southern California and University of Pennsylvania, while others have separate medical and public health schools, like Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University.

    Browse the universities websites and get a sense of the type of dual degree program that is right for you!

  • 2) Explore Rankings and Reputations

    US News and Report publishes rankings for every accredited public health and medical program (separated by research and primary care focus) in the country. Explore where your prospective programs fall in this ranking system. In addition to rankings, you can often gauge a program’s reputation through Google searches. Look into the history of the program, what the school is known for, and job placement statistics after graduation. 

    To get a sense of the experience, seek out student testimonials, profiles, and reviews!

  • 3) Gather Information from Current and Former Students

    Utilize the network of current and former students for personalized data gathering. You are considering joining their network, so set up informational interviews to pick their brains about the admission process, their experience in the dual MD/MPH program, getting into residency, and so on. 

  • 4) Attend Virtual or In-Person Information Sessions

    Most schools offer virtual or in-person information sessions for prospective students. Attend these sessions to gather information and ask any questions you may have. This also allows you to develop relationships with the program administrators, such as the associate dean, and can increase your chances of getting accepted into the program. 

  • 5) Seek Guidance from Academic Advisors or Professionals in the Field

    Your medical and public health school professors will likely be established and renowned individuals in the field.  Utilize them for advice, networking opportunities, and mentorship. Take a look at their bios or LinkedIn profiles. These faculty will be your advisors and resources while you are in each program; take advantage of their knowledge and networks, and choose a program with professors that have research publications, applied practice experience, or common interests that appeal to you.

MPH Making an Impact

Profiling the Best Dual MD/MPH Programs

About the Authors

Written by:

Kerra Henkin, MPH, ML

Kerra Henkin, MPH, ML, is a program manager at one of the largest academic medical centers in the country. In her current role, she aligns and expands programming with needs identified in the federally mandated community health needs assessment, and deploys organizational resources to support community health improvement. Prior to this role, she was a community health educator for an advocacy nonprofit organization in Philadelphia. She has co-authored multiple research papers on criminal justice and substance abuse, and will be presenting on law enforcement assisted diversion at the 2023 American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. 

Ms. Henkin holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master in Law (ML) from the University of Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Health Sciences from Ithaca College.

Opinions and information published by the author on are of her own and do not necessarily represent the views of opinions of her employer.

Kerra Henkin headshot

Kerra Henkin, MPH, ML

Program Manager

Education: University of Pennsylvania

Knowledge: Community health education

Reviewed by:

Katherine Paul, MPH

Katherine Paul, MPH is a senior project manager at a leading medical communications and publications organization. She supports multidisciplinary teams handling large-scale accounts, the deliverables of which improve health outcomes and patient well-being. Ms. Paul holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in Health Promotion from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health and passed the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) shortly after graduation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Dickinson College.

Ms. Paul previously worked at a public health non-profit where she managed all aspects of diverse health-related projects, including the implementation of a randomized controlled clinical trial on sexual health for teens with developmental disabilities, as well as the evaluation of a statewide tobacco cessation program with more than 20,000 annual cases. She has developed and delivered posters and presentations at national conferences including the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. 

Opinions and information published by the author here on are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer or other organizations for my designated roles.

Katherine Paul

Katherine Paul, MPH

Editorial Lead

Education: Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health

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