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Training Physicians For Public Health Careers
Early Career Paths
Preventive medicine residency is one route to a career in public health, typically taken early in a physician’s career, that provides a broad scope of public health training with both significant didactic experience and significant supervised practice experience. Physicians usually enter preventive medicine residencies either because they are interested in public health practice of some type or because they have an interest in research or practice related to clinical preventive services. Medical students may also choose to obtain a master of public health degree (M.P.H.) jointly with their medical degree through either an accredited school or program in public health.
Another fairly direct route to a career in public health—and one that is frequently taken early in a physician’s career—is the 2-year Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) training program offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and some states. The EIS program provides physicians (and other medical professionals) focused didactic experience and supervised field practice, specifically in epidemiology. This training may be very narrow (for example, primarily injury prevention research and interventions or communicable disease research and outbreak investigation) or somewhat broader (including management and policy experience), depending on the interest of the individual and the available field placements.
Later Career Paths
Some physicians choose to focus on population health in mid-career. Such physicians may have an established clinical or research practice and then become involved in administration, policy, or advocacy, perhaps in a somewhat narrow or specialized aspect of public health. An example might be a primary care physician who moves to work in a state or local public health setting.
Other physicians may not become involved in population health until later in their careers. Such physicians may work in clinical settings within public health departments, either because they develop an interest in the population aspects of medicine because of the types of health problems that they have seen during their years of practice (e.g., excessive premature births, child injuries, or human immunodeficiency virus infections) or because they are interested in working in a setting in which they are not burdened with managing their own business.
Physicians in mid- or late career have a number of educational options through which they may obtain the training needed to prepare them for careers in public health. These include pursuit of the M.P.H. degree, participation in certificate programs and public health training networks, and