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Graduate School Advice Needed 
6th-Jun-2012 12:40 pm
Hi! My name is Kurt and I have been out of school for about 2 years now. I graduated with a BA in Biology and a minor in Anthropology. I then went on to get a Masters in Biology. I have been trying to get into medical school for a while and it's just not panning out for me, and honestly I have lost interest in the path altogether. I've recently been rediscovering the love I had for anthropology back when I was in undergrad, especially medical anthropology. In doing so, I've realized that I can maintain my interest in medicine/biology and combine it with anthropology. I've started to look into graduate programs for medical anthropology and have been talking sporadically with an anthropology professor to get a better idea of where to start when it comes to applying to schools. Since she's so busy this summer, I'm posting some of my questions here to see if maybe some of you could help me out. Sorry this is kind of a lengthy post... Any help at all would be greatly appreciated!!

Going along with my once desire to get into medical school, the idea of working in public health somewhere, perhaps the CDC or WHO, seems to be a place where I would eventually like to work. I like the idea of epidemiology and studying/monitoring/preventing infectious diseases. I'm kind of stuck on where to begin right now. As far as graduate school is concerned, I know that the earliest shot I would have to get in is the fall of 2013. I'm wondering what steps I need to do to ensure acceptance. I've enrolled in some graduate level anthropology classes at a local university this fall to help show current interest and have also been reading articles by professors in schools that I'm interested in. Should I be contacting these professors soon to show them my interest in their work? Are there are other things I can do in the meantime that would impress graduate schools?

I've looked at positions at the CDC that I would be interested in, and it looks like most people who work there with background in Anthropology also have Masters in Public Health. Is this kind of background necessary to be able to work in this field of applied anthropology? Could one work in a similar field without having a MPH degree? If it is necessary to obtain an MPH as well, then would it be best to enter into a PhD/MPH program? Or could I study medical anthropology wherever I find a school that I connect the best with, and work on the MPH later? Or perhaps do the opposite, obtaining the MPH first?
6th-Jun-2012 05:52 pm (UTC)
Yes, start contacting professors with whom you might want to work, but be sure you have something substantive to say.

I strongly advocate doing the MPH first, either as a standalone degree or in conjunction with your PhD coursework. You may also wish to consider a DrPH or a PhD in epi instead of a PhD in anthro. Start reading up now on social epi, anthropological epi, and epi & culture.

6th-Jun-2012 06:00 pm (UTC)
I think in terms of working in public health, an MPH would be more useful than a PhD in medical anthropology on its own. If you do an MPH first, you would have the option of going straight to work or going to get a PhD (and I know medical anthropologists who've done the first followed by the second, and public health people who've only done the first). If you get a PhD in anthropology first and still want to work in public health, though, you essentially will have taken a 5+ year path and still not have reached your destination, unless you manage to find a joint degree program. In particular, and depending on your prior background, you may need more statistical and epidemiological training, since anthro programs tend to be significantly less quantitative than public health.

(Full disclosure: I am a grad student in an anthropology department with people who do medical and public health related research, and I've worked/taught with some of them, but it's not my research specialization. Someone more directly in the field might be able to help more.)
6th-Jun-2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
This is exactly my feeling (also in an anthropology department and not a specialist, though one of my friends is and wishes near the end of our Master's program that she did the MPH straight up). If you want to do public health, go for the MPH. Then decide if the PhD will be worthwhile.
6th-Jun-2012 10:35 pm (UTC)
First for graduateschool stuff and general questions I love the website GradCafe
I'm applying this fall too, and most people suggest waiting to contact potential professors until around august as the semesters are winding down and they're probably pretty busy.

A friend of mine who graduated with a BA in anthropology and wants to work in public health/ medical anthropology field was told by our (medical anthropology) professor to pursue the Masters of Public Health degree after undergrad. However, since you already have a MA in biology you may just be better off getting a PhD in Medical Anthropology. I suggest contacting your former advisers or the dean of anthropology at your former schools as well as people in the job positions you wish to acquire and ask them for some basic advice, it never hurts to ask!

Good luck!
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