Choosing a major can be a daunting task for any student, but for pre-medical students, it can feel particularly challenging. As a pre-med student myself, I wanted to pursue a major that would give me a comprehensive understanding of healthcare and the health issues that impact our society. That’s why I ultimately chose to major in public health.
One of the primary reasons I was drawn to public health was because of its focus on social health disparities, an issue that I am deeply passionate about. In public health, we learn about the social determinants of health, which include factors such as income, education, race and access to healthcare. These determinants have a significant impact on an individual’s healthcare and treatment options. Studying these determinants allow us to better understand the root causes of common health disparities.
At Florida State University (FSU), the public health program specializes in health-focused social science, public policy and advanced statistical methods. This interdisciplinary approach to public health provides students with a strong foundation in the five core areas of public health: epidemiology, environmental health sciences, health policy & management, social & behavioral sciences, and biostatistics.
In addition to core courses in public health, we also learn about the healthcare system and possible ways to improve it. We examine issues such as healthcare access, quality and cost. We also explore potential solutions to these problems. As a pre-med student, this knowledge will be valuable to me as I navigate the healthcare system and work to provide quality care to my future patients.
Furthermore, public health and medicine are closely related fields, with public health providing a broader perspective on healthcare issues on a population level. This is why I plan to pursue both a doctorate in medicine (MD) and a master’s in public health (MPH) after completing my undergraduate degree.
Aside from the traditional public health career paths, such as epidemiology and community health, the public health field offers a wide range of job opportunities. Some other job opportunities in public health include health education and promotion, health policy analysis, global health, environmental health and occupational health. These jobs often require further schooling beyond a bachelor’s degree, such as a master’s in public health or healthcare administration.
Another advantage of the public health major is its relatively small size, which allows for more flexibility and exploration. I have been able to fit in all my major classes, pre-med prerequisites, and even some extra STEM courses that interest me while still graduating in three years. With more pre-med students taking gap years, graduating early can provide me with more opportunities to gain clinical experience, volunteer, conduct research, study for the MCAT, or time to relax and travel before entering medical school.
If I ever decide that I want to add an extra year, I could always complete a thesis, double major, or pursue a certificate program and still graduate in four years. This flexibility is particularly useful for me because I want to explore other areas of study, such as psychology or international relations.
In summary, declaring a public health major provides students with a unique perspective on healthcare issues and prepares them for a variety of healthcare-related careers. Through examining social health disparities, learning about the healthcare system, and exploring potential solutions to healthcare problems, public health majors gain a comprehensive understanding of healthcare that can be applied to a variety of fields. When choosing a major, it’s crucial to consider your interests and goals and to speak with a career advisor or mentor for guidance. Additionally, it’s wise to factor in salary and job prospects. For those interested, FSU Career Center offers career advising and opportunities to explore career paths and gain experience through internships and job shadowing.
If you’re someone who is passionate about healthcare and interested in finding a major that allows for flexibility and exploration, I highly recommend looking into your school’s public health program. From my point of view, the public health major is the perfect foundation for my future career as a physician and public health practitioner, and I’m excited to see where this path takes me.