“I’m going through changes…”

Cue the song by Ozzy Osbourne or Eminem, your pick. Either way, the point is that as my experiences in public health in poor countries develop and as I read more and more broadly (more on that in a second), my career path has diverged from the naive straight path I set for myself a little more than a year ago.

I’ve decided on pursuing an MPH in Global Health Epidemiology. That would serve as the basis for my career and give me two years, in the classroom and in the field, to help me discern exactly what I want to do next. Here are the possibilities, ranked in likelihood of coming to fruition:

1. Get my MPH, and then go on to get a PhD in Medical Anthropology, concentrating on the social factors (political, economic, cultural, etc) that play into the incidence and transmission of infectious disease.

2. Get my MPH, and then go on to medical school and specialize in Infectious Disease.

3. Get my MPH, and then go on to get a PhD in Parasitology or Virology.

4. Just get an MPH and then begin my life’s work.

One might say, ‘Well Mike, you seem to have a pretty well laid out plan. How did you get to where you are today?’ I’d respond with what I touched on earlier, and that is reading. Reading much, in as much depth as possible, and as much breadth as possible. Since I returned home from Nicaragua, I’ve read a few books that have been indispensable in helping me discern my career path (all linked to Amazon.com, I’d recommend all of them if you share some of my interests and aspirations):

  1. Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracy Kidder.
    Without going into too much detail, my eyes were opened to the wonderful model life lived by Dr. Paul Farmer and all the trouble he has gone through in his dedication to alleviating health disparities in some of the world’s poorest countries (Haiti in particular).
  2. Epidemiological Methods: Studying the Occurence of Illness, by Koepsell and Weiss
    A textbook. Yep, a textbook. But how could I say that I wanted to study Epidemiology without familiarizing my brain with some of its fundamentals? Great book though.
  3. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic–and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
    A great work of investigating the history of the cholera outbreak of 1854 in London, England. It is also a biography of John Snow, one of the first modern epidemiologists, and a history and commentary on the relationship between urbanism and public health infrastructure.
  4. Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues by Paul Farmer
    The first book I read by the man who has become my role model. Satisfied by intellectual thirst for finding out what is really happening in poor countries like the ones I lived in, and how structural violence, social disparities, and a host of other factors keep the poor underserved and most vulnerable to infection.

And on the long list of books that I have purchased and are sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read:

  1. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor by Paul Farmer
  2. And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic, 20th-Anniversary Edition by Randy Shilts
  3. Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Microbial Evolution by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan
  4. The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, And The Human Condition by Arthur Kleinman
  5. Writing at the Margin: Discourse Between Anthropology and Medicine by Arthur Kleinman

So as you see, I’ve got a firm grip on the steering wheel and know which roads will take me where I want to go, and have the best GPS available: the words of great men and women in print, and those of whom I trust, my friends.

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