But working on two degrees sounds like it would be harder and take longer than either degree alone. Monica Boggs, a current MD/MPP candidate, will be earning a degree to be a medical doctor (MD) and a master's degree in public policy (MPP) from UCLA.
The David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA has a specialized concurrent degree program for MD/MPP, and because it takes advantage of similarities among both programs to reduce the time it would take to accomplish either one separately, the program lasts five years.
Why get a dual degree?
Monica wanted to do more than just surgery.
"Before medical school," she says, "I was a teacher in South Central Los Angeles and I saw firsthand how many students didn't have healthcare and the negative effects on their education. I found myself struggling to help them navigate our crazy healthcare system. I knew that along with becoming a doctor, I wanted to have an impact in the way healthcare is delivered."
"So, I thought the additional master's degree in public policy would be the best way to practice medicine and also to help fix the healthcare system," she says.
Boggs is excited to someday be working at a large county hospital with an academic affiliation, which would allow her to continue to teach and tutor. She's also considering a public health department, where she feels she can make policy changes that can make a difference at the county or hospital level.
How does the concurrent degree program complement medical school?
Boggs explains the concurrent degree program is comprised of three years of medical school, followed by the first year of the MPP program. The second year of the MPP program folds into the fourth and final year of medical school. This schedule gives medical students like her the hands-on clinical experience prior to beginning the public policy component of a joint degree program, and takes the place of the work experience required of other MPP students so they are on similar footing at the same time.
"We take a year between the third and fourth year of medical school to start the MPP classes," Boggs says. "I was worried that time away would interfere with the clinical momentum of medical school that grows during the third and fourth year. What I did during my first-year MPP studies was continue to volunteer in the UCLA Mobile Clinic, and [tutor] other medical student underclassmen to keep my clinical skills and teaching skills fresh."
"During the fourth-year specialty rotations of medical school, which in my case is surgery," she adds, "the MPP program encompasses a practicum for a real employer on a real-world policy problem where you work as an outside consultant — so it's not a full-time in class load anymore."
How much harder is the workload?
Like most medical students, Monica is conditioned to handle the workload after those first years of medical school, but the way the concurrent degree program is designed makes it feel doable. "Sure, I have to plan more and there is extra work, but I'm driven to do it to achieve my goals," says Boggs, who makes lists in her planner and on post-it notes regularly so she doesn't miss a thing.
Medical students who have matriculated in DGSOM may apply to the UCLA Graduate Division for any concurrent degree program during the fall of their third year of medical school, by December 31.