Med School Professor Pursues MPH in Health Services Policy and Management to Enhance His Career
by Erin Bluvas
Students of Public Health focuses on research projects and other contributions students are making to advance public health. This series is guest edited by Johanzynn Gatewood, an MPH candidate in Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Florida-Gainesville [Full bio].
STUDENT PROFILES — Sonal Mehta already has a terminal degree, but he wants to keep learning about the healthcare system in which he is practicing and population health. The Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology in the University of South Carolina School of Medicine has also held several post-graduate positions. However, he wanted to learn more about biostatistics, health economics, community health, and health policy, so he enrolled in the Arnold School of Public Health’s Department of Health Services Policy and Management’s (HSPM) Master of Public Health program.
After completing medical school in India where he grew up, Mehta moved to the United States to complete an internal medicine internship at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago followed by a neurology residency at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland. Having already become a neurologist, Mehta then completed two additional fellowships to cement his expertise as a vascular neurologist: one in vascular neurology and then a second in endovascular surgical neuroradiology, both at Saint Louis University.
At this point, Mehta began looking for a faculty position. “The Department of Neurology at the USC School of Medicine was growing and had just started a new residency program, which presented unique opportunities,” he says. “I also had the chance to work under my department chair, Dr. Souvik Sen, who is a vascular neurologist as well and an excellent mentor.” In addition, USC provided an opportunity for Mehta’s wife to pursue a Ph.D. in Mass Communication in the University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
As a full-time faculty member and practicing physician, Mehta enrolled in the MPH program as a part-time student, but it’s already complementing the in-depth education and training that Mehta has completed. “My areas of public health interest are very closely tied to my clinical interests of neurology, especially in stroke care,” he explains. “I want to learn more about epidemiology and biostatistics, which would allow me to be a better researcher, and I want to work in the areas of health economics and cost of healthcare as I find those interesting as well as challenging in clinical practice.”
With these areas of interest in mind, the MPH in HSPM program is a perfect match for the physician. “I believe my time in the public health program is already helping me be a better teacher to my students and residents,” says Mehta, noting that HSPM faculty Mahmud Khan, Kelli Kenison, and Ronnie Horner have become positive influences. “I also hope that it will enable me to become a better researcher, a better physician, and in the long term, allow me to get more involved in the health policy aspect of healthcare.”
Erin Bluvas is the Public Information Coordinator for the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Erin manages communication activities (eg, faculty/staff research and publications, student spotlights) and channels (eg, web stories, social media) for the School’s six departments and promotes associated activities and programs to stakeholders. Erin earned her Bachelor’s (Clemson University) and Master’s (Auburn University) degrees in Communication. She has experience teaching communication courses (both online and in a traditional classroom setting) and managing communication in the manufacturing industry.
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