It took many years before I finally stopped having academic anxiety dreams after optometry school.
You know the one I’m talking about. You wake up the morning of the final exam, not having attended a single lecture the whole semester, and you realize you’re unprepared and late for the final.
You rush to the building and get in the elevator, only to find out it goes sideways instead of up and down. You run up the stairs while bad guys dressed in black chase you with guns. They fire shots and yell at you in a language you don’t understand.
Finally, you arrive at the classroom. Everyone looks up from the test (which they are all acing) and starts hee-hawing. You look down, and you discover you’re either still in your pajamas, wearing a jockstrap and garter belt like baseball pitcher Ebby Calvin “Nuke” LaLoosh in the movie Bull Durham, or more likely, buck naked.
So with such nightmares behind me, why would I risk a good night’s sleep to go back to graduate school to get a master’s degree in my early 50s? What am I, crazy?
I got those questions a lot, so I decided to write down a few answers.
Professional healthcare education programs have long offered a doctorate combined with a Master of Business Administration (MBA), Master of Health Administration (MHA), or Master of Public Health (MPH). But increasingly, mid- and late-career practitioners are seeking additional degrees, too.
Here are five reasons I did:
1. Preparation for an “encore career”
While my clinical career has been satisfying, it’s possible that I might retire from my current position in a few years and want to start another gig.
I felt that broadening my knowledge base in other aspects of healthcare (such as administration, policy, law, leadership) and picking up new skill sets (like finance, informatics, quality improvement, human capital management) might open up new opportunities.
The Master of Health Sciences in Clinical Leadership (MHS-CL) at Duke University School of Medicine is an interdisciplinary, combined onsite/online program. It proved to be a good fit for me.
Even if I never “use it,” per se, I enjoyed the journey and added knowledge and skills that help me be more effective right now.