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Advantages of MD/PHD

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by vicinihil, 12.26.04.

  1. vicinihil

    vicinihil Member Moderator Emeritus

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    just curious but what drives you guys to be MD/PHD...is it the love of the research? How much medicine do you practice in the future as a doctor with an MD/PHD same hospital setting or laboratory setting.
  2. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Administrator SDN Senior Moderator Lifetime Donor

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    I think people will give you a lot of different answers, depending on their individual interests and backgrounds. I am a PhD student wanting to go to medical school after I graduate, and my rationale is that I definitely want to do research but I would like to do clinical research as opposed to straight bench research. People with MD/PhDs can mostly practice or can mostly do bench work, depending on their interests and careers. I would like to do some combination where I see patients, do research, and teach.
  3. b&ierstiefel

    b&ierstiefel Guest

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    What does an MD/PhD mean to me? Granted, my answer is biased in that my goal is to do 80-90% basic science research in the future.
    1. Opportunity to learn the vast array of knowledge that medicine has to offer. This enables the investigator to ask interesting questions that non-MD investigators may not come up with as naturally.
    2. Get excellent training as a scientist (but you can get this through a straight PhD program). MD training doesn't train you to be a scientist.
    3. Staying ahead in this day and age of credential inflation. Before, having a PhD was perfectly sufficient to get a tenure-track faculty position. But now, many people are getting PhDs making the job market more competitive. The average # of years required to complete a postdoc and compete for tenure-track positions has been increasing. So the MD helps out tremendously. If you can go to a hospital and offer valuable clinical service, even though it is part time, the institution will clear out some lab space for you to keep you happy.
    4. PhD investigators get paid squat. Having the MD and putting in your 10-20% clinical work hours will double your salary. But you won't be making nearly as much as someone who does solely clinical work. But c'mon, let's not ask for too much. And plus, if you salary doubles, you live that much more comfortably :)
    5. If you don't get tenure, you can still keep your clinical appointment (safety net phenomenon) and not get automatically booted from your institution.
    6. Having an MD will increase the availability of grant funding for which you can apply (i.e., I think there are grants that are only available to those with an MD after their name). Hence, more grants mean more money for the institution meaning increased likelihood that you WILL get tenure.

    Can't think of anymore...I wanted to get to 10 :(

    Anyways, that's my 2 cents.
  4. treetrunk

    treetrunk deep roots

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    Thanks so much for your insight AndyMilonakis. I hadn't thought about some of those points. :)

    -treetrunk
  5. GlycoNE1

    GlycoNE1 Junior Member

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    Another advantage is not having to worry about the 100K+ student loans that MD students have to worry about. There are also disadvantages about MD/PhD programs, as they are especially longer than MD or PhD programs alone. I've seen many of my friends in MST programs get burnt out quite early on and students need to realize the program demands a lot of work and time before commencing this daunting track.
    I'm interested in what current students or graduates of the program have to say about this...
  6. b&ierstiefel

    b&ierstiefel Guest

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    Burnout is definitaly a factor, you're right about that. Personally, I had quite a bit of success (serendipity) during the PhD years and so I was having a lot of fun and I didn't wanna leave the lab. At the same time, when I was "writing up" for 1-2 months (which was not an ordeal by any means because it involved cutting and pasting my publications as chapters so in essence, writing up only took 1-2 days), I spent a lot of time playing video games, sitting on my ass, going out to the bar, traveling (to different bars), etc. Those days were fun and definitely something I needed. I think that if projects don't work out the way they're supposed to do and you're spending years and years in the lab being not as productive as you would like, then burnout becomes a significant deal. Sure, your love for doing science and troubleshooting can get you through some of those :( days but the human will can only take so many punches and shots. I have seen burnout in some of my fellow MSTPers at my institution, mainly because experiments haven't worked in a long long time. They've been in the PhD phase for too long that they get the sense that it's too late to quit. However, they also realize that if they stay the course, they still may not see the light at the end of the tunnel for quite some time. It's frustrating.

    I was cognizant of these issues, but still quite naive, non-cynical, and optimistic when I first started the program. One of the first pieces of advice I got was, "Hope for the best, fear for the worst." This was back in the age when the average # of years needed to complete the PhD phase at our school was around 5 years. When I first started, there was this term used to describe people who were spending 10+ total in the program, "Club X" or "Decade Club". Some folks throw around the term, "Lifer". They have since graduated. The majority of the folks here graduate in 4 years. Some of us have completed the PhD in 3. Some of this is that the program director has been very proactive in trying to get people finished in a reasonable amount of time.
  7. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith Moderator Emeritus

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    All of the above-mentioned points are excellent ones.

    I will add: With an MD/PhD, a physician-scientist is poised to function fluidly at the interface of science and medicine. As you proceed through your academic career, the extent to which the extra training confers an advantage to MD/PhDs will become apparent. A partcularly illustrative example of this is in the setting of an academic medical center, MD/PhDs can observe both clinical and scientific seminars and understand their respective scientific and clinical implications more rapidly and deeply, on average, compared with their MD or PhD colleagues.

    An analogy might be an internet search engine (i.e. Google). The MD is like having a really large capacity index of websites (i.e. clinical knowledge). The PhD is the engine's ability to focus and carry out the search rapidly (i.e. problem solving). Without a large index or optimized searching ability, the search engine can still run, but not as efficiently or as effectively.

    In other words, having the MD/PhD hones the investigator to rapidly and efficiently identify clinically important problems that can be solved using scientific tools.
  8. Witty Web Name

    Witty Web Name Junior Member

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    I have people close to me who have incurable diseases. I also have a knack for science, like doing research projects (at least the ones they let me design in undergrad), and have an analytical mind.

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