phonyreal98

10+ Year Member
Apr 20, 2008
695
157
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MD/PhD Student
1) I would recommend getting your first few tests out of the way and seeing how you do before getting involved with research. More power to you if you can pass your classes and have 20 hours a week leftover to work on research, but that doesn't describe a lot of people. If you can manage this, you might be able to have some data ready to go (or a methodology figured out or something) when you enter grad school and this could shorten the amount of time to publishing your papers, but even so you will still likely be in lab for 3+ years. Your papers would almost certainly need to be published after you start grad school though.

2) Probably not and even so, it may not be a good idea to try to get out of research year requirements. Most straight up PhD's do a postdoc to acquire new skills that they didn't get while they were PhD students (as well as to publish and start writing grants). Even if you already have training as an MD/PhD and you find a program that would be willing to let you skip the research years altogether, most folks would recommend that you use that time to gain new research skills and publish rather than forgo it because you will need the skills/papers/grants on your CV in order to get hired as a tenure track faculty member.

3) There was a thread on this a couple weeks ago, but the take-home message is that this sort of thing is very rare and almost always involves factors that are out of the applicants' control.
 

starfun21

5+ Year Member
Jun 14, 2014
582
1,222
Status
MD/PhD Student
Hi there! Are you an MS1 in an MD/PhD program now? Just want to make sure I understand so I'm giving the best answer I can.

I largely agree with the poster above. As a current second year MD/PhD student, here are a few of my thoughts (with main points bolded since this is long):

1. I really would not advise this. Many of the reasons have already been stated. It's interesting that your school only has two hours of lecture per day, but perhaps there is a lot of independent learning that takes place outside of those classes? Or labs/small groups/etc? They say at my institution that being a med student is a full time job, and I really agree. It's typically learning that takes place not just in the classroom, but outside as well and within clinics/meetings/etc that aren't always "on the schedule." Your time fills up very quickly. Even a few hours of lecture material can be dense and seem to bury you before you know it! I would worry that you would burn yourself out with such a hectic schedule, and burn out early in a career like this one is not so good.

Secondly, depending on how your institution works -- do you already have a lab that you know you will end up in? As only a first year student, you likely have not completed some or even all of your rotations yet. It would be really hard then to go and do research in a lab that you may or may not end up in. Even if you are just learning skills in some different labs, to me, you're not going to shave a significant enough amount of time off of your PhD for that to be worth it.

Finally, one of the biggest reasons that I personally would avoid this idea: One of the great pieces of advise someone gave me early in my career was a reminder that you're going to have multiple years to just focus on research. Shaving half a year or even a year if possible (which I think would REALLY require an insane amount of work in addition to classes) really isn't worth making it so that you are losing a lot of your "med school" time/experience. Again, even if your institution only has classes for 2 hours per day, there are likely many other incredible resources you can take advantage of while you're learning about the clinical side of things. Can you lead an organization? Can you volunteer at a school-sponsored free clinic? Shadow a specialty you haven't seen before? Mentor other students? I think the separation of med school and grad school time is really important because both are building you to be an incredible professional with two intertwined but very different degrees. And on the med school side, for residency purposes in the end, I have been advised that it is generally best to have more on your resume to really highlight your ability to excel in clinical practice as well. I don't personally think it's worth it to give up a lot of the experiences and learning moments you can have about being a better physician to do something that you already have years of protected time to do, if that makes sense. Of course, this is just my opinion, so take it for what it's worth! But I do urge you to consider these factors along with time/workload factors to really see if you want to do this.


2. I also would not advise this, but I am not yet as knowledgeable about this specific area yet. From my perspective now, that time in residency is another great way for you to gain some research skills and perhaps get your name on most recent publications (so good for fellowship or future lab prospects). Additionally, I imagine it would be a good chance to really try your hand at juggling patient care and lab work and to see how the two intertwine. From speaking to a fellowship director at the major research institution where I worked in undergrad, they really do look at what you did during your residency and like to see research/publications. And I think just "giving up" research for a few years could potentially hurt you in trying to show your persistent dedication to research down the line and in keeping your skills fresh? Only a guess though - again, this is a bit out of my field, but I have not heard of anyone skipping that protected research time or suggesting that we try to do so.

3. I would imagine that the answer above is very true, but I will defer on this one!


EDITED to add in things that I believe can contribute to earlier graduation:
1) Research field. Some PhDs can simply be done in less time than others. Generally, many basic benchwork PhDs cannot be done in 3 years; science tends to not cooperate and experiments can be tedious. Some students in my program have had better luck completing their degrees faster if they worked on slightly more clinical projects, or if they did let's say radiology/imaging related projects with finite amounts of data that need to be completed to obtain X amount of papers.
2) Clear communication with your program and your PI. Be willing to think through project designs and goals that you want to set for yourself, and meet with your PI to talk through them. See what they think would be feasible for you to accomplish. Talk to your program administration if you are having issues in your lab or if you are worried about the timing. They have seen so many students go through this that they will likely have suggestions for you!
3) Depending on your program structure, what you may be able to do is co-enroll: take a couple of grad school classes while you take your med school classes. I would advise this over actually working in a lab while you are in med school, since the subjects can sometimes intertwine or at the very least, you are already studying your life away anyway. This can still be very overwhelming and it wouldn't be my first choice option if your program doesn't already integrate the two because it will create a fair amount more work for you, but there are students who co-enroll in multiple programs and can accomplish a little bit of both. If some of your PhD time consists of classes, knocking those out of the way so that you are ready to hit the ground running with research when the time comes might be helpful.

Sorry for the long length --- I found this question interesting, and I hope this helps!
 
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ucbundergrad

ACFAS Member
10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Feb 28, 2008
31
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Pre-Medical
I think everyone has given good advice already but just to add. You need to do activities in which you input time and get help that is out of proportion with the time invested. The easiest of which is to simply decide what lab you want to definitely join when you go to graduate school. By doing that you will already be able to shave off time and will not hinder your medical school endeavors. You may think this is easy but too many people are wishy-washy and unable to commit.

You basically look at all the faculty at your school, list all the ones of potential interest, keep the ones that have a good track record (never pick one who has a bad track record but you think you will be the special one. You won't.) Then really try to assess and figure out who is likely to be there for 4-5 years. The way to judge this is how long they have already been there, what kind of work they do (how tied down are they), and you can just ask them straight up. I bet your final list of faculty with a good track record won't be too long so then you can just schedule meetings and talk to them. Once you find the one you like you can just plan out a research area (this is also where the above posters advice about being open in communication is important). You may say, "Oh but no one with my interests falls in the list." My response is that you should expand your interests or just be okay taking the risk. People that can help you assess the risk: MSTP office and older students.

Getting into the weeds of your project is an example of an activity where your time investment is NOT worth it. There are stories of very exceptional people doing work that they did in undergrad and basically buying all the equipment they needed to get everything ready in the lab for them to join. To me that sounds boring because if you already knew everything about your work you are not growing. Now doing some minimum work in the lab just to understand how things work, maybe learn a specific method and help generate data is possible (<5 hours/week) but not necessary. You could also just get this with one effective rotation if your school does summer rotations. 20 hours a week is not worth it because it is not enough time to build your own dissertation and too much time to be a contributor.

Focus on learning med school stuff and determining what specialty you want to do. These are much more useful activities and will give better returns. If you screw up Step 1 and want to do certain fields nobody will care what else you do. If you decide what specialty you want to do early on, you can easily make yourself more competitive for that specialty during PhD time.

Seek out advice of older students who accomplished what you want to accomplish. Your MST program should have people like that. TO do that first figure out what you want. It sounds like time to degree is important but make sure you balance all factors and see where they fall (time to degree, big paper, lots of papers, etc).
 

starfun21

5+ Year Member
Jun 14, 2014
582
1,222
Status
MD/PhD Student
I think everyone has given good advice already but just to add. You need to do activities in which you input time and get help that is out of proportion with the time invested. The easiest of which is to simply decide what lab you want to definitely join when you go to graduate school. By doing that you will already be able to shave off time and will not hinder your medical school endeavors. You may think this is easy but too many people are wishy-washy and unable to commit.

You basically look at all the faculty at your school, list all the ones of potential interest, keep the ones that have a good track record (never pick one who has a bad track record but you think you will be the special one. You won't.) Then really try to assess and figure out who is likely to be there for 4-5 years. The way to judge this is how long they have already been there, what kind of work they do (how tied down are they), and you can just ask them straight up. I bet your final list of faculty with a good track record won't be too long so then you can just schedule meetings and talk to them. Once you find the one you like you can just plan out a research area (this is also where the above posters advice about being open in communication is important). You may say, "Oh but no one with my interests falls in the list." My response is that you should expand your interests or just be okay taking the risk. People that can help you assess the risk: MSTP office and older students.

Getting into the weeds of your project is an example of an activity where your time investment is NOT worth it. There are stories of very exceptional people doing work that they did in undergrad and basically buying all the equipment they needed to get everything ready in the lab for them to join. To me that sounds boring because if you already knew everything about your work you are not growing. Now doing some minimum work in the lab just to understand how things work, maybe learn a specific method and help generate data is possible (<5 hours/week) but not necessary. You could also just get this with one effective rotation if your school does summer rotations. 20 hours a week is not worth it because it is not enough time to build your own dissertation and too much time to be a contributor.

Focus on learning med school stuff and determining what specialty you want to do. These are much more useful activities and will give better returns. If you screw up Step 1 and want to do certain fields nobody will care what else you do. If you decide what specialty you want to do early on, you can easily make yourself more competitive for that specialty during PhD time.

Seek out advice of older students who accomplished what you want to accomplish. Your MST program should have people like that. TO do that first figure out what you want. It sounds like time to degree is important but make sure you balance all factors and see where they fall (time to degree, big paper, lots of papers, etc).
Some great points here and super well said!!!!! This does an excellent job of summarizing some of the best advice I've received so far in my MSTP.

I also think this poster mentions something important -- it is possible to do some very very minimum lab work during the year if you really want (and I agree with less than 5 hours per week - come to think of it, my program actually places a limit on how much of this type of thing you can do, too. I think it is 5 hours on the dot), but this would really be just to see how things work and to make a wise choice for where to do your rotations and/or PhD, not to generate substantial data or shave time off of the PhD.
 

eteshoe

.......
2+ Year Member
Jan 4, 2016
2,261
2,574
Tethys, Saturn
Status
MD/PhD Student
I have nothing more to add except that you'll have to learn how to enjoy this journey or you will not last. You cannot rush since science will almost certainly not let you. You've chosen one of the longest training paths (especially if you're thinking NS at this point) but your interests and priorities will change over the next few years.
 
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