Background: I'm currently in a DO/PhD program. Did one year of grad school (Neuroscience PhD program, working on computational project) and now am in my first year of med school. I don't usually ask the internet for advice on my life, but I figured what the hell.
I've been debating about quitting the med school portion of this program for reasons I will explain in more detail below. I've highlighted the main points in bold so you can get the gist, but if you have the time, I'd appreciate if you could read through it all and give advice. If there are people who have advice preferably from their own experience in the field or have learned of things from other valid sources, that would be the most helpful.
My main question here is: Is the personal toll and stress that it takes for me to get through medical school and residency worth the potential benefit of a DO degree in a future career of mine? This is a cost-benefit analysis of my potential future life. Is quitting DO part of this program career suicide? Am I shooting myself in the foot of do this?
I do NOT want :
1) Pre meds telling me "How dare you think of dropping out when there are so many people like me who want to get in to medical school." Your acceptance or rejection has nothing to do with my current situation and future life.
2) People telling me "You're passing up on such a rare opportunity, how dare you." While the rarity of this opportunity makes this decision very important, rarity alone is not a reason for me to stay with the DO. As a friend of mine said "A juicy and expensive prime rib means nothing to a vegetarian."
Potential reasons why I want to drop the DO program:
1) I don't get to be fully into my research when I'm constantly trying to balance it with medical things and this will is not something that will end with medical school, it will be my entire career if I'm actually using both degrees. This is frustrating because research is what I enjoy so much more. Yes PhD is stressful but it involves more creativity and feels more rewarding to me than medical school. And there is much to do with my research that, if I had the time, I would really like to do. I work with large genomic datasets and do computational work and very little of what I will learn in med school will apply to the research I am doing. If I did not do the DO, I could be spending my time taking classes that would directly benefit my research and the progress I'm making in it. In the scenario that clinical experience does not help my research, why am I wasting all this time pursuing it? Are there people who do computational neuroscience or genomics of different sorts that can tell me how much a medial degree does or does not benefit their research and research opportunities?
2) For mental health reasons, medical school has been intensely miserable for me this far. I've struggled with generalized anxiety disorder and depression for the last 7 or 8 years. I was in a good balance of things before med school but now my anxiety and depression are unbearable and I've never felt so stressed and unhappy in my life. The night before each exam I've had so far, I've felt suicidal, but thankfully I have a lot of caring friends and family so I don't think I would ever do that. But it's a miserable time to say in the list. I am continuing to see my therapist and psychiatrist and taking meds, but this isn't a problem that I can solve once and for all tomorrow or perhaps ever. My personality is predisposed to stress out.
From what I understand, this stress does not end with medical school graduation, it continues through residency and this type of career and attempting to balance research with it. But I would love it if someone could tell me otherwise on this point. But given the physician burnout and depression rate, I don't think medicine is a stress free environment. Are there people who have GAD or other anxiety disorders that can tell me whether they've been happy with a career in medicine or more specifically as a physician scientist?
3) Clinical work has never been the main thing I've been excited about. It seems that clinical work is most likely repetitive and does not involve the creativity that research does, but if people have input on that, that would be helpful. But again, please tell me otherwise on the point if you can. Of course this I do not know for certain, since I have not interviewed people in every type of medical specialty and have not lived the life of a physician.
4) I want a life someday. Before I never thought of anything besides my career, but now I'm realizing it's far from the most important thing to me. I imagine these types of sentiments may even increase as I age and if I want a family at some point. Balancing research and clinic is tough enough as it is, actually having a family life too would be insanely difficult and stressful particularly for someone who's already predisposed to stress. Not that it isn't possible. People do do it. But I will also be probably 31 when I graduate and will still have a residency and potentially fellowship to complete. I am a woman. I hate to say this is a factor, because I always swore I wouldn't be one of these types, but my biological clock is ticking. If women physician-scientists in particular have advice, that'd be great.
5) I've always liked and thought of doing the communication of science/education so there are things like teaching, or things outside of academia that I could pursue, like industry and etc. Things besides being a PI at a major research institution and constantly stressing about grant funding. Things that would also not require a DO. But, I do not fully know all the options out there, though I have been looking into them. Does anyone know how difficult it is to do research or get a different type of job with a PhD in neuroscience alone as compared to a DO/PhD? How much advantage does that really give a person?
Pitfalls of not getting a DO:
1) I will not have clinical skills. I cannot fall back on clinical work if research isn't panning out. There is less flexibility and career options with PhD only track. Doors will be closed that cannot be reopened. How much will quitting the program look bad on my career?
2) The DO probably helps for grant funding if I do major research. Gives me an extra gold star compared to other PhD only or MD or DO only grant applicants. This is what I've always been told anyway.
3) The DO gives me clinical background to the research problems I'm pursuing. It gives the research problems I'm investigating a face.
4) I will not have the benefit of the perks of the DOPhD program. The advisors and etc.