Jul 24, 2013
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So I am coming close to the graduation deadline and due to some reasons I will be taking time off. However, this has made me question whether I should work or pursue a phd program. I've been told otherwise abt phd since it is a waste of time if I will eventually get md. But I don't really know for how long my gap time will last. I'd atleast like to continue my education to show that it wasn't unexpected for me to go into medicine.

What are the benefits of grad school vs. a straight up clinical job?
I'm asking this b/c for phd I'll likely have to take the GRE, so if I start planning right now, I could potentially take it.
 

karayaa

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Given that so many people go to med school from undergrad without additional education in between, why do you feel a need to continue your education? A desire to be educated is not the main criterion adcoms look for in applicants.
As far as benefits, a straight job would probably have more money, more responsibility, less intellectualism, and a smaller time commitment.
Would you complete the PhD? Do you want to take a 5-7 year break between undergrad and med school? I don't know what adcoms think of "sheltering" in a PhD program during a gap year or two.
 
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boboyahoo
Jul 24, 2013
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it's just that I've been looking at a couple of programs that sent me invitations to come see their facilities. I don't even know if my gap year will be like the normal 1-2 yrs. I was just under impression that if an md/phd program can't be done, why not do a phd first. Wouldn't adcoms see that as a good thing? I'm trying to shelter it in because I constantly worry about heading away from academia since I've never taken time off like this so unexpectedly.
 

karayaa

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Do you want to be a scientist?
How do you know you can't do an MD/PhD program? Of course a PhD program can be done first. But why bother spending all that time on it?
I don't think an adcom would be thrilled to hear that you constantly worry about heading away from academia, because medicine - even academic medicine- is not quite the same thing.
 
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boboyahoo
Jul 24, 2013
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I feared that I might come to sound insincere to medicine. It's really the opposite in that I want to build credential rather than waste it away in soul searching since I know medicine is the only thing that I can go into. It's closed-minded but I've done my fair share of soul searching already. A job that relates to med would be great but I want to stay connected with the academics since I want to go into the academics after becoming a physician. There is a lot of prestige that goes into becoming a great academic practitioner, so that's why I thought about warranting a phd just to make myself stand out.
I know already that I might be lik 25-26 when I go to med school (sadly since I'll be like 21 when I graduate from ug), so I don't want to be old and with no other degrees beside md to make me look special when I go after residency. I'm not a genius, nor am I going to go to a top med school (it's just a fact I know). This all makes me question how best I could spend my time to make up for my noncompetitive aspects. I can't really get into md/phd program cause my gpa is not looking so hot, so being realistic, that will not happen.
If any job is any better or equi to a phd, I'd like to know cause I don't want money or easiness to make me decide what path I should choose in btw the time I get out of ug and before I enter med.
 

Reckoner

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DO NOT join a PhD program unless you are committed to a career in scientific research. Chances are good you won't finish if you aren't 100% committed, and even if you do, it will take ~6 years. At that point, you will need a good explanation for medical schools as to why you're changing career paths, and the consensus seems to be that the PhD won't help you very much with admissions. See the quote below from @QofQuimica, who got an MD after her PhD.

1) What type of pathway are you taking to become a physician scientist, and how far along are you?

I'm a PhD-to-MD, now finishing my first year of medical school. My PhD is in pharmaceutical chemistry. Basically I did organic synthesis.

2) What general advice do you have for people who want to become physician scientists by the same route you took?

Wow, this is a really tough road to getting an MD/PhD, probably the hardest way to go about it. I'm not just saying that because it's what I did, but because you have the lowest chance of getting the MD this way. I suggest that you should not plan on going this route if you're currently in college; it's really a route meant for people who come to realize they want to go to med school after the fact. If you're in college, you'd be a lot better off applying MD/PhD or straight MD and then you can do a PhD later. You're probably also going to have to pay for your MD if you go the PhD-to-MD route.

3) What application advice would you give to people who want to follow your track?

There are two really important things that you must do if you're a PhD who wants to go to medical school.

First, you must have a very good explanation for why you cannot accomplish your career goals with just your PhD. Make sure to explain this clearly in your PS and reinforce it at your interviews. You are coming in already possessing a professional degree, and it's not cool to be thirty years old and telling the interviewer that you don't know what you want to be when you grow up. You need to have a plan that seems well-thought-out, even if you reserve the right to change your mind later.

Second, you MUST go through all of the same hoops that any other MD applicant goes through. It's essential that you have the grades and MCAT scores you need to get into med school. When I say grades, I mean undergrad grades in particular. You will NOT be given special treatment or consideration for MD applications just because you have a PhD. In addition, you must have clinically relevant shadowing and volunteering experience. If you're not already shadowing and volunteering, you should start, yesterday. Again, your PhD is basically like a nice EC. It doesn't compensate for crappy college grades or a low MCAT, and it doesn't compensate for a lack of other ECs that med schools are looking for from applicants.

Where to apply: Definitely apply to all of your state schools. I would advise getting an MSAR and looking through it for other schools that have research missions, assuming you're still interested in doing research. You may also need to retake some of your pre-reqs if you took them a long time ago. Check with every school about their requirements; they vary widely.

4) What do you wish you had done differently if you could do it all again?

If I could go back ten years ago and give my college senior self advice, I'd have told her to apply to joint MD/PhD programs. If she couldn't get into one, I'd have told her to go MD-to-PhD. Seriously, I think that PhD-to-MD should be the choice of last resort, and not something you plan to do all along.
 

chillaxbro

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The PhD part in an MD/PhD is 1-2 years shorter than doing them separately

Also MD/PhD pays for your MD

Why not do them together?
 
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boboyahoo
Jul 24, 2013
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Those are really good points. I guess I was under some impression that somehow I could complete the phd in 3-4 yrs given my background in research but reflecting back to how long it took my lab pupils to get their phd, it dawned on me the amt of effort and commitment it takes to complete that process even on time.

I forgot that md/phd is more like a phd in that it pays you to do it. I guess I just don't think an average gpa and average activity list like mine would compensate for that type of program. I asked my advisor and he said that I'd need >3.8 gpa for that sort of stuff. If I were to get a job and do research/service on the side during my gap years, do you think I might have a good chance of being admitted to one of the md/phd programs or a top 20 med? I probably wouldn't care for the md/phd program after my gap year though since I am not going to do hardcore bench research. At that time, I'd rather prefer to complete my training and get on with residency and beyond to try to go into good amt of research alongside clinical. I say top 20 b/c atleast I'd know that I would have good chances of getting in at any other med school as long as my stats+experiences overcome the average application
 

mcloaf

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so I don't want to be old and with no other degrees beside md to make me look special when I go after residency
This is one of the goofier things I've read on SDN in a while.
 

Lucca

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I'm confused OP. You want to become an academic physician ( a fantastic reason to pursue the md/phd ) but you don't want to do hardcore research? A PhD is about as hardcore as research training gets. What are your current stats? If they are at least at the average for accepted/matriculant students then I would just take some time off to go work or go abroad and teach, etc.

If you really want to be "educated" by the time you actually apply to med school then you should know that an education is not a piece of papet and some course credits - an education is an ongoing, evolving process that you yourself are entirely responsible for. Go work, get some experience, mature a little and understand your motivations (I apologize but given your posts I dont feel you have sufficiently studied what it means to do the things you want to do), make a little money. Then, use your free time to read, learn philosophy, study another language, write a journal, play an instrument, learn to code, etc.
 
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boboyahoo
Jul 24, 2013
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sorry for the confusion, the point is that I am really confused and you guys are correct in all your assertions. I think I'll just take some time off to get to know what my true motivations are. The combination of md/phd just made me think about doing extra and I'm always the type of person that will invest in useless things before getting to the heart of the matter. Maybe my gap years will help me learn to be succinct. I don't know what my stats are until I will graduate. I don't want to know but currently they are like the average stat you would imagine for a med applicant (on the low side).

I decided that the phd was just a decision to do something to make me look better to med school ppl when I finally apply at the age of like 26. It wasn't something I am 100% committed to and I don't want to do it for a free tuition. It's more like to keep my research endeavors continuous. If I work, I will not be able to work in research since I want to get a more supportive job (plus, I don't think a lab could accomodate for me since my gap year time is greater than 2 years). I'm just in a hurry to do everything so that's where my silly remarks are coming from. When I am confused I might not come across as clear, so I don't want you to think I'm being goofy...even though I was on my previous post. What I do know though is that I definitely want to be an md and the reason why I want to go into academics is so that I can teach and do research. If I am lucky to get into md/phd program or do phd after md, then my age would be 35 and if you add residency to that, I'd be like 40. To me that seems pretty old and I don't know where research will take me by that age.

So you guys see where I might be misled or confused?
 
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karayaa

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Maybe look for non-lab research: public health (epi, healthcare outcomes, often computer/math based) or clinical/translational where you work with patients. You don't have to do a PhD in hard science/bench research. MD/PhDs can research pretty much anything, up to anthropology/sociology/economics, as long as it's healthcare related.
You could jump between different labs (I'd recommend at least a year at each, preferably 2) if they don't want you to stay longer. Check out the NIH research fellowships.
 
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QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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OP, a science PhD is definitely not the right thing for you, and neither is an MD/PhD. Both of these pathways are geared toward people who primarily want to do bench research for a career. It sounds like you're more interested in the clinical aspects of medicine and/or medical research. In that case, I would suggest that you either pursue a straight MD or DO (assuming you primarily want to practice clinical medicine for a career), or look into an MD/MS or MD/MPH program (if you're interested in clinical research).

As I said in the post that Reckoner quoted above, if you want to be a clinician, getting into medical school should be your top focus. You can always add on a graduate degree or do a research fellowship later if you decide you need one. But doing it backwards (i.e., grad degree first) is much more difficult. Speaking as both a PhD-to-MD and a former adcom, I can tell you that adcoms are not going to be all that impressed if you have a graduate degree. Every med school class at every med school in the country has a few. In fact, at my highly research-oriented school, about 1/4 of the class came in having some additional degree besides just a BS or BA. I wasn't even the only one in my class with a PhD.

It is also true that premeds tend to underestimate the difficulty required to get a PhD. The average time to complete a PhD in many wet-lab fields of science is more along the lines of 5-6 years of full-time grad school, not 3-4 years. A significant minority of people take even longer. It took my ex-husband seven years working full time to get his PhD. It took me three tries in three different labs at two different schools over a course of nine years before I got mine. Granted, I had a job for some of that time and was only in school working toward my degree full-time for parts of that entire period. But still, the point holds that it is not common to finish a PhD in less than five years, and it *is* common to finish it in more than six years.

Finally, age is not an issue in your case. I was 31 when I went to medical school, and if anything, I would argue that in your late 20s is the best age to go to medical school. You're still young enough to be energetic and have stamina without having your age held against you by adcoms, and you've had a chance to live life a little and mature. I do think it's harder for older nontrads in their late 30s and 40s to go through medical training. I'm going to be 40 next year, and you just don't bounce back as easily after being up all night at this age as you do in your 20s. But for you to start training in your mid-to-late 20s? That would be ideal, especially since it sounds like you could really use a few years to do some "soul-searching" to figure out exactly what you want to be when you grow up.

Honestly, there's no prize for getting through medical school by age 26. So go get a job and just live your life as a young adult for a while. Any service-oriented job where you're dealing with people will do just fine: teaching, customer service, management, sales, etc. The hardest part of being a physician isn't dealing with the exams or the all-night calls. It's dealing with difficult people (both patients and coworkers). Master that skill before you start med school, and you'll be leaps and bounds ahead of some of your more self-absorbed peers.

Best of luck you. :)
 
OP
boboyahoo
Jul 24, 2013
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Thanks Q and karayaa, I think the suggestions given to keep my research goals with me even during my gap years has made me think positively about the experience. I do agree that being a people person is one of the most important traits anyone could ever have in medicine.

My follow up questions would then be: If I take >2 yrs off, will my professors still remember me and provide good recommendations? I might take courses after grad to make up for the 2015 humanities requirements. What if one of my recommendation writers end up retiring and they might prove to know me better than the generic recommender?
 

karayaa

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Thanks Q and karayaa, I think the suggestions given to keep my research goals with me even during my gap years has made me think positively about the experience. I do agree that being a people person is one of the most important traits anyone could ever have in medicine.

My follow up questions would then be: If I take >2 yrs off, will my professors still remember me and provide good recommendations? I might take courses after grad to make up for the 2015 humanities requirements. What if one of my recommendation writers end up retiring and they might prove to know me better than the generic recommender?
Tell them now that you plan to apply after some gap years, and ask them to put together a rough draft. Then keep them updated on your activities, so that the letter they ultimately write will be up to date.
If they retire, they'll put a "professer emeritus" rather than a professor as their title, but I don't think that it matters to adcoms. People do retire. I don't think the LORs have to be from current professors - just people who taught you/supervised you.
 

inycepoo

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Pointing out inherent contradiction in wanting the "prestige" of academia but knowing the chops aren't there for a "top med school," which is the jumping point for a high-profile career.

That's gonna be a hell of a road in the academic sphere with that mindset and reality mixed. Drop the ego.
 
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boboyahoo
Jul 24, 2013
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Pointing out inherent contradiction in wanting the "prestige" of academia but knowing the chops aren't there for a "top med school," which is the jumping point for a high-profile career.

That's gonna be a hell of a road in the academic sphere with that mindset and reality mixed. Drop the ego.
Woh...I never meant to sound egotistical and I don't know why you became so hostile. You obviously don't know my specific goals and I don't want to share too much detail into what I want to eventually become and do with an M.D. so let's not take my sentences off context because clearly all the rest of my posters have been very understanding. Obviously, it is a known fact that in order to go into the academics and survive you need to have a certain level of accomplishment and drive that demonstrates an aptitude for clinical research. I already know that having been around people with mds that go into this sort of path. I am a mere undergrad as of yet but it is a viable question to ask from ppl about what I should do during possible >4 years of gap time when my goal is to climb the rungs in research once I get to be in medicine or possibly beforehand so my journey is made easier.

To Karyaa: I heard about rough copies of recommendation letters. My professors have kept their copies in file from previous evaluations so now I think I will just update them as I go.