10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Jul 19, 2004
So, just out of curiosity, what would happen when an MD/PhD trainee reaches the end of med school and realizes they want to do research in something different than the field in which they did their research? (Assuming they still want to be a physician-scientist.)

I realize it is not uncommon for straight-PhD's careers to be based on something entirely different than what they did in grad school, but how might having an MD affect this? Is such a switch easier? Harder?


10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Jan 30, 2007
East Coast
Resident [Any Field]
Probably have no effect - you'd just do your postdoc in the new field. Most people switch to a greater or lesser extent because it's been 5+ years since you got your PhD and your field will have moved on significantly.

Having an MD might help if you want to go into another area you have some clinical experience in (eg, you did diabetes research as a PhD student, end up in a medical oncology fellowship after an IM residency, then decide to do cancer research) but if you are talking mostly about techniques, eg you want to go from doing fly work to mouse work then having an MD would make no difference.
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