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How feasible is it to do bench research as an attending?

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Lord_Vader

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I want to do research when I become an attending but I find clinical research utterly boring. Is it possible to do some bench research on the side while also seeing patients?
 

eteshoe

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    Like as a postdoc of some sort? Most likely you won't really have sufficient time to do any meaningful experiments if you're dedicating less than 50-70% of your time to bench research (due to it's nature)
     
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    Tenk

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    You can do whatever you want just don't expect to make any money from it unless you own the lab.
     
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    Goro

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    Honest to Gawd, in my 30+ years in research, it was rare, unless they were MD/PhD. Lots of fellows though. Throw in the odd unemployable FMG too. The MD attendings who were able to get into the lab were all Heme/Onc's or Rheumatologists.

    True story: when I was working as a lab tech, the Dept' Chair, a very well published and widely known in his field Danish MD, had to rush something to a collaborator and came into the lab to work in a hood.

    He didn't know how to light the bunsen burner!!

    I want to do research when I become an attending but I find clinical research utterly boring. Is it possible to do some bench research on the side while also seeing patients?
     
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    SurfingDoctor

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    Speaking from personal experience, it is very doable. However, you will need training in how to conduct research (develop hypotheses, learn methods, learn to troubleshoot methods, result analysis, etc.) and this is usually done through additional training time on a institutional or individual grant. While certainly possible, it is unusual for MD trainees to get individual grant funding, eg. F32 grants, and most will use institutional T32 or K12 grants to giving them protected research time for research development during their PGY years. Once graduating from residency, or more commonly fellowship training, then one can obtain further research development grants, K08 or K23 through NIH, or foundation based scientific development grant, like through AHA, at the junior attending level until one to ready to compete for R-level awards. The long of the short of it, yes, MD can and do do bench research. However, I will caution that bench research needs to have a clinical application. It is hard to obtain funding if you are interested in protein "X" but you have no idea why protein "X" is important to begin with. You need to study a protein or a model in the context of a disease, really have a project that is bedside --> bench --> beside. While it is possible to have a bench only project, in today's NIH budget, you are less likely to be funded.

    The biggest benefit of having an MD and doing bench research is that you can get clinical samples and test them in the lab, or you have the ability to take lab findings and apply them in clinical trials. This is the whole point of MD/PhD as a medical school track, however with appropriate post-graduate training and some perseverance, a MD can achieve the same goal.

    And FYI, I'm not a Hematologist or Rheumatologist. I know MD physician-scientists from all sub specialties, though certainly some are more represented than others.
     
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    Lord_Vader

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    Thank you for the responses. What if I'm not interested in having my own lab? I actually wouldn't mind working under/alongside another PI if I'm allowed to do bench research. To be honest the grant writing portion of research bores me and I would rather work under someone so that they secure my funding.
     

    doc05

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    Thank you for the responses. What if I'm not interested in having my own lab? I actually wouldn't mind working under/alongside another PI if I'm allowed to do bench research. To be honest the grant writing portion of research bores me and I would rather work under someone so that they secure my funding.

    that's not realistic.
     
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    ACSurgeon

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    Thank you for the responses. What if I'm not interested in having my own lab? I actually wouldn't mind working under/alongside another PI if I'm allowed to do bench research. To be honest the grant writing portion of research bores me and I would rather work under someone so that they secure my funding.

    You can't do bench research as a hobby. Either you do it as a legitimate academic physician-scientist or you don't. If you want to be a physician-scientist, you'll need to apply for and get grants.


    To the nay sayers: there are many general surgeons with busy labs. It's busy and hard to do, but doable. It's funny that surgeons can somehow find the time to do 20-30 hours a week of research, but in non-surgical fields you have to work a lifestyle specialty (i.e. Rheum according to @Goro).
     
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    SurfingDoctor

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    To be honest the grant writing portion of research bores me and I would rather work under someone so that they secure my funding.

    As others mentioned, this will never happened. If you want to be a lab technician, then you can be a lab technician, but you will also be paid as a lab technician, not a MD or PhD. In some places, you can be hired as a Staff Scientist, eg typically a PhD who functions as a salaried lab technician with some individual project development, however I have never seen an MD in that role, at least not one trained in the US. Maybe a FMG who cannot practice in the US for whatever reason who also has an extensive research background, but not a practicing MD who does lab work on the side. No academic center is going to allow (or pay for) a physician to be in that role.
     
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    InvestingDoc

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    work for the VA, they give you time off for research if you wish. there are lots of academic jobs that let you do research
     

    ProfMD

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    Thank you for the responses. What if I'm not interested in having my own lab? I actually wouldn't mind working under/alongside another PI if I'm allowed to do bench research. To be honest the grant writing portion of research bores me and I would rather work under someone so that they secure my funding.

    If you are going to devote part of your time to research, you are going to be expected to secure grant funding to support a portion of your salary. So, as others noted, this is not reasonable as a faculty member.

    You can work with other PIs, either physicians or PhD scientists (or physician-scientists), but at some point you will need to take the reins.
     

    eteshoe

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    Thank you for the responses. What if I'm not interested in having my own lab? I actually wouldn't mind working under/alongside another PI if I'm allowed to do bench research. To be honest the grant writing portion of research bores me and I would rather work under someone so that they secure my funding.

    The closest thing I can think of is some sort of strategic scientific partnership (I have only seen like 2 of these setups personally). Basically a PhD and an MD team up to establish a lab bringing with them their respective expertise (e.g. comp methods and a particular disease context). Both would contribute to grant writing, training grad students, postdocs, medical fellows, etc.

    Like others have mentioned, the way science is run these days you can't dip your toes in whenever you want - you need sustained immersion in order to contribute anything useful to the field.
     
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