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how much of your career do you need to/should commit to research if you do MD/PhD

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Sonya

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First, a question, and then second, is this the question I should be asking myself.

The question is... do you think there is a magical number... like if i say I want to do more then 60% research, i sh ould do Md PhD, and if I want less then 30% research, then MD PhD is not worth it.

Obviously, there are no rules. But, do you think that cut-off range exists? Am i just thinking about this all the wrong way? My friend says, that a good school would not admit you MD PhD, if they thought you did not w ant to devote yourself mainly to research in the long term. What do you think about that, do they want to train MD PhD's to mainly be scientists?

I know all the pros and cons of MD Phd vs. doing research after MD in a fellowship (better name and grants, more training, less pressure for grants while you train). I'v done research throughout undergrad, and for a year full time after. I'm probably more qualified for MD PhD then MD. yet, i still doubt it.

Why? I'm usually bored in lab. Research is certainly not what people describe it... In that, I highly disagree it requires much knowledge, or problem solving. Supposedly most of the thinking is experimental design, but somehow, i was never to excited about that either. But i did truly love going to lab more then anything else in the world spring of senior year, as well as a few other isolated times. If that feeling is going to be as rare as it is now, then 4 yrs of MD PhD are not worth it. If it's a matter of identifying what type of research I like... then I can do that.
This may be all a debate of engineering design research vs. actual scientific discovery. Or maybe it's a debate of a research career or not.

Thanks...
Sonya
 

DarkChild

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Hey those are some great questions..
here are my thoughts:
1) with MD/PhD applications - there is a party line. Toe it. Dont worry about be a little dishonest - thats the nature of the admissions game. I agree with your friend, most schools wont admit you for an MD/PhD if they dont believe you are committed to research. After all thats the point of the whole physician-scientist thing. At the programs I've seen my interviewers also looked down on clinical research. Its not really explicitly stated, but you can definately tell. So as I saw, from the purpose of getting into an MD/PhD program, you say you're all about hardcore science. (With allowances being made for how your research interests will change over time).
2) about your being bored with lab - I can definately relate. I dont know, I think I'm jaded from seeing too many grad students going nowhere in there labs. And I wholeheartedly agree with you about the practice of scientific research really being less about smarts and ingenious experimental design and more about luck, hardwork and simple logic. So what I've seen of it is that its not as exciting as one would suppose.
But, I think that gives me (and anyone else who recognizes these issues) an advantage. I'm less interested in doing "path breaking" research as I am in picking a "smart" thesis: one which avoids the usual pitfalls i've seen grad students fall into. (As a side note - given that I dont have that much experience, it also helps to be part of a program which provides strong academic advising)
But - and this is a huge "but" for me, I was told by one of my interviewers (who happens to be a pretty famous neuro guy lol) that my problem was that I hadnt been immersed in a lab which just ate and breathed the science. For me, thats VERY true. So maybe things will be different when I find a lab I really like?
3) As for whether or not to do the MD/PhD program, I consider it an adventure of sorts. At worst you spend 3-4 years doing research which you'll never use again, but you end up with a free MD. To me thats not a bad default position. At best though, you get a chance to combine two things that you really like doing and to do stuff that can really impact the practice of medicine. But the real question you have to ask yourself is: Would you go to med school or grad school alone?
For me the answer was simple - a wholehearted NO. I could never just see patients day in and day out. Nor could I ever just work in a lab all day on some esoteric signalling pathway that nobody cares about. If it came down to having to just that choice, I'd rather go to law school ;)
this wasnt supposed to be this long :rolleyes:
 

Sonya

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1. Ok, thanks.

2.
I'm not sure what you mean by this...
"But - and this is a huge "but" for me, I was told by one of my interviewers (who happens to be a pretty famous neuro guy lol) that my problem was that I hadnt been immersed in a lab which just ate and breathed the science. For me, thats VERY true. So maybe things will be different when I find a lab I really like?"

I do think it's been different in labs where everyone was serious, vs relaxed... but, not with regards to what I thought of science. Where everyone was serious... my guidance was ZERO.. i was so lost and getting nothing of the experience except a paycheck, and ended up changing labs. but, that's just a characteristic of the PI... I liked it more where everyone was serious, except the problems my PI and I had..

In terms of "path breaking".. yeah, it's lot harder to get a paper out when you're developing a technique. because, there is so little predictability. But, it does allow you things other people can't do, so you have less competition. What about modeling... that seems predictable, yet seems like it lacks all the tedious stuff.


3. I disagree with you though, about the last statement. MDs are very capable of doing basic science research, if they had research experience. (are stuff really going to change in my mind after 4 yrs of medschool.....??) It does seems stupid that my brother says his MD PhD thesis is going to be very different from his ultimate research. He says he can't help it, because his final research will be more clinical (obiviously, since he'll be a physician). All the PhDs that give talks have build up there research interestst in a united manner since there first day of grad school...
So, that combined with the fact i'll see (hopefully though maybe i'm just dreaming) more actual science in engineering design kindof research,makes me think i should do MD then some fellowship/residency with research.


(although i never admit, my mind is also influenced by the fact that everyone in the god*amn world has told me i've got a "research mind".. that if i didn't major math it was okay, because research anywhere would still need this "mind"...
that you surely wont find academic stimulation in seeing patients ... so that's why you do research. so, i say, i don't see it doing research, and they ask, "where else in the world are you going to find it"... )
 

Neuronix

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I'm going to try to address this with my usual pro-MSTP slant. :)

Originally posted by Sonya
First, a question, and then second, is this the question I should be asking myself.

The question is... do you think there is a magical number... like if i say I want to do more then 60% research, i sh ould do Md PhD, and if I want less then 30% research, then MD PhD is not worth it.

Obviously, there are no rules. But, do you think that cut-off range exists? Am i just thinking about this all the wrong way? My friend says, that a good school would not admit you MD PhD, if they thought you did not w ant to devote yourself mainly to research in the long term. What do you think about that, do they want to train MD PhD's to mainly be scientists?


There is no magic number. Opinions vary, but the advice I've always taken from MD/PhDs is that a PhD will help you in medicine (esp. academic medicine) and that a MD will help you in research (esp. biomedical research). Either way you go, you should be alright.

However, I do agree with DarkChild. Many MD/PhD program directors want people who are planning to commit themselves to research primarily. Certainly at no program will you be penalized if you eventually decide to go all clinical after you join or leave the program. However, when you are interviewed, at some programs you will be penalized if you tell them you are not interested in at least 80% research. The "traditional" goal of MD/PhD was to produce bench researchers and some PDs want to select for those at interviews. At the places I have been accepted and not withdrawn, I have spoken to the directors about these issues, and they have told me that it is not important to them what I do, and that they produce no failures that graduate. I have been up front with most programs about my desire to be a neurosurgeon, and I think I have been penalized at some for a lack of commitment to research.


I know all the pros and cons of MD Phd vs. doing research after MD in a fellowship (better name and grants, more training, less pressure for grants while you train). I'v done research throughout undergrad, and for a year full time after. I'm probably more qualified for MD PhD then MD. yet, i still doubt it.

Why? I'm usually bored in lab. Research is certainly not what people describe it... In that, I highly disagree it requires much knowledge, or problem solving. Supposedly most of the thinking is experimental design, but somehow, i was never to excited about that either. But i did truly love going to lab more then anything else in the world spring of senior year, as well as a few other isolated times. If that feeling is going to be as rare as it is now, then 4 yrs of MD PhD are not worth it. If it's a matter of identifying what type of research I like... then I can do that.


Your decision will require some soul searching I think. One of your options could be to apply MD to programs with MSTPs who take students out of their medical school classes. The schools that do generally have acceptance rates that are 50% - 75%, and I think you would have no problem going this route if you so decided. You could also start a MSTP and drop the PhD later if you are dissatisfied, but I feel bad about this route because I think you should only commit to MSTP if you're sure about it.

You also suggested doing the MD program and then doing a residency and post-doc. That's a good way to do it too, as long as you don't mind the high debt you will incur in med school. Not having a PhD may hurt you, but you could always get one of those later. I have asked two very successful MD-only researchers why they would recommend MSTP and they have told me the following. When you are done with residency, you will be ready to have a career. You will be the boss, you will likely get paid good money, etc... To go to a post-doc or PhD program then is very difficult because you go back to low pay and bottom of the ladder at a relatively advanced age. Sure you could do it, but most who go that route with those intentions sway.


This may be all a debate of engineering design research vs. actual scientific discovery. Or maybe it's a debate of a research career or not.

I understand where you're coming from. I have learned that grad school requires alot more labor and alot less thinking than I originally thought. I have also learned about the ugly side of research--Stealing data, getting scooped, PIs who won't let you leave, etc... All this leads me to believe that just because you have a thinking mind doesn't mean you will like research. I think you become much more of a thinker once you get past grad school and post-doc, because you will spend all your time managing, collecting, and presenting data, but is all of the sink or swim worth it for that?

BTW, I also have been in a lab where the PI and I did not get along. It almost turned me off from science as well. Personality of the PI has probably moved to #1 or #2 on my list of factors for picking a lab in the future. You mention that your brother wants to do clinical research in his career and that his PhD research will have nothing to do with it. It's alright. The PhD still will help get grant money and the training helps one to design experiments and to do translational work. I have been told that MDs do not learn these things AT ALL, and sure they can make up with it for a post-doc, a MD/PhD will most likely use a shorter post-doc because the learning curve is not as steep. Besides, for your happiness it is more important that you pick a lab that matches your personality and will move you out in a resonable amount of time. To me, this means picking an established lab with a good record OR a new MD or MD/PhD who understands your needs.

I don't know all the answers, but it's good to be thinking about it. I'm always happy to talk about it, if it will help. Good luck with your decision :)
 
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