is it true you can do all types of research as an MD?

pioneer22

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is it true that you are capable of doing all types of research (ie. from bioinformatics to biochem) as only an MD? or does the MD PhD have distinct advantages and career opportunities (ik they get PhD training)??

Thanks
 

peridotthecat

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is it true that you are capable of doing all types of research (ie. from bioinformatics to biochem) as only an MD? or does the MD PhD have distinct advantages and career opportunities (ik they get PhD training)??

Thanks
Yes and yes. It is possible to do a post-doc with an MD and/or go into a research heavy residency program and incorporate research into your career. However, if research, especially non-clinical research, is your main focus, the MD/PhD route not only gives you additional training but also helps with getting grants and tenure-track faculty positions.
 
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Lucca

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Training, not degrees, determine your skillset and abilities as a researcher. The single vs. dual degree paths both have their pros and cons. Overall, the outlook for research in general is poor at the moment but the length of training being what it is, who knows what the climate will be like for physician scientists 10-15 years in the future.
 
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eteshoe

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The answer is really Yes and No. First you have to define what type of research you're talking about: basic, translational, clinical? Do you want to run a lab? Be the medical half of a scientific collaborative lab (e.g. MD & PhD team-up)?

Sure, as an MD you have to potential to do whatever research but you need a good amount of protected research time to develop your skills (especially if you haven't done serious research since UG/early med school). Some specialties are more conducive than other others (typically medical ones over surgical ones). If you are thinking of having an academic career doing basic or translational research, you need (at least) 3 yrs to get a project up and running, publications and enough data for the typical junior investigator awards (e.g. K-awards, transition awards, etc). Then of course you need to find a mentor that will help support your aspirations (e.g. being flexible about your clinical responsibilities). If these things line up then sure (and if you're extremely determined) as a MD you can do that type of research. On the other hand, I've seen plenty of MD start off on the super basic/translational pathway and switch to mostly clinical research (which is typically easier to get up and running). MD/PhD people also drop out of the pipeline but they typically understand what is necessary to get a lab up and running (if that's their career goal).

The MD/PhD is useful in getting you truly protected time to develop and hone your skills w/o worry of clinical responsibilities. Some residencies have pretty decent research time built into their programs but it's really program dependent. The downsides of the dual degree include the length of training, the balancing act of being in two different worlds, being underpaid, knowing that you'll just be a jack of all trades but master of none. You typically have to accept the pain and struggle of academia regardless of what letters are after your name if you truly want to push the needle forward.

I will say that if your interests are more computational and you have a strong background in it, then it typically tends to be a slightly "easier" transition. Hopefully I answered your question and didn't just rant uselessly lol.
 

Spr1ngrolls

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Been working with one of the busiest surgeons for about three years now at one of the largest public hospitals in my state start up his research effort that is highly benchwork based (he came out of residency maybe 5-6 years ago). Long story short, it's difficult. Incredibly busy clinical schedule and always on-call so essentially i've been on my own for three years now (even since I was an undergraduate). Writing grants, formulating contracts, administering protocols, building a reliable team, etc all takes a lot of time. Can it be done? Yes. But is it difficult? HELL YES.

But with that said, I've also had the pleasure of working with a number of amazing physician scientists with well established labs in my time as a research coordinator. Surgeons doing all kinds of stem cell and regenerative medicine research and/or molecular biology research. It's really quite amazing to see them balance it, but nonetheless, it can be done!
 

mistafab

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Yes, and yes.

Although MD only researchers are capable of completing the same research as an MD-PHD, the MSTP-type dual degree is a unique interface that grants the student the knowledge base of an MD with the toolset of a PhD as soon as they graduate. Without a PhD, which is typically 4-6 years in the more science-based fields, a pure MD would have to spend that much or more time by themselves picking this toolkit up (predominantly) without direct mentorship.

So although any MD can participate in research, and are likely capable of doing so, anytime they want in almost any field - the MD/PhD has already completed and published experiements that they designed, executed, and interpreted by the time they graduate. So essentially, the distinct advantage of an MD/PhD is that they are pretty much guarenteed to have the PhD toolkit at the start of their career. With that said, MDs do not have a disadvantage in research.

In fact, there was a graph I saw a year or so ago that showed research dollar allocation (NIH grant money) stratified by degrees. MD/PhD had the highest percentile of grant delivery per application. This was followed by MD, and PhD last. Essentially, MDs are more likely to get money from the government to do research than even PhDs, but as expected, the MD/PhD educated researchers are almost never denied money comparitavely. MSTP education is literally government-funded to create government-funded translational research - so no surprise there.
 

Alakazam123

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Jun 2, 2017
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Yes and yes. It is possible to do a post-doc with an MD and/or go into a research heavy residency program and incorporate research into your career. However, if research, especially non-clinical research, is your main focus, the MD/PhD route not only gives you additional training but also helps with getting grants and tenure-track faculty positions.
How common is this, and how good are the outcomes?
 

Alakazam123

2+ Year Member
Jun 2, 2017
385
65
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Pre-Medical
Been working with one of the busiest surgeons for about three years now at one of the largest public hospitals in my state start up his research effort that is highly benchwork based (he came out of residency maybe 5-6 years ago). Long story short, it's difficult. Incredibly busy clinical schedule and always on-call so essentially i've been on my own for three years now (even since I was an undergraduate). Writing grants, formulating contracts, administering protocols, building a reliable team, etc all takes a lot of time. Can it be done? Yes. But is it difficult? HELL YES.

But with that said, I've also had the pleasure of working with a number of amazing physician scientists with well established labs in my time as a research coordinator. Surgeons doing all kinds of stem cell and regenerative medicine research and/or molecular biology research. It's really quite amazing to see them balance it, but nonetheless, it can be done!

What if you split the research/practice 80/20? Would that be more manageable?
 
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