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Length of training for MSTPers

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by chef, May 14, 2002.

  1. chef

    chef Senior Member 10+ Year Member

    Nov 5, 2001
    It seems like the "time commitment" issue is being brought up here multiple times.. so I ask you guys what timeframe you have in mind to complete your MDPHD? Do you have certain strategies planned out to graduate in 7 yrs or less? At Vanderbilt, I saw some MSTPers start PhD after FIRST yr, then kinda finish 2nd yr during PhD, which allowed them to finish everything in 6 yrs... I haven't seen this at any other schools.
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  3. brandonite

    brandonite Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Oct 19, 2001
    Manitoba, Canada
    I'll be starting a year of PhD work next year. After that, I will either keep going and finish up my PhD before I start med school, or start the first two years of med school while doing research part time. I think the first year of research and classes will help me do quality research while in med school.

    The downside to that, of course, is that it might be nice to have your first two years of med school in before you start research. I know even at Duke, they talk about being able to do a year of clerkship before they start their research as being a big advantage. I guess it depends...

    I would love to be done in 7 years. I think 6 might be pushing it... If it takes me 8 years, then I would be OK with that, but perhaps not overly happy...
  4. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Mar 14, 2002
    the beach
    If I'm working a good lab and accomplishing good things, I'd be happy to stay in my PhD phase for 4 years and do the 8 year MD/PhD. Someone wisely pointed out before what I'm about to say. Most people view school as a means to a goal. Undergrads usually want to as little work as possible to obtain their degree, MD/PhDs usually want to move as quickly as possible to get out into their future jobs/research. You have to remember though that life is a journey, not a destination, and if you're happy where you're at in med school, why rush things? Just be careful about picking your labs, get something you're interested in, and why not enjoy the learning and producing oppertunities you have there?

    Maybe I'm just young and naive. That's what they tell me anyways :rolleyes:
  5. ckent

    ckent Banned Banned

    Jul 31, 2000
    I know of one student at Wash U MSTP who was taking 12 yrs to finish his MSTP. Apparently, his lab closed while he was working on his PhD or something and he had to start all over.
  6. Original

    Original Ogori-Magongo Warrior 7+ Year Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    I actually heard of this one person at washu that was in his/her 13th year <img border="0" title="" alt="[Eek!]" src="eek.gif" /> (perhaps the same person you're refering to) . Otherwise I think their average at washu is ~7yrs. But a Harvard I heard that 10th, 11th, 12th yr muddphudds are the norm <img border="0" alt="[Wowie]" title="" src="graemlins/wowie.gif" /> . Ridiculous!
  7. brandonite

    brandonite Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    Oct 19, 2001
    Manitoba, Canada
    Well, I agree with you Neuronix that you perhaps shouldn't just think of an MSTP as a means to an end, but should try to enjoy the time that you have. But getting done in a reasonable length of time is important to me. I mean, I will still have residency to do after that, and I do want to be out of school at a reasonable time... We do have our futures and our families to think of. I would have to think twice about an MSTP if the average length of time was 9 or 10 years, not 7. I am probably not the only one here...
  8. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Mar 14, 2002
    the beach
    I'm not saying I wanna be MSTP for 10+ years, even if I was fully funded and frequently published. I just think we can agree that it's important to enjoy what you're doing or else life just becomes a long string of pursuits. Yet the # of people who are fighting to do it in 6 amazes me.

    Ya know I keep hearing bad things about Harvard, I wonder if I should apply there. 8 years ok, but 10+? Ehhhhh, I don't know about that.
  9. Hopkins2010

    Hopkins2010 Banned Banned

    Nov 5, 1999
    Baltimore, Maryland
    I heard that there are some people at Pitt who also finish in 6 years.

    Personally, I think that would be really hard to do. Probably the people that do this path went to school there as an undergraduate and knew almost exactly what they wanted to do as soon as they started. I'd guess that 6 year MSTPers are rare, perhaps 1 in 10.

    I have also heard about the notoriously long Harvard MSTP lengths... but admittedly its all rumors. I know that academic and mapkinkster both went to Harvard MSTP interviews. Perhaps they could enlighten us if that perception is just a myth or if it really is that long over there.
  10. shamus1

    shamus1 Member 7+ Year Member

    Feb 18, 2002
    I think you need to look at the typical number of years that it takes a student in a particular program to complete the MD/PhD. I remeber hearing about the 13 year student @ WashU and of a guy at Yale that took 14 years. These however are the exceptions; at both places they say that you should expect 7 or 8 years. The students that took longer (and certainly those that were 3 or more years about the average time to degrees) probably had personal difficulties that contributed to their near-AARP status. If the rumors of a 10-year average at Harvard or UCSF are correct, then you might want to weigh that in your decision; that's 2 or 3 more years you have to spend as a student. I've heard some say that alumni of these programs spend less time in fellowship than those that go to programs that only take 7 or 8 years, but no one has offered hard evidence that this is the case.

    Like Baylor 21, I would be equally dubious of a program that claimed that a large number of students completed both degrees in 6 years. This can happen in rare instances, but to expect that you will complete in 6 years is pretty foolhardy. My feeling is that if more than 10% of a program's students completed in 6 years, there is reason to be suspicious of the rigor of the program. As someone said earlier (I am too lazy to go back and figure out who that was), you do the MD/PhD because you want to be an physician-scientist, not because you want to make obscene amounts of money or because you want to go through as quickly as you can. Having said that, I can understand why individuals decide not to pursue this path when they figure that they will be past 35 before they get their first faculty position. (Especially when the jerk who sat next to them in organic chemistry will be buying into a multi-million dollar radiology practice at that same point in their life.) The MD/PhD is definitely not for wimps.
  11. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    First, I'd like to clarify a few things. Looking at the average time to graduation of a specific program can be misleading because of the small sample size. Everyone has heard the horror stories of the poor student taking 10, 11, 12, etc years to finish an MD/PhD program. It is funny how these stories start with a couple of exceptions and then get multiplied, magnified, and highlighted until they become legend and eventually mythologized. (This phenomenon, among other things, is called availability bias).

    The students who have taken an unusually long time often have experienced personal difficulties, taken time off, had their advisor leave the school, taken on a project that takes a long time, or taken on a project that wasn't very well-designed (i.e. spent years and got negative results). Obviously, some of these variables are within your control and some are not.

    I think the key is to get focused, be self-motivated, and carve your independent path toward your goals. One specific thing to do is to look for programs that have built-in flexibility and ways of reducing unnecessary requirements. Other methods that will help you achieve your goals as an MSTP student include planning your time well and being productive no matter what you decide to tackle.

    Honestly, I can say that as an applicant I was worried much more than I am now about time to graduation. The thing you realize is that there is so much to learn and that you are actually getting paid for it! There will be no other time in your life like it. Moreover, I have realized that it is important to have a life outside of medical or graduate school during the program, and to not wait until afterwards. There are some great examples of people who have gotten married, had kids, and taken time off during the program.

    In summary, I don't think that the time to graduation should be a major obstacle to accomplishing your goals if you really want to do both medicine and research.

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