Life of an MD/PhD graduate

double_cut

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    I know this topic was discussed in another thread, but after seeing the last post about dropping out of an MSTP...I guess I needed advice from some mudphudders. I really like research and I (sorta) like clinical stuff, so I'm pursuing an MD/PhD. I've gotten into some top 20's and everything is looking peachy...so it seems. Truly, I don't know if I actually want to work in a lab for the rest of my life, see patients, or have a combination of both. Additionally, I really like politics and business...so I'm not sure if I'd like to go into health politics with a job in the government, or be a consultant for a big firm or work for the UN...NO CLUE! Is there a life of possibilities out there for MD/PhD's? Or does everyone want us to be academics with big labs doing bench work all the time? Advice from veterans, current soldiers, and compatriots on the interview trail is welcome.
     

    Gfunk6

    And to think . . . I hesitated
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      No question that there exists a bias among MD/PhD students and program administrators that, if you do not run a lab then an MD/PhD is not worthwile. I tend to fall into this line of thinking frequently.

      However, this is simply not true. Ultimately, the entire spectrum from 100% clinical to 100% research is open to you -- in any combination. Furthermore, your research my be entirely clinical in nature.

      In the end, you have to decide for yourself if a PhD will be worth it for you. In my case, it is relatively easy to justify since I want to run a lab in addition to treating patients. As I've stated in another thread, anyone who completes such a rigorous program has EARNED the right to do whatever they want. With the diversity of PhDs being offered in some MSTPs in fields like Comp Sci, Bio Engineering, Bioethics, and Epidemiology, I'm sure that you can generate a far different breed of physician then the quintessential "medical scientist."

      As to grads from our program, some have gone on to be faculty in basic and clinical departments nationwide. Others have decided to go the private route entirely and eschew doing any research.

      I'm not sure this was the kind of open-ended, cliched answer you were looking for, but the very nature of the dual-degree is tremendously open-ended.
       

      NGN47

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        I am not finished yet with the whole program (I am in the exact middle of it), but the way I see it, there are many possibile careers for an MSTP graduate. Clearly, anything in clinical medicine will be open to you. And, with an MD/PhD, your chances of landing whichever residency you decide on will be excellent. As for research, you will stand a better chance of getting NIH money than would someone with an MD or PhD. Also, your chances of landing a faculty position in academic medicine are very high. Another option is biotech or pharma, which people often overlook. I have spoken with 'recruiters' from these places that come to the chemistry department at my school. They are always impressed by the MD/PhD degrees and tell me that there are excellent positions in industry suited for a rigorously trained researcher with clinical experience. I would also guess, though I have no concrete data to support this, that positions in consulting and venture capital firms that are focused on medicine or science would be reasonable options for an MD/PhD graduate as well. To summarize, if you are aiming for a career that has anything to do with medicine or science, then the MD/PhD route is the best way to go. The only drawback, really the only one, is the time investment. So, develop some hobbies along the way.
         
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        double_cut

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          yah man...i'm not sure about this stuff yet...i'm thinking i should take a year or two off to decide, but i don't wan't to be 35 by the time i'm ready to get working. anybody out there take a year off and are mstp's now?
           
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          b&ierstiefel

            Agreed. MD/PhD gives you options options options. And hell, you've earned it! (as Gfunk said). Don't let anyone give you crap about how you decide to apply your MD/PhD training...you can do whatever you want whether it's all clinical or all research or somewhere in between.

            Our grads have done half and half as a rough estimate. Some people want to do all clinical work and not run a lab. Then there are some people who want to minimize clinical work as much as possible. A few of us have gone on to straight postdoc after finishing. One got a patent and started up his own biotech company after graduating.

            To echo previous comments, the big drawback to MD/PhD is time commitment. However, many programs are doing their best to have their fellows go through the program as efficiently as possible. At our program, there were plenty of "lifers" who spent over 10 years here. That is pretty much unheard of now as the far majority of people finish their PhD's in 4 years (or in a few cases 3 or 5).
             

            freddytn

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              Just to add to this thread, I think there are more than a few current MD-PhD students who feel the same way in terms of being a 100% sure of what they will do after they finish the dual degree. To pre-empt an announcement I will post later. If you happen to be near the Chicago area on April 15-17 or can make it out there then, the American Physician Scientists Association is holding a meeting that will hopefully answer some of these very concerns. Our peakers come from academia, industry, and the NIH and represent the fields of cell biology, chemistry, pharmaceuticals, cancer research, molecular diagnostics, pathology, health economics, and the social sciences. All but one speaker have all earned MD-PhD Degrees and are leading successful careers. Hopefully this will open up the wide breadth of opportunities that are available to the those going through or thinking about undertaking the dual-degree program. (http://www.physicianscientists.org/Meetings.html) Also from your interest in business and health politics, you might consider other dual degree programs that are more suiting like the MD/JD, MD/MBA, MD/MPH. Another conference that might be of interest should that be your route is the 2005 MD/PhD Social Science and Humanities Conference at UCSF on May 14th. More details about this conference will be posted on the APSA website in the next couple of weeks.
               
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              b&ierstiefel

                double_cut said:
                thanks guys :) i'll definitely attend those seminars and stuff. and more power to us for having the decision to do whatever we want (cartman: whatevah! i do what i want!)

                "Whateva, Whateva, I do what I want. I smoke crack, I do drugs, I drink alcohol. I once killed SIX baby seals with my bare hands. Whateva whateva, I do what I want."
                 
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