Looking for some advice....

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by MFrig31, Dec 8, 2005.

  1. MFrig31

    MFrig31 Junior Member
    5+ Year Member

    Dec 8, 2005
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    Currently, I am a Junior Biology Major with a concentration in biochemistry and premed. I stumbled upon this forum just trying to find out some information concerning the MD/PhD programs.

    I have known that I have wanted to go into medicine for awhile now, but recently I realized that I get a huge kick out of research. I started researching in a molecular genetics lab at end of my sophomore year and will continue until this summer where I will be switching to a biochem lab. I was also able to work full time in an Orthopedics Department in Manhattan this past summer and don’t really think I will be happy with just an MD (I know that sounds silly saying "just"). The thought of combining clinical research while practicing medicine seems like the perfect synthesis of my interests. I do have a few concerns though....

    1) I am wondering what percentage of time will be spent doing research, and what percentage will be spent with patient care?

    2) Does your PhD field have to mirror what type of medicine you practice, an example being: could you be an ER doc while researching cancer development?

    3) What are the types of grades/scores are required to get into an MD/PhD program?

    4) What kind of institutions should I expect to be working in?

    Currently, I have approx a 3.68 and I will be taking the MCAT this April. I go to a small "pseudo-Ivy" with a strong premed program, and as mentioned above will have been researching for approx 1.5 years when I send out my applications. I am not sure if this helps my application what so ever but I also am a Captain on my D-1 swim team. I have also had 2 full time clinical experiences working in an ER and Ortho Dept. I am sure this sounds extremely naive, but I am looking for ANY advice that anyone can give me. More importantly, do I even have a chance? Should I be looking into anything to improve my application? Would a year off help? Thanks
  2. Hurricane

    Hurricane Senior Member
    5+ Year Member

    Aug 14, 2005
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    Resident [Any Field]
    That's the eternal question! There is no set answer. Depending on your interests, what specialty you go into, etc. it could vary between 100% clinical, 100% research, 50/50, 80/20, etc. And it can change depending on where you are in your career. That said, I think a lot of people shoot for 80 research/20 clinical.

    Not at all. The purpose of the PhD is for you to learn how to think like a scientist, not for you to learn everything about molecule X. IMO, the advisor is much more important than the subject matter of your thesis project. (It should be something that interests you though.) Many MD/PhDs aren't even sure what clinical specialty they want to go into when they start their 3rd year of med school, or they thought they did and change their minds.

    I'm going to defer on this one, because I'm an old fart and it's been a while since I went through the application process.

    Many of us end up in academic medicine, although there are people who go into private practice, industry, policy, etc.

    Your application sounds pretty good to me. For the research experience, the programs want to see that you've had experience in at least one lab for a while, which shows that you understand the kind of work and time committment that a research career entails, which makes you less likely to decide that research sucks after 6 months of grad school and quit after the program paid for half of your med school. And they want to see that you understand your project and did more than just washing dishes or data entry.

    Re the year off, if you want to do a year off, then by all means do one, but it doesn't sound like you have some glaring deficiency that you need to compensate for by doing a year off.
  3. hawkeey

    hawkeey Member
    5+ Year Member

    Nov 6, 2005
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    Medical Student
    You are still kind of confused, and you need to sort these ideas out in your head a little bit more. This is quite normal.

    So here we go...

    What about research interests you? You are right that it sounds silly to say "just", but that will be quite a serious matter when you begin interviewing - find better words. The research is not necessarily clinical. Actually with PhD programs, the research is actually most often non-clinical as in basic scientific research. If you actually are more interested in clinical research, then pursue the regular MD path with a program that will allow you do clinical research rotations followed by a clinical research fellowship.

    At what stage of your career are you talking about? In schoo, these two periods of time will be mostly separated out. You will have your medical school years and graduate school years. Most of the time its 2 years of med school, 3-5 years of PhD work, and then 2 more years of medical school.

    After that, its your choice. You could just do a post-doc, or you could do a residency (recommended). Most MD/PhDs end up either doing one or the other primarily. It is really difficult to do both. The key question is: why do a MD/PhD if I'm going to only end up doing either research or medicine? You will have to figure out that question for yourself. This will be one of the first questions asked in an interview.

    No. First of all you do not really begin to specialize too much in medical school itself. That is mostly done in residencies and fellowships afterwards. The answer to the latter question is yes, but its going to be really difficult to do. Being an ER doc is a full time job and so is researching cancer. So if you have to pick one, which would you do?

    These programs can be really competitive. Obvoiusly the better credentials you come with the better chance that you have to get into a better program. The current dogma with grades/scores is that you only need enough. The more important thing is to have research experience and demonstrate a desire to pursue both degrees.

    You have a lot of options with an MD/PhD. You could work as a scientist in academia or industry. You could be a professor at a university. You could work in private practice, but this is often frowned upon.

    Keep doing research and start looking into programs. Check out http://www.intransit.us . A year off might help so that you can prepare a better application; otherwise, you must begin to prepare your application immediately. At this time, I would start requesting letters of recommendation and start drafting personal essays. It is extremely important that you apply early in the summer (June)... you will get more attention from admission committees and get more interviews.

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