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drpossible

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Has anyone ever heard of this? I know of a few doctors who either did an MD-PhD and then neurosurgery or did their PhD, then MD, then neurosurgery. I even know one who got their PhD after their residency.

To me, this seems very interesting, but just too long to pursue. What do you think? Would the PhD be worth it (excluding monetary benefits) if one goes into neurosurgery?

Also, I would assume the PhD is in neuroscience. Do you know of anyone (in neurosurgery) who has other than that?

On a side, is it possible find a balance between surgery and lab research?
 
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delirium81

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I know of at least one person who did MD/PhD and then neurosurgery, and yes, the PhD was in neuroscience. I don't believe that this person started the MD/PhD with the ultimate plan of doing a neurosurgery residency simply because you don't typically get a lot of protected research time as a surgeon and most people don't take on an MD/PhD program unless they plan on a majority research career. Personally, I think it's too long a road to undertake and there's not much benefit to having the PhD at the end of it. If you're going into medicine knowing that you have a strong interest in a surgical specialty, I would not recommend going the MD/PhD route.
 

solitude

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yes, many MSTPs do this. Some do their PhD in a field other than Neuroscience. Most never do bench research again (not judging; I think this is perfectly fine). A few do manage to continue doing bench research but remain mediocre surgeons by their own admission. It's not that much longer of a path, a 6 yr residency vs. many non-surgical fields are 1 year internship + 3 residency + 2 fellowship. Neurosurg typically doesn't require fellowship although they are available.
 
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K31

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There are many MD/PhD students who go into neurosurgery. If you look at Charting Outcomes in the Match 2011 (on my phone, sorry for no link but it's readily available at the NRMP site), about 10% of those matching in neurosurgery each year are MD/PhD's. That's higher than all other specialties with the exception of rad onc, path, and neuro.

FWIW, a friend of mine who is applying to neurosurg this year didn't do his PhD in neuroscience. His thesis project was on GBM though.
 

mercaptovizadeh

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Has anyone ever heard of this? I know of a few doctors who either did an MD-PhD and then neurosurgery or did their PhD, then MD, then neurosurgery. I even know one who got their PhD after their residency.

To me, this seems very interesting, but just too long to pursue. What do you think? Would the PhD be worth it (excluding monetary benefits) if one goes into neurosurgery?

Also, I would assume the PhD is in neuroscience. Do you know of anyone (in neurosurgery) who has other than that?

On a side, is it possible find a balance between surgery and lab research?

I know a number of people like that at my program (planning to go into neurosurgery or matched into it), but from what I can tell, they are veering back into predominantly or purely clinical. They have little interest in mostly basic science careers. I think it's very hard to be a great researcher and competent in a diagnostic specialty. In a procedural specialty, without the hours put in to either research or surgery, one or the other will suffer.
 

VisualSnow

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I met a guy at Baylor that was doing this. His research was in some type of pioneering surgical technique his adviser had created. Can't remember specifics, sorry.
 

neurotroph

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The PI of a lab that I interned at was an MD/PhD/Neurosurgeon. He didn't do any bench research and only met up with us lab members when he could manage to find time in his schedule to come to our lab meeting for that week. He did some experimental procedural stuff though.
 

Ombret

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Regarding the balance between surgery and lab research. As an MD/PhD student, I was always told that "surgical research sucks" (usually in those exact terms, but with a knowing look that precluded any need to discuss further.) Now that I am most of the way through postgraduate training in a traditionally MD/PhD-friendly field, pathology, I find it extremely frustrating to discover that some of the best examples of the triple threat are actually surgeons.

I admire these people a lot. Somehow we have people who balance a full OR and clinic schedule with what I would recognize as meaningful basic and translational research that they initiate. Just look at the abstract book from ASCO or AACR or see what the surgical faculty at any well-known place are doing. I am talking about tenure track faculty. Meanwhile, there is almost no one in our path department who is both running their own grant-funded lab, i.e., staying on the tenure track, and signing out surgical pathology. The typical claim is that it's just too hard and those who do take a stab at it usually don't end up flying. What the heck? Our patients are mounted on three-inch glass slides. They do not call for prescriptions or get wound infections. We do not have to round on them. Yet economics and circumstance have conspired so that the pathologist-scientist is actually rather rare, while the surgeon-scientist is not all that uncommon.

I would be interested to hear if anyone has any idea as to what specifically drives this dynamic. My own guesses are two. (a) Surgery is profitable. Thus surgical departments can throw relatively more money at their research-oriented attendings. That means less effort needed to compete for grants, although our surgical labs nonetheless all have multiple R01s. (b) Everyone in pathology is always harping on how "we have the tissue," but actually the surgeons have the patients and can also demand the tissue. I have also been told that standards to stay on the tenure track in surgical departments are just not that high, but that seems like sour grapes.

As neurotroph pointed out, as PIs surgeons can be somewhat absentee. But invariably they have very good PhD research faculty associated with their group and the result is a big happy translational research family. Again the economics are a little puzzling to me.

The point of this post is that if you are attracted to a surgical career, that is not at all incompatible with the ideals of the MD/PhD pathway. Caveats for this post include that I know surgeons are not a monolithic block, nor are their specialties, and that I am sort of ignoring all but basic science research.
 
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