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MD/PhD or MS/MD?

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elonmuskswife

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Hey, all. I could really use any and all advice that you could give me.

I am currently a sophomore studying Computer Science (BS) with a minor in Chemistry due to my pre-med prereqs. I am hoping to go to ~some~ version of grad school with the ultimate goal being a medical doctor that applies machine learning/artificial intelligence to medicine. I am currently doing research with artificial intelligence and rare genomic disorders and have done some work with disability accessibility in health care. Some implications that I am looking towards in the future are: radiology + AI/ML, surgery + AI/robotics, medical geneticist + AI/ML.

I know that many cite the number of a 80/20 divide for MD/PhD faculty, but I believe it may be a bit different for a computer science PhD. I won't be doing bench lab work, rather software engineering. I would like to do a ~ 60/40 split with software engineering being for the former.

Which path do you guys think would be the most beneficial; receiving a masters in computer science and then attending med school, or doing MD/PhD? I know many people say to not consider the financial aspect because "you can pay it off with a few years of being an attending", but that is also a large factor to me. Thank you so much for any advice! I appreciate your feedback.
 
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NileMasr21

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I was in your position: Computer Science major interested in bioinformatics applications to medicine. I spent a few months deciding between MD/MS and MD/PhD. After consulting with some people and looking into what I really want, I did ultimately decide on MD/PhD for three reasons:

1: According to my Computer Science major career advisor, most MS programs for computer science are not research oriented but rather more practically oriented. My main interests are creating and using bioinformatic tools to understand intricacies of the human body (mainly relating to that of the immune system), not in the coding and deployment of large-scale software for public use. My advisor told me that a PhD would be more relevant and practical for me.

2: From my understanding, a PhD allows you to specialize in an absolutely specific topic of your interest. This means that you can specialize in the one thing that interests you (one of the implications that you mentioned earlier). A masters is more of a broad overview, so it would take a lot of extra legwork to fit your computational training into your medical training. Adding further, some MD/PhD programs have mechanisms in place to help you ensure that what you're doing in your PhD ties back to your medical education.

3: Financial. Obviously an MD/PhD is more financially stable than an MD/MS. I personally disagree with everyone who says that the financial aspect is a small factor because you can pay off loans quickly, because a major factor is your quality of life WHILE you're studying. Imagine having to pay for your MS and your MD degrees separately, maybe having to move to different cities/states for each of them, paying tuition, paying rent, etc. while the MD/PhD stipend covers *everything* you might need in most cases. It'll relieve so much stress off of you during your training that you can actually dedicate yourself to your training.

Long story short: if you're more interested in practical applications than research, the MD/MS might be better off for you. But then again, finances might hold you back. If you're interested in research, the MD/PhD will be so much better.

Feel free to PM me if you want more advice
 
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djp724

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I'm in a similar situation and am curious about the length of CS MD-PhD programs as compared to more traditional MD-PhDs. More specifically/personally, I have a MS in ML (part of co-terminal undergrad/grad program) and plan to continue taking ML graduate courses through a program with my employer for the next 2 years before applying to med school. I also have a pretty solid idea what I'd like to research and know some of the faculty in that area at some of the schools I'd be applying to. Would I potentially be able to complete an MD-PhD program in fewer than the typical 8 years? I know this might be a meaningless question, but the length of the program has always been a bit of a sticking point for me.
 

pretysmitty

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I'm in a similar situation and am curious about the length of CS MD-PhD programs as compared to more traditional MD-PhDs. More specifically/personally, I have a MS in ML (part of co-terminal undergrad/grad program) and plan to continue taking ML graduate courses through a program with my employer for the next 2 years before applying to med school. I also have a pretty solid idea what I'd like to research and know some of the faculty in that area at some of the schools I'd be applying to. Would I potentially be able to complete an MD-PhD program in fewer than the typical 8 years? I know this might be a meaningless question, but the length of the program has always been a bit of a sticking point for me.

I view the PhD component of mdphd as one without a masters segment, and it sounds like you already have/are doing what the first two years of a normal PhD would give you. (This is also why I think mdphd demands more rsrch experience among applicants)

For mdphd vs md/ms, i feel like you can’t do the sort of independent research nor (learn to) publish as much. The ms will be more coursework than anything else, and you won’t get a stipend.
 

FutureMSTP

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You obtain a PhD for purpose of eventually running your own lab and a master's usually to learn more about a field or specialize in something new. Consider which of these interests you. As for your field, you might want to look at MD/PhD programs which graduate program in biomedical engineering or computational biology. If you get good grades many programs will appreciate someone heavy on computational work. If you decide to get an Master's first maybe think of working for a couple of years to pay off debt since you won't be able to work during medical school.
 

kepler16b

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If you can stomach the extra few years of training, I think an MD/PhD will be better for you. It sounds like you want to be a PI leading a lab studying AI/ML for medicine? In which case you will need to apply for and receive grants to fund your research. The PhD will give you the additional background and training in granstmanship (ideally) to make you more competitive. The lack of debt will allow you to take more risks in your career, including lower paying positions with protected time for research. Furthermore, since computational PhDs are generally more efficient and less risky than wet lab, you can probably complete your PhD in 3-4 years, which will only be 2-3 years more than an MD+MS.
 

sfmdphd

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hey, I have a similar experience: I did an MS (not computer science but another quantitative discipline) prior to starting my MD-PhD (mix of computational and bench work). I would say they are just two experiences that are fundamentally not comparable. The purpose of a Master's is to prepare you for the next step of your career, which for most people is industry. It is a lot like an extension of undergrad: most of your time is spent taking classes. You may have the opportunity to do research for credit, but many schools cap this at around 3-6 credits out of 30. Even programs that bill themselves as "Research Master's" usually do not lead to a publication.
A PhD is an apprenticeship in research. You still have the chance to do advanced coursework, but that is not your focus. A PhD gives you experiences to prepare you for a research career, including designing an independent research project, carrying it out, writing grants, and writing and going through the review process for a piece of original research. If your career goal is to do independent research, a PhD is the way to go.
 
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