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MD/PhD - Which part do you think is more important to my career goals?

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microgin

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Here's hoping that someone here will be able to offer some advice...

I'm a non-traditional applicant (already have a Master's in Biomedical Sciences) who is currently an MD/PhD applicant for Fall '05. The competition sure has been stiff out there and I'm facing a potential dilemma. I have applied to MD/PhD programs because I want to remain involved in cancer immunology translational research (I've worked as a Research Associate in this field for going on two years now). However, there's a chance that the only programs I will be accepted at will be MD-only (applied MD/PhD, but rejected from that and accepted MD-only). I'm not sure if a straight MD will allow me to achieve my career goals, or if in that case I wouldn't be better off applying to straight PhD programs. Just to give you a quick synopsis of my career goals, I have no desire to be a "practicing" physician in the sense of daily "hands-on" patient care - does anyone know of any MD's whose primary role is that of research and teaching? I have a strong interest in teaching more clinical subjects (immuno, oncology, micro) at both the undergrad and grad levels. With a straight PhD, am I limiting myself to basic science research as opposed to a more clinical/translational bent? While I hope it doesn't come down to having to choose sides, I want to have a good handle on what single degree might be more beneficial to my interests in case a backup plan is needed.
Thanks for your help! :)
 

linuxizer

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microgin said:
I have no desire to be a "practicing" physician in the sense of daily "hands-on" patient care - does anyone know of any MD's whose primary role is that of research and teaching? I have a strong interest in teaching more clinical subjects (immuno, oncology, micro) at both the undergrad and grad levels. With a straight PhD, am I limiting myself to basic science research as opposed to a more clinical/translational bent?

There are certainly MDs who do no clinical work, but they are less common these days--the reason usually given is the rise of the MSTP programs as well as the increased quality of Ph.D. programs in general, but I haven't seen any data to support thsoe conclusions. If you're interested in this path, it usually involves one or more post-docs and/or research fellowships to bring you up to speed on research techniques and scientific thinking--med school certainly does not do this to nearly the extent a Ph.D. Program does.
As for a straight Ph.D. teaching clinical stuff, aren't many portions of med school classes taught by Ph.D.'s? Your choice might be easier if you're interested in Pathology, as that's one area where a) you never really see patients anyway and b) MD's and Ph.D.'s are both in abundance.
In short, I'd say go Ph.D. except that what you want to do is clinical/translational research. I don't really see how you can do clinical research without seeing patients or being in really close collaboration with those who do. If what you mean is work on medically-relevant basic science, then a Ph.D. might be better for the increased science training. But that's just my $0.02. I'm sure others will have their (possibly more valid) opinions.
Good luck,
Ari
 

Vader

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If you are not interested in ever seeing patients in a future career, then going to medical school is probably not the best option (unless you go into path, as mentioned). Don't forget that 3rd and 4th year of medical school is almost exclusively about seeing patients on the wards (with the exception of some elective time, vacations, etc). Do you plan on doing a residency?

There are plenty of PhDs who successful conduct translational research. They usually collaborate with MDs who have access to patients. In this way, PhDs can get access to patient tissue for study (i.e. for cancer immuno work). If you desire additional background, you could go for the PhD and take some clinically-oriented classes in your particular field.

Hope this helps.
 

Newquagmire

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i agree with what's already been said. another thing to consider is taking some time off during the MD (if you so choose to go to medical school) to do research in a similar way that an MD/PhD program would allow you to do. though the means is not the same (i.e. phd degree vs other method such as howard hughes year out and a fellowship) the end is (intensive, advanced research training with some room for error).
 

1Path

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Vader said:
In this way, PhDs can get access to patient tissue for study (i.e. for cancer immuno work). If you desire additional background, you could go for the PhD and take some clinically-oriented classes in your particular field.

While this may be true, the job market alone for PhD's dictates that if a person has even the slightest interest in clinical medicine, they should go for the MD/PhD.
 
B

b&ierstiefel

1Path said:
While this may be true, the job market alone for PhD's dictates that if a person has even the slightest interest in clinical medicine, they should go for the MD/PhD.
Agreed...like I said in a previous thread...blame it on credential inflation. 50 years ago, only a high school diploma was required to get a tenure track faculty research position (OK, maybe that's pushing it :) ).
 
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