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MD vs. MD/PhD

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by premedbruin, Nov 23, 2005.

  1. premedbruin

    premedbruin Junior Member
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    For those of you that have enjoyed doing research and have done it extensively as an undergrad, are there any reasons to choose MD over MD/PhD (except for the obvious reason that MD/PhD involves 3-4 more years?)
     
  2. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    You will probably get more answers to your question if you ask it in the Physician Scientist forum. IMHO there is no "right" way to go about becoming a physician scientist, if that is your goal. You can do research with just an MD, or just a PhD, or with both degrees. If you want to do both degrees, you can do them together in a combined 7-8 year program, or you can do both separately, which will take even longer (9+ years). You should talk to someone who is familiar with your specific record (research, academics, other ECs) and career goals for guidance on this issue. You might also want to consider whether you want to have children, and if so, when you would like to have them, especially if you are female. Planning your family may be harder to do if you want to complete an MD/PhD, but it isn't impossible. There are plenty of women who have done it. Good luck! :luck:
     
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  3. potato51

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    I chose MD over MD/PhD for a couple reasons. One being the time it would take to complete the dual program, since now I'm 26 and want to get into a residency by the time I'm 30.

    Also, most MD/PhD's I know end up doing translational lab research at least 90% of the time. Now I enjoy research a ton but don't want it to comprise the majority of my medical career, so I'm sticking with the MD program, which allows you to do research anyway. Bottom line for me: If you want to focus on patient care, go for the MD. If you want to spend most of your time in research, try the MD/PhD. I work for a brilliant doc (MD only) who spends half her time doing either and is tremendously successful at both.

    Good luck with whatever you choose!
     
  4. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    Hi there,
    I did my Ph.D before medical school. I am a biochemist and when I was an undergraduate, I was pre-scientist rather than pre-med. I totally love and loved my undergraduate, graduate and professional research. The deciding factor for me in obtaining the MD was that I became extrememly interested in the clinical aspects of my work (Cell-cell communication in vascular smooth muscle cells).

    I am now a PGY-4 general surgery resident and I have been doing research for the past two years also. I did research in medical school in the summers and during fourth year also because I enjoy blazing new paths. By having both an MD and a Ph.D in one of the biomedical sciences, I have the best of both worlds. I expect that a career in academia may end up being my end point but I DO love both my clinical work and my research.

    By going the MD/Ph.D route, you end up not having to pay for medical or graduate school. (I owe about 40K for living expenses during medical school, I had a full-ride tuition scholarship) You also have an opportunity to do some quality research along with getting your clinical knowledge while you are a medical student. You also get your own office and lab which makes studying much easier as you books are always upstairs in the lab as opposed to dragging them in if you wish to study at school.

    The downside is that you start with one class and finish with another. This is not a huge problem but a couple of the MD/Ph.D students bonded so tightly with their starting class (one became engaged) that they dropped out of the Ph.D program before they started research. In most programs, you do first and second year med, then your graduate work unless you come at the masters level. If you come in with a masters and you are doing research in the same area, you can start your research progect immediately and go into the lab after your complete second year medical.

    All in all, research is great. You can also do your Ph.D while in residency as some of my colleagues have done if you are in a hurry to get your MD. In either event, I cannot imagine my career without reseach. I love the study and finding out new things or just updating my old ones.

    Good luck!
    njbmd :)
     
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  5. DrChandy

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    MD:
    You can do basic/clinical research just as a PhD/[MD/PhD]
    Research skills and other small (but important details) of general research practice can be learnt as you go along the job.

    MD/PhD:
    Great training in research skills
    Grants easier to obtain starting out
    Govt. (or educational institution) pays for your tuition [A pro in a way, and not so much of one in another, as pure MD cohorts will have already obtained several years of residency (or practice earnings later on, depending on your frame of reference) leading them to even out financially by the time you're done with your MD/PhD]
     
  6. Thundrstorm

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    Just b/c you enjoyed research doesn't necessarily mean you should go for the MD/PhD. The real question is what kind of career do yo want to have. What are your plans and goals? Figure that out, and then decide which degree is best.
     
  7. Darth Asclepius

    Darth Asclepius Dark Lord of the Sith
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    This was sort of how I felt too. I started out applying MD/PhD, but realized I enjoyed undergrad research because I liked doing the hands-on lab stuff (actually setting up the PCR, plating my colonies, etc), solving problems, and planning the experiment. Later in the process, I realized that I didn't enjoy writing (we were getting ready to publish) or analyzing data all day (I'd rather be the one executing the experiment). These are more like things PhD's do. Undergrads do the things I like. I also was shadowing a surgeon and really really loved it. I decided I would rather spend my days taking care of patients than writing grant proposals and analyzing data. I could see having a part in a research project as a surgeon, but I don't ever plan to run my own lab (which would be where that PhD would come in handy). That's why I chose MD only. It really depends on what you want to do. I think you should only do the combined degree if you really want to be able to run your own lab or spend at least half your time dedicated to research. If you're more interest in taking care of patients, you can still do research as an MD.
     
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  8. shantster

    shantster Eye protection!
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    Though I love doing research right now, I could never see myself getting a PhD. Most of the people that I met that have both almost exclusively work in research, something that I know that I don't want to do. If you plan on focusing more on the clinical aspects, then doing a PhD might not be appealing to you (which is why it is not for me). I would like to still pursue research as a physician (moreso in clinical research than actual lab research) and so for me at least, it makes more sense to go the MD only route, but to apply to more research intensive schools so that I still get research while in Med school.
     
  9. Scottish Chap

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    If you are very interested in research, go for the MD/PhD, but expect to take at least 8 years to finish. I did a PhD before medical school and I promise you that while it's technically feasible to gain a basic science research post with an MD, there really is no substitute for the dedicated, specialized, focused research training that the PhD provides. If you want decent training in basic science, one or two summers in the lab as a MD student is not going to cut it; at best you'll learn one techniqe competently. In addition, with MD/PhD, you'll avoid a massive amount of debt.

    I started off working on cell-cell communication in heart cells during the 3.5 yrs that I was a PhD student, then moved into vascular inflammation as a postdoc. In addition, I did a second fellowship in laboratory medicine and shared call with the path. residents; that's what sparked my interest in clinical medicine. In addition, I enjoyed picking up clinical research projects. Having a PhD will not make it easier to get grants--contrary to popular belief. All things considered, I'd do the MD/PhD if I could do it all again....if nothing else, I'd have saved a ton of money. Good luck with your decision, and please feel free to PM me if you have any more questions.
     
  10. OSUdoc08

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    MD = work with patients in a hospital, clinic, or doctor's office

    MD/PhD = work with lab rats and test subjects in a lab

    What do you want to do?
     
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  11. Doctor&Geek

    Doctor&Geek 25 > 5 / 15 < 8
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    I think that's quite an oversimplification right there.
     
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  12. OSUdoc08

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    If you want to work in the hospital, a PhD is not needed.
     
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  13. Darth Asclepius

    Darth Asclepius Dark Lord of the Sith
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    I agree. If you really want to have a research career, the PhD provides the training you need. It boils down to how big of a role you want research to have.
     
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  14. Thundrstorm

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    My thoughts exactly.
     
  15. eric23

    eric23 Member
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    I'm in the same situation. I really like the gene research I'm doing right now as an undergraduate. However, I'm wondering what kinda of lifestyle I would live if I were in the lab all the time. I mean, I want to contribute the scientific journey and all...but at the same time...life is short...it's gonna be a hard choice for me.
     
  16. Doctor&Geek

    Doctor&Geek 25 > 5 / 15 < 8
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    That's wonderful, but the ability to both work in the hospital and work in a lab hasn't even entered your mind?
     
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  17. Gut Shot

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    Why yes, there is a very significant reason to choose MD-only: getting a PhD really sucks. A lot. A whole lot. I know there are some mutants out there who really loved their graduate work, but don't assume you'll be part of that crowd. Virtually every MD/PhD student I've known has spent much of his/her research time racked with anguish, frustration and self-doubt. They frequently flee research altogether as soon as possible. The lack of debt sounds great, but 3-5 years of your life has some value as well.

    If I sound discouraging about the combined degree, it's because I am. The consensus I've reached with various faculty is that a minority of MD/PhD students really thrive, but most of them don't, and it's impossible to tell which camp you will fall into.

    Bottom line: do combined if you want to, just make sure you really, really, really, REALLY want to.
     
  18. thegymbum

    thegymbum Senior Member
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    Personally, the main factor has been the interpersonal interaction. I'd rather work with the people I'm helping, rather than helping people through research but not actually working with them face to face. Not that that made sense or anything ;)
     
  19. OSUdoc08

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    Why would you want to do that?
     
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  20. SwineLake98

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    I have spent a lot of time thinking and talking about MD/PhD with various people. I love my major (Biochemistry), and I've been doing research since before my freshman year in Immunology. My plan was always to go to med school, and all of a sudden, people start asking me, "You're going into research, right?" I definitely have an enthusiasm when it comes to the basic sciences; I love going to seminars, lab meetings, etc. What finally put things in perspective for me was working at a comperhensive cancer center this summer where I spent 4 days a week in the lab and Fridays shadowing in the clinic. Friday was the highlight of my week. I realized that I don't want to spend that much time at the benchtop. Also, my PI was an MD, so it is possible to do traslational research without spending an extra 3+ years in school. I'm also thinking about maybe doing a year research fellowship at some point because I do want to be in a university hospital or similar setting where there is reasearch going on. Not to mention, I accepted early assurance at UB, and so to apply to MD/PhD, I would have had to take the MCAT which I wouldn't have had to otherwise.
    Anyway, long story short, I know what you're going through. Just when I think the debate is over, someone else asks me about research. At the least I'm flattered because I've been trusted with my own projects and people think I would be sucessful at it! Who knows...maybe I'll go back and get a PhD someday, but for now, I want to work with patients first.
     
  21. Thundrstorm

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    Do you actually want an answer, or are you just being obnoxious?
     
  22. OSUdoc08

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    I just don't understand how you'd want to work in a lab if you are interested in patient care. They seem to be mutually exclusive to me. It seems to me you either are a people person that works well with patients, or aren't.

    I suppose if you have planned on being a pathologist all along, then you could potentially get an MD/PhD, but do you really need the PhD? MD's can do research without the additional degree.
     
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  23. izibo

    izibo Senior Member
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    How on earth are they mutually exclusive? Has translation research ever crossed into your mind?

    I am matriculating at a fantastic MSTP institution next year, and plan on doing a PhD in cell biology (tissue regeneration, development) and then doing a gen-surg residency. I will spend some of my time in the lab doing research that is applicable to my time in clinic.

    Just because you lack an open mind doesn't mean that someone else can't be successful doing two different things that you deem to be "mutually exclusive"

    Oh, and last time I checked, extra information and training never hurt anyone from being a good clinician.
     
  24. OSUdoc08

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    Isn't another 4 years a bit excessive?

    It's not like you're going to get a huge jump in pay. You can still research without the degree.
     
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  25. Doctor&Geek

    Doctor&Geek 25 > 5 / 15 < 8
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    This kind of attitude is THE reason why there needs to be more translational researchers and physician-scientists.
     
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  26. diosa428

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    I considered doing an MD/PhD, but ultimately decided on an MD only. As everyone has already mentioned, 8 years is a really, really long time and you can do research with just an MD. I decided that, although I would like to do research as a physician, I am more interested in patient care. MD/PhDs are designed primarily for people who would like a career in academic medicine, and I don't see myself being primarily interested in research. Another reason that I chose to go straight MD was because a lot of schools will allow you to enter into the MD/PhD program after your first or second year of medical school, so if you change your mind, you can still do it. However, I think in a lot of these cases, you're not eligible for the government grant (but a lot of schools will pay for your last 6 years anyway).
     
  27. SwineLake98

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    That was a deciding factor for me, too. If there is a spot open after first year, I may take that as a sign and apply for the program then, but there is no guarentee there will be a place in the MSTP open. People have also taken a break between second and third years to do a PhD independend of an MD/PhD program, so I don't feel like I have closed any doors by not applying to the program now.
     
  28. dsq

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    Originally Posted by OSUdoc08
    Isn't another 4 years a bit excessive?
    It's not like you're going to get a huge jump in pay. You can still research without the degree.

    While you can do translational research with an MD, you will most likely be better prepared for a research career with the PhD. As for the money, believe it or not some people will spend the extra time training so that they can do the work that they want to do and not for a fatter paycheck. In fact, you can probably make much more money doing only clinical work with an MD.
     
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  29. eric23

    eric23 Member
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    Two questions:

    1) How much research can you actually fit into your schedule as a med student (MD).

    2) Exactly what kind of research, generally speaking, do MD students typically do? Do they tend to work under PhDs? Independent investigations?
    Gene research? Clinical?

    I think that these are important questions when considering choosing between MD and MD/PhD (MSTP)

    Thanks in advance,

    Eric
     
  30. letmein!please?

    letmein!please? Senior Member
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    I have another question... what is the pay difference between MD's and MD/PHD's? Do the latter make more, less, about the same? I guess this would only be a deciding factor for me if the MD/PHD's made significantly less...

    EDIT: oh, and I'm talking about the MD/PHD's who primarily do research and get grants, not surgeons, for example.
     
  31. dr.z

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    Two of research mentors that I have had do research and patient care. They are both MDs, and I think they do good research and get along with patients.
     
  32. OSUdoc08

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    Ah, but are they PhD's?
     
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  33. dr.z

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    I know of MD and MD/Ph.Ds who does patient care and do research as well. If they were PhD's, they wouldn't be seeing patients would they?
     
  34. CrazyPremed

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    It seems - to me, at least - that getting an MPH during or after residency is also a good way to get research experience in a more clinical based area. I've seen many general surgeons do this, and they use surgical questions for their thesis topics. I love the idea of research, but will stick to clinical projects instead of the more basic science questions (and make a physician's salary while doing it). I'd take a look at this alternative.

    CrazyPremed
     
  35. Scottish Chap

    Physician PhD Moderator Emeritus 15+ Year Member

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    I have a friend with an MD/PhD who never took the MCAT either. Like you, he was accepted via early assurance (Univ Rochester) for the MD program, but transferred into the MD/pHD program after year 1. Look into it. It's well worth the extra few years in research if you are are as commited as you sound.
     
  36. Scottish Chap

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    Absolutely no difference in academic medical centers IF both have the same extent of patient contact. The research salary from an academic department is fixed so, if you don't want any clinical resonsibility at all, you'll be making the same as a PhD. Only working as an MD will change your income.
     
  37. Friendly

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    You'll find that most people benefit from the additional training, OSUdoc08.
     
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  38. SwineLake98

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    I actually talked to the person in charge of the MSTP at UB. She said sometimes there are spots available after first year. If that turns out to be the case, I probably will apply.
     

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