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Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by sunnypiano6, Feb 22, 2007.
I have personally never heard of anyone doing that, but I'm sure tha people do. I would think it would be difficult to find many places that offer this. Remember, that the goal of most MD/PhD programs is to train physician-scientists, although some allow for other types of programs ethics, anthropology (still science).
I know that it is very early in your career and things change, but what do you see yourself doing in 20 years with an MD and PhD in the history of medicine?
I know a couple, but it's just MD/PhD not MSTP (ie fork over the cash for the MD). You take a LOA after the first 2 yrs and do your PhD. Basically, it's most easily accomplished if you go to a med school that has a university with a history of science department/program (there aren't many). You apply to the PhD once you get there (I think). Also, you don't have to do a PhD (4-5 yrs). I know Harvard offers a masters and some sort of certificate in HSci at HMS. Oh and there are definitely some cool job prospects out there!
Penn has a significant hist sci program should have knowledgable people there to talk to. I have a couple of names of people to talk to as well (PM me if interested).
Here's a link to the Harvard MD-PhD program, social sciences track. Apparently there is at least some funding available for medical school tuition for people who are on this track, but I'm not sure if it covers all of it.
Not to be a damper or anything, but why exactly do you want to do this? A warning as well - PhDs in non-traditional disciplines (humanities) can often take longer than science PhDs for MD/PhDers to complete. At my institution a lot of our med school classes count for graduate school credit, hence we have minimal class requirements in grad school (e.g. we've already taken cell biology, etc. during med school and don't have to take them again during grad school) and can usually get out with a solid/real PhD in 4 years. That's not the case with humanities PhDs....if you have to take the same course requirements, have the same teaching responsibilities as a typical humanities grad student then you will probably be looking at at least 5 years in grad school, with 6-7 not being unrealistic. That adds up to a LOT of years in med school before even pursuing residency, fellowship, etc. When you're young all those years don't seem like a big deal, but trust me it begins to weigh heavily on you when you finally make it back to 3rd year med school and are getting scutted out to do rectal exams in the ED while your best friends from med school are either finishing up their fellowship or are attendings already.
If you really have a defined vision of how you will use your PhD in your career, go for it. If you want to do it just because you find the topic fascinating and you love it, well still go for it but think about it carefully before taking the plunge.
To be able to publish in the humanities or social sciences does not require a PhD, if you have an MD already. You will be bringing to the table knowledge not shared by the humanists. All that is needed is some experience with historical research.
Unfortunately, the humanities and social sciences are infected with a steady supply of ideologically motivated research. So, be prepared to read a lot of Marx and Lenin.
The same could be said of biology and other fields.
More so of biology. I'm not sure what useful knowledge an MD brings to the table for history research. I guess if you do some kind of history of medicine that involves detailed science, it could be useful.
An argument could be made for not doing an MSTP and instead taking the leave to do your coursework. That allows you to finish your MD and start residency before you've finished the PhD. True, you pay for med school, but that is more than compensated for by the reduced opportunity cost. Unlike science dissertations, humanities dissertations can be finished part-time.
I know very few MD's who have accomplished meaningful scholarship in history. The vast majority is amateurish, indulgent, technically poor, and trades upon the authority that an MD imbues. Academic positions in medical departments often become soapboxes and bully-pulpits for the physician-dilettante's favorite issue rather than foci of high quality scholarship in other fields. The MD is poor training for basic scientific research, and even poorer training for serious historical work.
Years back, I applied to PhD programs in History concomitantly with MSTPs. I would have pursued a History of Science/Medicine thesis had I gone down the former route. By the time I received acceptances from a handful of PhD programs, some at schools where I was accepted for their MSTP, I had decided to pursue the latter.
There are a number of schools where I would have been able to receive funding for an MD/PhD in history, including Penn, Yale, U Chicago and Harvard (I was rejected by their PhD history program, so that wouldn't have been an option). There were other schools I could have attended without funding. But I wasn't considering a combined degree with history at the time. My role models in the field were all PhD's in History without MD's.
Chances are that most MD/PhDs in science wouldn't understand why an MD/PhD in a social science or humanity would be useful. While there maybe no generic call (i.e. "more physician-scientists"), there are plenty of areas where someone with combined expertise would be beneficial for society at large. The difficulty is for the individual to discern whether they see their own interests truly served by both degrees.
To wit, I know people who have completed MD/JD's (Yale, U Chicago [funded by the MSTP]), MD/PhD's in English (Harvard, Columbia), Economics (Cornell, Harvard, U Chicago, U Penn), History (Harvard, Penn, UCSF, Hopkins), Ethics (Hopkins/NIH), Epi (Columbia/HSPH), Health Policy (Harvard, Chicago), Philosophy (Harvard, Cornell), Anthro (Cornell, Yale). The vast majority of these people were driven and focused on potential thesis issues prior to entering their combined degree program (or added the second degree in the middle or later). While some are pursuing only one of their areas of expertise currently, careers are long and winding, and I've seen examples of fruitful scholarship arising from connections made later. Their formal training and rigorous approach made them more able to take advantage of circumstance.
It is possible for a person with one degree, may it be the MD or PhD to do most if not all of what a person with a combined degree can do, in theory. Just like it's possible for someone without any post graduate training to pursue scholarly functions that aren't predicated on professional licensing. But as we know in science and medicine, and debate ad nauseam, there are benefits of pursuing formal training. You have to decide for yourself whether it would serve the type of work you envision.
Okay, those links for Harvard and UCSF are much more coherent than my advice. The people I know that did the joint degree didn't start in such a formalized program. As for admissions - there's lot of advice on SDN for the medicine side. For the history part, I think strong letters from your history professors/advisors (be very clear when you explain your career plans to them) and quality written work is important (usually, you have to submit a sample). History of science/medicine is a small field and everybody knows each other. If you have a prominent person advocating for you in LORs, you should be great!
You raised some interesting career goals relating to history of medicine and music therapy. However, from your last paragraph, I still am not sure what your goal is. You say that you are applying to MD/PhD programs based on your cancer research. If you want to do a PhD in history of medicine, why would you stay in the lab? Why not seek out some experience in history of medicine to see if that is what you want? Just like with any MD/PhD program, I would think that the school would want to know that you are aware of what you are getting yourself into.
From your interest in music therapy, have you considered doing the MD/PhD with the PhD in cognitive neuroscience? This is a hot area - understanding consciousness, how the brain responds to stimuli, etc. It sounds like you have done preliminary research and have not come up with much on how piano music is used for healing. Do you need to get a PhD to dive further into that concept?
My best advice for you is that whatever program you apply to, you need to have a clear understanding of what is involved and have a good idea of your future career goals - the admissions committee will want to know.
If you want an academic career "that combines teaching, clinical research, and patient care" this is easily obtainable with just an MD and without the pain/time committment of a MD/PhD. As someone said before, I would recommend exploring and defining your career goals more specifically for yourself as you are trying to make the decision to pursue a dual degree. Some of the stuff you mentioned as research interests (e.g. seeing if music therapy is of any benefit) could be done without PhD training - any MD with good resources could design a good study to investigate this. Now if you want to get all scholarly and stuff in the vein of what antiomian was talkin' about, yes you probably do need the PhD.
A word of caution - it is very very easy to brush off extra time as not mattering much when you are at your stage, but it does matter a lot (at least in my opinion). I have personally seen graduate school beat down the best, the brightest, and the hardest working people I know, leaving them demoralized and jaded. It is hard to convey, but sometimes grad school is not just - no matter how hard you work or how smart you are, sometimes you get royally screwed. Maybe from the politics, maybe from that ONE GUY on your committee, maybe from bad luck, maybe from getting scooped or whatever, but it happens and when it does it sucks. It is an emotional rollercoaster, and it seems like there are a lot more lows/valleys than peaks. I'm just glad I only had to ride that sucker for 4 years before I could get on a different ride at the beginning of 3rd year - the ride to hell that is the OB/GYN clerkship. This may come off as a scare tactic or whatever, but you should be REALLY REALLY sure that doing the PhD is worth it for your personal career goals, because it is a significant investment (time, but also very much emotional in my opinion). I could have been living in Shangri-La but when my experiments weren't working, the data was not there, the thesis was not progressing it was not all milk and cookies and pink bunny slippers if you know what I mean...especially when all your friends are graduating and moving on with their life.
Finally - If you want to do a PhD in the history of medicine, your research experience in undergrad as you apply for MD/PhD programs should be in the history of medicine. Get some while you still can would be my advice.
Agreed grad school can be monumentally frustrating. I was not impressed with the skills I was presumably taught -- much of my skills are self-taught through experience, reading, and research.
I'll politely disagree with some, however, about the quality of historical research by PhDs. Some are excellent, but so much historical research is ideologically corrupted as to make me discount a PhD unless I read their work. I have found as much good historical work done by non-academics as by academics.
I like amateur historians in a way, because they are still motivated by interest and a degree of naivete. Academics are often motivated by what will get them published and promoted, which results in the death of many trees.
The History of Medicine link didn't work for me, so try this also:
The University of Illinois has a non-MSTP program (in addition to its MSTP program) that is very humanities friendly (http://www.med.uiuc.edu/mdphd/).
I am not sure what you mean by the phrase "ideologically corrupted." Earlier you mentioned that professional historians tend to read Marx and Lenin. The Marxist influence is not as prominent in contemporary historical scholarship as it was with "social history" in the 1960s-1980s. It would be more accurate to suggest that 21st century historians read too much Michel Foucault or Judith Butler. The newest body of theory (or ideological corruption if you prefer) within history writing lies in the intersection of history and the sciences, especially neuroscience and biology (see for example http://www.historians.org/publicati...tory/december-2014/what’s-in-the-december-ahr ) Generally however, within the humanities historians are often criticized for being "theoretically uninformed."
I am interested in this thread because (as a history MA student) I am exploring the MD-history of medicine PhD.
UNC also has a humanities friendly MD/PhD (MSTP) program
Siddartha Mukherjee MD PhD wrote about the history of cancer in the Emperor of All Maladies.
I think medical anthropology is the more accepted discipline within the social sciences world, and it tends to take a critical perspective on what medicine, historically, has done. There is more serious scholarship in this area than in "history of medicine", which is more like the sort of thing that doctors write about in JAMA in their spare time.