non-MSTP PhD...worth it?

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by Adcadet, Nov 15, 2002.

  1. Adcadet

    Adcadet Long way from Gate 27

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    hey all -
    I currently am working on a research project that just got a large, 4-year grant. My PI is happy with my work, and is encouraging me to think about doing a PhD in his lab (he has funding for me). Now that I've just been accepted to my state medical school (MD only), I can start thinking seriously about this.

    I've talked briefly with the MD/PhD office, and have been told that the chances of me getting an MSTP slot are slim - there aren't many spots for people after their first year, and my stats don't compare favorably to the averages. So I can't count on the MSTP.

    Would you guys do a non-funded MD/PhD? Would simply doing a year or two of research be almost as useful as the PhD?

    Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
     
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  3. Airborne

    Airborne Senior Member

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    Adcadet:

    I did my PhD between MSII and III years, outside of a formal PhD program. Moreover, I did it at an institution other than my med school. Importantly, since I was not in the traditional program, I have to continue paying for the remainder of med school (I'm in the middle of my MSIII year) - I'll leave with a combined debt of ~$160K.

    Now, is it worth it? I think so. I will say though that once you return to clinical medicine, nobody cares that you did the PhD. And you feel SO far behind everyone else, but this happens in any combined program where you leave for several years.

    I'm not one to give out too many recommendations, but consider this. If you are not funded through, the debt seems large, but with the interest rates so low, a $150K debt correlates to ~$750-800 per month (OK this is on the 30 year plan) so once you are making an academic salary, this is not insurmountable. Moreover, there are now incentives to get MD's in the lab. During residency, you can get $35K per year, for at least one and up to two years of research. This can reduce you med school debt in half. IF you choose this route, you can get your PhD in an extra year (extend in a third year). In addition, if you do you PhD in your residency, you will extablish a track record in the field and be much more current in the field and can move into self-funding quite easily. Just something to think about.

    As I now reenter clincal medicine, I can say that I will most likely NOT enter a field related to my PhD - Don't get me wrong, the skills you obtain are invaluable, but these come at quite a price.

    Another point, I try not to think about the debt too much - I finished my PhD very quickly, and know many MSTP-ers who take 4-5 years to finish - If you can get out in 3, the extra year or two of attending salary pretty much makes up for the MSTP funding that you may not have. Indeed, I will graduate med school before some of my entering MSI MSTP friend even finish their PhD - something to think about.

    In the end though, the decision to pursue to the PhD is a very personal one that must be weighed against what you hope to get out of it and what you can achieve without it. There are MANY clinician scientists that do not a PhD, are well funded and leaders in their fields. Yes, a PhD does help with getting funding later on, but there are many other factors that are just as, if not more, important.

    In anycase, good luck with your decision. I know I have no regrets doing mine, and think of the debt as just a means to the end. It will all work out -

    Airborne
     
  4. sluox

    Physician

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    Just do your MD first, and see what happens...you may decide against doing a PhD after your first or second year med school.

    The bottom line is, don't give up a chance of getting an MD for a PhD position. With the competition out there, even the best PhDs strike out with high probability. You'd have a much worse job than being a physician if you go into the industry with a PhD. MDs however, will always have the safety and security. You also get a ego trip treating patients everyday.

    Medicine is SUCH a great profession to get into, honestly, especially in our society. It is good in SO many aspects, from the philosophical to the practical to the moral etc etc. Even if you get paid $60,000 a year i don't see why people wouldn't flock.
     
  5. Adcadet

    Adcadet Long way from Gate 27

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    I'm absolutely going to get the MD....I am just thinking of adding the PhD.
     
  6. Adcadet

    Adcadet Long way from Gate 27

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    So if I'm going to do the PhD, when is the "best" time to do it. My research is already going well, so it would be nice to just continue with it. On the other hand, perhaps doing the work later would make it easier to transition from school to my field of expertise. Any comments?

    Also, what "should" the PhD be in. One person mentioned that his PhD is not related to the residency he is thinking of doing. How common is this? Is it preferable for the PhD to be in something you plan on practicing?
     

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