Music grad studies first or medicine first?


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SnowyMoon

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Apr 26, 2015
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(Long post warning!)
Before I begin, a little background info:
I am a 5 year music major with bio, psych, and sociology minors (because that totally matters, right?) with two years to go before graduation. Will likely be a decent applicant, low research and no MCAT yet but good stuff otherwise (I have time, I'm not worried.) This isn't a WAMC thread, I promise.


So.
I have always wanted to be a doctor. I saw my grandfather and my uncle do it growing up, and I have always enjoyed going on rounds and learning the typical doctor things and have worked alongside them for a good while. I enjoy it and I want to practice medicine for the rest of my life.

That being said, I have a passion for the study and performance of music. I enjoy it about as much as I enjoy talking through diagnoses and likely causes of diseases/disorders. I would love to go on and study music to the point of getting a DMA in performance or a PhD in theory/musicology. I wouldn't be done with it after that, of course. There is always studying to be done in music as music is an ever-changing field, like medicine.

I want to make them both work with each other. My question is which one should I pursue first? Would it be possible to do a part time MM-DMA/MA-PhD while being a full-time doctor, or would I have to go part-time? Or should I pursue the music first, do some serious work there and then come back and apply to medical school? Basically, should I do medicine first, or music first?

The implication from the articles I have read is that it is impossible to actually succeed at doing this. It's one or the other. I desperately want to make it work, though, as I have not encountered anything else that I feel as passionate about as music and medicine. I understand that I do not need to be in a rush. I am young, with (statistically) plenty of time left. I appreciate any feedback, and will try to have an open mind about all things said.

Thank you!


P.S. If you vote in the poll, please explain your reasons for the choice. It's difficult for me to base this kind of a decision on some random voter's opinion without carefully thought out statements.
 

22031 Alum

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If you were doing a part-time PhD in musicology while practicing medicine, do you honestly think you would be able to perform either at a level you were satisfied with? I get the impression that whatever you do, you want to do it really well.

I voted for music because if you did go to med school afterward, your med school class's rock band could reap the benefits. (Years later, I still can't hear "Don't Stop Believin'" without thinking of my class band.) :horns:
 

NotASerialKiller

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Jul 7, 2015
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It would be extremely unusual and very expensive to go through all that medical training and then work part-time, but theoretically would be possible through family medicine. I can confirm this to be true in Canada, maybe someone else knows if this ever happens in the US. I have a relative who is doing something kind of similar, he is working as a family emerg doc part-time so that he has time to write/record his own music, another passion of his. That being said, he can do this around his job, your plan might not grant this much freedom. I don't think many other specialties would allow for that.
 
OP
SnowyMoon

SnowyMoon

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Apr 26, 2015
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It would be extremely unusual and very expensive to go through all that medical training and then work part-time, but theoretically would be possible through family medicine. I can confirm this to be true in Canada, maybe someone else knows if this ever happens in the US. I have a relative who is doing something kind of similar, he is working as a family emerg doc part-time so that he has time to write/record his own music, another passion of his. That being said, he can do this around his job, your plan might not grant this much freedom. I don't think many other specialties would allow for that.
My initial bias has been toward family med or neuro. I enjoy both very much. I see your point about the $$$, it had crossed my mind about the possibility of paying loans and such, but I am a whiz with a budget. I can finagle numbers around quite well. I understand it will take some sacrifices (cash and time), and they are sacrifices I am willing to make. I don't think going neurosurg and attempting this would be realistically feasible!


If you were doing a part-time PhD in musicology while practicing medicine, do you honestly think you would be able to perform either at a level you were satisfied with? I get the impression that whatever you do, you want to do it really well.

I voted for music because if you did go to med school afterward, your med school class's rock band could reap the benefits. (Years later, I still can't hear "Don't Stop Believin'" without thinking of my class band.) :horns:
That is definitely a fair question. At this point, I am unsure as to the quality of work, but balancing all these ensembles/music courses with pre-med, volunteering, and shadowing has definitely given me stronger mental resolve than I thought I could reach. I imagine it will only need to get tougher from here on out. I honestly think I could do both extremely well (until dissertation defense time comes... eeeek).

I've heard of some med schools having bands! Sign me up!



Again, thank you both for your input. It's nice to have people actually give me important things to think about instead of my pre-med adviser saying "Wow, that's probably the weirdest thing I've ever heard," and sending me away.
 

Munty

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Aug 30, 2015
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While I know this is a tricky situation and I understand you have a genuine passion for both fields, I figure I would pass on a statement I have had several doctors say to me:

"While medicine is fun and I love my job, if there is anything you can see yourself doing other than medicine, anything at all, do it."

While I may not full understand their contradiction, it is a statement that has stuck with me.
 
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SnowyMoon

SnowyMoon

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Music therapy is a thing in medicine these days
http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/music-therapy-hitting-right-notes-for-patients/

So you could probably do primary care, or psych or something along the lines of that and promote the use of music therapy???(I'm not a medical professional, but the possibilities are there.. A lot of hospitals are starting to bring on music therapy programs)
I have considered music therapy, and after doing some digging around and e-mailing professionals, decided it wasn't for me. Thank you for the input though!
 
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SnowyMoon

SnowyMoon

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While I know this is a tricky situation and I understand you have a genuine passion for both fields, I figure I would pass on a statement I have had several doctors say to me:
"While medicine is fun and I love my job, if there is anything you can see yourself doing other than medicine, anything at all, do it."
While I may not full understand their contradiction, it is a statement that has stuck with me.
I have heard this quote before. It's interesting, I never actually thought that it might apply to me until I got into the music program in undergrad. Thank you for the input!
 
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Music first, medicine later. If you truly enjoy music and have success with it, I don't think you'll even look back to medicine. You pointed out something very important - you're young and you have time to explore your interests.
 

Mad Jack

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I've known some graduates from the top music programs in the country (Berklee, Yale, Julliard).

I met all of them at Guitar Center, not even kidding. Choose wisely, OP.
 
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Cpt Ahab

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I've known some graduates from the top music programs in the country (Berklee, Yale, Julliard).

I met all of them at Guitar Center, not even kidding. Choose wisely, OP.
I was in LA last week and I saw one junker car with a Harvard alumni license plate framing and another MIT license framed junker.

F'n weird.
 
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Chir0nex

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What you are proposing is basically having 2 full-time careers. simply put I don't think you can achieve a high level in both. Part-time medicine is extremely difficult given the amount of training time required, and the financial load placed on you. Are you going to take out loans for a PhD while trying to repay med school loans? Because no matter how good you are with a budget, you can't make money appear out of no where. Also consider if you want to have a family that will put an incredible amount of demand on your finances and time (Part time medicine+PhD work+ family time, when will you sleep?) In short, I don't think there is a practical way to study both unless you are quite wealthy and don't really have to work if you don't have to.

What do love about music and medicine? What do you want to get out of a music degree, what would you do with it? What do you hate about each and how will you cope with that? Start by answering these questions, and I think your decision will clarify. Remember you can have hobbies outside of medicine. I know tons of residents and attendings who are in bands and play music while working full-time. Just because you don't pursue formal study in music does not mean it is lost to you forever.

Finally, if you are committed to attempting both I would say do music first. Taking years off in medicine will make it much harder to get a job, and you also may have issues maintaining your license if you are not practicing at all for prolonged amounts of time.
 

mordac21

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I guess the MeSH program at Pritzker might be interesting to you? Apparently you can get an MD/PhD, but with the PhD portion in something humanities-related. I don't know anything more about it though -- might be worth looking into.
 

IlDestriero

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I have one friend who is a DMA, music faculty at a university, performer and conductor. He also had an interest in medicine, but chose to follow his passion.
It is worth noting that he is independently wealthy and can afford to pursue that passion while living a lifestyle even the highest paid physician might be envious of.
Thinking of a career in medicine or music as a part time job doesn't seem like a way to be successful with either.
 
OP
SnowyMoon

SnowyMoon

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Apr 26, 2015
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Thank you all for your responses! I will take them all into account as I move forward. More research into options will be necessary, of course, as it is difficult to take serious life advice from strangers, but the input and advice is invaluable. Again, thank you all for taking time to respond.
 
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Lannister

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My cousin had to chose between music and medicine as well. She chose music. She graduated from the Yale School of Music and now, at 28 years old, is a tenured horn player for the New York Phil. She gets to travel the world, makes six figures, and has enough extra time to play in her own band on the side. She's probably an outlier, and I know there are probably a lot of music majors who go on to work at Guitar World, but for her, following her passion worked out pretty well. Music is obviously a riskier choice, but if you love it enough (and you're talented), it might be worth it to chose music over medicine.