Algophiliac

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So I've been analyzing this forum obsessively lately and have a pretty good mental list of general pros and cons in the medical field. Becoming a doctor is, needless to say, something I've always wanted...but after reading threads about legal issues, cheating, and corruption, have again reconsidered my ideal profession. I DO NOT want to end up back in high school with cheaters, slackers, and easy-way-arounders...and this seems to be exactly the image portrayed of pre-meds and even med students. :( Even as a doctor, dealing with unnecessary procedures simply for financial gain sounds ridiculous. Oh my, SDN has destroyed my faith in humanity. (Yes, yes, shock ::real life:: and all that.)

So my question is: what about getting a PhD? Becoming a professor has its :thumbup:, especially since I LOVE teaching. :love: Tutoring a subject you understand is just thrilling, as is scientific research revolving around neurology or virology. But there must be some downside, right?

Low pay? Competition for tenure? Anything else?

Stellar new search engine on title threads, btw. :D
 
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Law2Doc

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So I've been analyzing this forum obsessively lately and have a pretty good mental list of general pros and cons in the medical field. Becoming a doctor is, needless to say, something I've always wanted...but after reading threads about legal issues, cheating, and corruption, have again reconsidered my ideal profession. I DO NOT want to end up back in high school with cheaters, slackers, and easy-way-arounders...and this seems to be exactly the image portrayed of pre-meds and even med students. :( Even as a doctor, dealing with unnecessary procedures simply for financial gain sounds ridiculous. Oh my, SDN has destroyed my faith in humanity. (Yes, yes, shock ::real life:: and all that.)

So my question is: what about getting a PhD? Becoming a professor has its :thumbup:, especially since I LOVE teaching. :love: Tutoring a subject you understand is just thrilling, as is scientific research revolving around neurology or virology. But there must be some downside, right?

Low pay? Competition for tenure? Anything else?

Stellar new search engine on title threads, btw. :D

There's nothing wrong with being a PhD on the path to professor, instead of an MD. You go for the career that's right for you. I would suggest, however that asking that question of the pre-allo board, where folks have basically already resolved to get an MD, is going to get you rather predictable answers.
 

Algophiliac

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Why would you not want to be a doctor because of the immoral students you might encounter along the way? You shouldn't let what other people are doing on the way to your goals prevent you from getting there.

As for becoming a professor...something I once considered myself, the downside is that you get worked HARD on your path to getting tenure. And then there is the whole process of getting tenure itself, which can be difficult (and time consuming), during which you don't get paid very well. And it's not a matter of "oh but I don't care about the money", you really get paid barely enough to live off of, if not less.

Once you become a tenured professor, though, things get much better.

It's the environment that worries me. I've been through people whose sole intent is a stellar GPA. Their answer to "Why are you studying?" is always "So I can get a 4.0/not fail." I feel like a moral Christian in a sex/violence/drugs scene! Is there no church around?!

The high pay of doctors is actually NOT motivation for me, because it implies a higher percentage of money-driven uncaring students. The major issue I have with money is that I don't want it to get in my way! Too little or too much tends to do just that. How about a fun little career path with competition based on passion, not future $$$$?

And...you said might? Please tell me these forums are a less than accurate representation. :scared:
 

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You will find corruption and immorality in every country, profession, institute, man, woman and child on this planet. It's the nature of the world, you will fail if you try and avoid it. For instance, there are some professors who have been caught falsifying research data, but it's no reason to avoid the profession.

If your interested in being a professor definetly looking into it, you have lots of time to decide on a career. However, you can't control the behavior of others, so I encourage you not to make career decisions based on other people's conduct. You can be a doctor or professor, and at the same time strive to be a good moral person. In fact, you can do that in any career.

Edit:
A negative of professor(for me anyways): Dealing with whinny students. Yes, college students tend to go and complain when they don't get the grade they want and as a professor you get to listen to it after every test.
 

Algophiliac

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There's nothing wrong with being a PhD on the path to professor, instead of an MD. You go for the career that's right for you. I would suggest, however that asking that question of the pre-allo board, where folks have basically already resolved to get an MD, is going to get you rather predictable answers.

Ah, point. I was hoping to find some negatives about said PhD path, but apparently most individuals here chose MD without considering PhD.

Steer me to the correct board, please?
 

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Ah, point. I was hoping to find some negatives about said PhD path, but apparently most individuals here chose MD without considering PhD.

Steer me to the correct board, please?

If you are still in high school, as your icon suggests, then that board would be more appropriate -- folks there haven't formulated their opinions yet.
 

Algophiliac

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Edit:
A negative of professor(for me anyways): Dealing with whinny students. Yes, college students tend to go and complain when they don't get the grade they want and as a professor you get to listen to it after every test.

Something fun to deal with. I've got snark. And anyway, I'm guessing I'll enjoy science and students much more than science and patients.

False data will get caught eventually, I presume? It's the moral gray lines I worry most about...system cracks and the like that get abused to no end (Can anyone say Ritalin/pointless procedures?!).
 

Algophiliac

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If you are still in high school, as your icon suggests, then that board would be more appropriate -- folks there haven't formulated their opinions yet.

I was hoping for more experienced input, but feel free to move the thread. You probably know best anyway. :)
 

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Best Advice:

Go to college and study something you are interested in. Volunteer with medical researchers and/or academic researchers (again in a field you are interested in) and get the information from the horses mouth. In either case, the path (MD or Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D.) is going to be about the same (get a B.S. in said field). And doing research with a Professor is good for both MD and Ph.D. programs.

I would also suggest getting career counseling from whichever college you attend (Something like the Strong Interest Inventory). While there can be drift in ratings from an interest assessment, it can help differentiate which type of work environments tend to attract other people like you.
 
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Do not underestimate how difficult it is to get tenure. It is an incredible task. Look around at most universities. You will see a lot of assistant professors (most of the time non-tenured) in their late thirties/early forties.
 

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My reply is this:

1. As a high schooler, you need to keep your mind open. No offense meant, but you are so far removed from the medical profession and the research world that you have no idea what you are talking about.

2. As others have stated, there is NO field where corruption is absent. If you believe there is, I think you need to read the news a little more often.

3. There IS DEFINITELY research corruption. Researchers steal grant ideas during study sections and then reject the grant so that they can go home to their lab and start to work on the idea on their own and then submit their own grant. I have actually seen this first hand. Some researchers have very questionable ties to pharmaceutical companies and/or other companies. Some researchers care NOTHING about teaching and are forced into teaching. These people are a waste of time and money for students and often provide bad information because they are simply not trained to teach the material and frankly do not care because their primary concern is getting research funding.

4. There are corrupt and arrogant doctors also

5. Take this one step at a time. You have a LONG way to go and a LOT of work to do before you can even make this decision. Do not close doors before you even approach them.

I am a medical student and am thinking about research, teaching and clinical work all together. I love research (especially basic science and translational research) and can say that each branch of medicine/science has their own pitfalls. Make an informed decision with experience, not just in talking with people on message boards.
 

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As someone who has done both, let me dissuade you from the belief that there are any less immoral colleagues in a doctoral program. As a matter of fact, I found it much worse in my non-medical studies (ie, ripping articles out of journals [this was in the days before most things were online and easily accesible], plagarism, etc.) than I ever did in medical school.

Choose the field which interests you, both have drawbacks. Certainly a PhD is less recession proof than medicine but advancement in both fields can be onerous and dependent on politics. The morality of your chosen field will depend on you and those you choose to associate with. As for others, they are rampant in all fields and you can do nothing about them except to try and avoid them when possible.
 

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I am still a senior in high school, and my reasons for going into the medical field and avoiding other fields, such as law or business, are the exact reasons that you stated for not wanting to become a doctor. I would expand on this, but I don't want to write too long of a post.

It is my belief (although its more of an impression at this point), that you can be whatever kind of doctor you want to be. You do not have to be a corrupt greedy doctor, but instead be an honest and trustworthy with integrity.
 

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3. Researchers steal grant ideas during study sections and then reject the grant so that they can go home to their lab and start to work on the idea on their own and then submit their own grant. I have actually seen this first hand.


Care to share more (in the physician-scientist forum) about this first hand story? I assume by "first hand" you were on the actual study section or were the person whose idea was stolen (or the thief...)?

I don't deny the accuracy of your anecdote if it was truly first hand. However, in several decades of being an NIH-supported scientist and member of various study sections, I have never personally seen or heard of a verified case of this happening as you describe. I'm certain it's happened - all bad things have happened, but in my experience, it is likely very uncommon. There are numerous protections and processes in place to make it difficult to have exactly what you described happen. F/U should be in the physician-scientist forum as it is off-topic here.
 

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I am still a senior in high school, and my reasons for going into the medical field and avoiding other fields, such as law or business, are the exact reasons that you stated for not wanting to become a doctor. I would expand on this, but I don't want to write too long of a post.

It is my belief (although its more of an impression at this point), that you can be whatever kind of doctor you want to be. You do not have to be a corrupt greedy doctor, but instead be an honest and trustworthy with integrity.

I agree actually.
 

pressmom

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To the original question of the OP:

Downsides of being a professor:
In academia it's publish or perish. You must continually bring in grant money and publish the papers they fund.
You have to convince grad students to come and study with you, which can be hard in the beginning until you establish yourself.
Getting tenure is VERY political.

Downsides of getting a PhD:
Many years of work (up to 6) of trying to get your experiments/projects to work.
Being poor while you do this. You live off whatever funding you get from the department, which usually isn't a lot.

Positives:
Getting to make breakthroughs and publish in really cool journals.
Getting to meet some of the brightest people in the country and have them as your colleagues.
Getting to teach.
 

QofQuimica

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So I've been analyzing this forum obsessively lately and have a pretty good mental list of general pros and cons in the medical field. Becoming a doctor is, needless to say, something I've always wanted...but after reading threads about legal issues, cheating, and corruption, have again reconsidered my ideal profession. I DO NOT want to end up back in high school with cheaters, slackers, and easy-way-arounders...and this seems to be exactly the image portrayed of pre-meds and even med students. :( Even as a doctor, dealing with unnecessary procedures simply for financial gain sounds ridiculous. Oh my, SDN has destroyed my faith in humanity. (Yes, yes, shock ::real life:: and all that.)

So my question is: what about getting a PhD? Becoming a professor has its :thumbup:, especially since I LOVE teaching. :love: Tutoring a subject you understand is just thrilling, as is scientific research revolving around neurology or virology. But there must be some downside, right?

Low pay? Competition for tenure? Anything else?

Stellar new search engine on title threads, btw. :D
I am a chemistry PhD now in my third year of medical school, so I'll take a stab at your questions. It seems like you have two major issues you are considering.

1) How to deal with disillusionment/unethical colleagues. Unfortunately, these people are present in every field, as are jaded people. There is no "ideal" field. As you yourself suggested, you will have to decide whether the cons of a given field are worth the pros.

2) Pros and cons of medicine versus science. These are two very different jobs. Here is my take.

Pros of being an (academic) PhD scientist: usually a fairly flexible schedule (allows you to take sabbaticals and time off). You will have time to do things like learn to play guitar and watch your kids grow up if you choose. There is no pressure to perform clinical duties that take time away from your lab. MD and MD/PhD researchers do have this pressure, especially in fields where clinicians are in short supply. You will be getting paid to go to school instead of paying for it (so you graduate with no debt). The importance of this is not readily appreciated by the average teenager, but it sure will matter to you when you're in your 30s or 40s and you don't have an education loan the size of a house mortgage. You can find a position that is teaching-only if you want to teach full-time (just go to a college or community college instead of a university).

Cons of being a PhD scientist: yes, lower pay and struggling for tenure are problems, but not the biggest ones IMO. You have to deal with departmental politics and administrative hassles as a PhD just like you do in any other job. You will probably have to teach at least some lower level UG classes, which means that many of your students will be premeds. You haven't experienced hell until you have a whole swarm of premeds coming to fight with you over one or two points during your office hours. Getting grants can be tough, especially in the current funding climate. It's very tough for new investigators to break into the field and become self-supporting. But if you don't get grants, you won't be able to pay your lab personnel, and your dept. could be saying bye-bye. Grad school gives people very little training on how to run a lab and manage personnel (post-docs and grad students). You may be a brilliant scientist, but that doesn't mean you're going to be a great mentor/PI.

If I were you, I would see about getting into a lab and getting some research experience. There are summer programs for high school students that you could look into; I'm pretty sure that All4MyDaughter posted a list of them somewhere. Also, talk to your research mentors about what they see as being the pros and cons of their jobs.

I would also caution you against believing that most (or even many) med students are just in it for the money. Yes, there are some. But I think the vast majority of med students have at least some altruistic reasons for going into medicine. This pathway is too hard and too emotionally encompassing; only a fool would choose to go into medicine mainly for the money. Don't look at the PA forum as the standard of most med students, because a large proportion of those posters will never get into medical school. When I was teaching chemistry, there might be 1000 premed freshmen, but only 100 or so of them would ever apply for med school, and only half of those would get in. Also, as a student adcom for my med school, I can tell you that we *do* look for evidence that our applicants care about helping people. Most of our students come into med school with significant volunteering experience, and most of us continue to volunteer during medical school. One of the most popular venues for med student volunteering is to work in a free clinic. But med students do lots of other things as well: work in soup kitchens, teach kids about health, volunteer for the admissions office, etc. As another example, consider that many of your mods on SDN are medical students, residents, and even a few attendings, all of whom are volunteering their time to answer questions like this for you and other users.

Hope this post helps, and best of luck to you. :)
 
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