1. Dismiss Notice
  2. Download free Tapatalk for iPhone or Tapatalk for Android for your phone and follow the SDN forums with push notifications.
    Dismiss Notice

Quality of Life

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by ScarletK1901, Jun 16, 2008.

  1. ScarletK1901

    ScarletK1901 Scarlet Knight
    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2007
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Pre-Medical
    Are any current phd/md students willing to comment on their quality of life and what exactly it means devoting 13 years of their lives to their studies.

    Are any of you married or planning to in the near future? In comparison to MD solo, how is it managing a family life? kids?

    any advice/comments would be appreciated...
     
  2. Note: SDN Members do not see this ad.

  3. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
    Messages:
    12,627
    Likes Received:
    1,577
    Status:
    Attending Physician
    To answer your question,

    The big stumbling block for my relationships has been being tied down for 7-8 years. While I date med students and pre-meds that end up having to move on, I'm still stuck here for several years. The LDR never seems worth it given the distance, the long hours of both of us, and the number of years for which it would have to continue.
     
  4. 194342

    Physician 7+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,991
    Likes Received:
    1,310
    Status:
    Resident [Any Field]
    Neuronix, would you mind telling us how many hours you work a week? What would you say the average mud phud works, if they want to graduate in the 7-8 time frame?

    Also, would you say that if you wanted to graduate in 7 years you pretty much have to work more than 70 hours a week in the lab or are there too many factors that go into determining that? Thanks for you advise, I'd rather learn the bad stuff before I committed to the whole mud phud ordeal....

    Edit: I know it seems off topic, I just want to know how much time I could expect outside the lab.... :)
     
  5. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
    Messages:
    12,627
    Likes Received:
    1,577
    Status:
    Attending Physician
    I think everyone should think of MD/PhD as a 8 year program. This is true at my program nowadays, which was historically a 7.5 year average program, and it is true nationally. PhDs are just getting more difficult to obtain and this is driving up the amount of time it takes to get a PhD even with hard work. Several graduate programs here think of MD/PhDs as 8 year combined students at MINIMUM. The truth is when you interview programs will try to downplay their 9-10 year students, but in reality, they're everywhere, and it may have nothing to do with the student, but problems with their projects, mentors, etc...

    I probably average 50-60 hours/week during my PhD years. I've put in 80 hour weeks and I've had 40 hour weeks. The same is true for med school really. As those of you who read my whinier posts know, I am trying to finish in 7, and it is a struggle. I chose a graduate program with minimal requirements to help me get out in 7. I also picked a well funded and well established project off the bat so I could start getting data immediately. My lab has a track record of getting people done quickly. They think a 7 year combined student is what a MD/PhD should be, and think of 8 as a slowpoke. I liked that attitude. It has led to some 7 or 8 year graduates with only 1 or even 0 publications. Still, at that point the student is not asking to stay and being kicked out. After 4 or so years of grad school, you will likely WANT out, especially if you've been working hard.

    I am in imaging, which I will absolutely admit is often easier to publish and get done. I've seen some 6 year MD/PhDs in imaging and some very successful 7 year students, and that's because they stayed in the same lab for grad school that they were in undergrad for, banged out a few publications quickly, and got out. As you can see, that has a lot more to do with setting yourself up for graduating quickly than it does with hard work. Does it matter by taking the "easy" way out? Are you sabotaging your academic career by staying in the same lab/same place? I doubt it. The 6 year MD/PhD track by staying in the same lab post-undergrad is what the chair of our department did in our lab. Then again do you even want the academic track? Every MD/PhD since him has gone into private practice, including the ones who were most successful in research. Even the PhDs who are the best have gone into industry.

    There's too many factors. There's too many different situations. One of the worst things about PhD work is the uncertainty. You just don't know how things are going to play out. You can try to plan some things the way I mentioned in the previous paragraphs. Pick the program/department that has minimal course requirements and doesn't require you to teach. Pick the PI that seems to move people through quickly and recognizes the MD/PhD pressure. You can try to work as hard as is reasonable and you can tolerate. That sort of thing helps. You will still have to duck or live with the criticisms that you are not a REAL PhD because you did not suffer in lab as long as some PhDs or MD/PhDs have.

    Anywhere you go and in any PhD you end up doing you will have harder months and lighter months, unless you're one of these people that constantly pushes for more work. I pushed for 10 years. That's how I got into this program in the first place. I'm tired of it. I relish free time nowadays. I'm really glad I'm in a place where I can enjoy it and look forward to finding a residency where I can do the same.

    But as you can see a lot of this has to do with a personality. I've had a very unusual life and as a result have a very unusual personality. You may be the hardcore type that creates work for yourself even when there's not work to do. You may want to work 80 hours/week in lab for that "real" PhD however you define it and get done in 7-9 years and not care what requirements are forced on you, citing that's what a real PhD should do. You may join a slacker lab and work 40 hours/week, graduate in your 7-9 years and enjoy life a lot as a grad student and maybe publish 2 papers in an IF 1 journal. It's not like most residency directors know the difference between journals anyways.

    Anyhow, so much of this is up to you and depends on the department, the lab, etc... We had a MD/PhD guy spend his first 3 years of PhD mostly in Utah skiing and when they finally brought him in to kick him out of grad school he switched labs to computational genetics with a huge name in the field, put out three pubs in 14 months, and is now in Dermatology in Utah. My hero :thumbup: :laugh:
     
  6. 194342

    Physician 7+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,991
    Likes Received:
    1,310
    Status:
    Resident [Any Field]
    Wow, that part I quoted is crazy. Thanks a ton for your help!
     
  7. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
    Messages:
    12,627
    Likes Received:
    1,577
    Status:
    Attending Physician
    I have more stories, I just save them for when they're relevant ;) The longer you hang out in MD/PhD programs the more odd stuff happens :laugh:. I can't even imagine what strange stuff the directors get to hear about :D
     
  8. seraph524

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Messages:
    1,588
    Likes Received:
    1
    Status:
    MD/PhD Student
    Your posts make me sad Neuronix. :(
     
  9. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
    Messages:
    12,627
    Likes Received:
    1,577
    Status:
    Attending Physician
  10. 194342

    Physician 7+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,991
    Likes Received:
    1,310
    Status:
    Resident [Any Field]
    Atleast your pessimism helps the lowly pre-med(me..) make informed decisions! :D I'd rather hear the bad stuff than be pumped full of the positive kool-aid that seems to run out when you're too far into an obligation to pull out.
    It seems a majority of the people in the pre-allo forum are just lowly premeds like me and aren't any more informed than the average undergrad student. It's really meaningful when someone who actually walks the walk describes what the mud phud ordeal is like. Thanks, Neuronix and everyone else who helps.
     
  11. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
    Messages:
    12,627
    Likes Received:
    1,577
    Status:
    Attending Physician
    I don't consider myself pessimistic. I consider myself usually an idealist, often an optimist, and at worst a realist. I think a pessimist would never embark on MD/PhD or encourage anyone to apply to MD/PhD. A pessimist would say the job market sucks in research, the PhD does not increase your earnings potential, it lengthens your training, you'll never be really good at both and will have to pick one or the other, and most of the research you do will probably never have any impact on medicine, not just during your PhD, but including over your whole career. Believe me, I've heard all of these things repeatedly over the years, and I bring these things up on the forum because I'm a moderator. I want everyone to know things not only the way I see them, but also the way I think others see them, and examples of the ways things can be or are for some people. You'll never see me telling people not to go for MD/PhD, only informing them of how things are. If what I'm saying is unappealing, please bail out now. You're doing yourself, your future program, and the other applicants who want a spot a favor.

    What I am describing is reality. You may not like reality. Most people certainly do like to hide their head in the sand, drift through things, and just hope the winds steer them right as long as they build a boat and put up the sails. But that's not optimism, that's just cognitive dissonance--the idea that what I'm doing isn't bad because that might mean I'm making a mistake. That feels really crappy to think I made a mistake doing this whole MD/PhD thing, so I'll just change my opinion to think everything going on is the right way of doing things. I mean heck, being critical is really hard in general. How do I know any better? I'll just try to have a good time and hope things work out. It's not up to me, I don't have any power, just hopefully I can get my rewards, whatever those might be. Why should I keep talking to these pre-MD/PhDs? They'll figure it out for themselves. If I say all good things about my program to the applicants, people will smile at me and I won't get in trouble.

    Is what I'm describing optimism?

    Pre-meds needs to justify to themselves why they're doing this. They also learn most about MD/PhD programs through interviewing. The applicant puts on their best face for this just as the program puts on their best face to sell themselves to applicants. That's not optimism, that's not realism, that's just a mating dance. You put up your peacock feathers, the program puts up its peacock feathers, and you hope you guys pick each other. The truth of course is that relationships are a lot of work. An MD/PhD program is longer than your average marriage and you'll probably spend more of your waking hours working on that than you would with a spouse if you were married. Just like marriage, this sucks at times. You will question whether it's worth it. And indeed whether it is/was worth it will be up to you and your relationship together. But you really have so little idea from the peacock feathers that it's kind of silly to even choose based on the feathers. But at the same time, who wants to be that school where the students are miserable and the faculty is unenthusiastic, so out the feathers go. The peacock with the dull feathers may be a really great peacock to have a relationship with, but that peacock isn't going to mate.

    *cluck**cluck*

    The kool-aid for MDs and MD/PhDs does wear off after a year or two of med school. So who do you meet when you interview for either? Almost all first years. They're the brand new bright and smiling faces that don't know anything yet. It's a waste of everyone's time, but they have the brightest feathers.

    But what can I say--I'm an optimist. I hope that by saying what I have to say a new generation of students will choose wisely for their own careers. I hope that you will set realistic goals. I hope you will know the storms that are approaching and have some idea of how to navigate them. Before you set off on the voyage you have an idea of what the voyage is like and what really awaits you on the other side. Because I can assure you it isn't gold. The streets aren't paved with cheese. But, maybe it's worth it. Only you can decide.
     
  12. ScarletK1901

    ScarletK1901 Scarlet Knight
    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2007
    Messages:
    14
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Pre-Medical
    :love:

    words of wisdom
     
  13. Ariodant

    Ariodant Fiat Lux
    7+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    54
    Status:
    MD/PhD Student
    Agree. Also, I think they believe that people in general, not just those in the oil industry, are nearsighted. They figure we only want to know and identify with people whose positions we'll be in in the near future, not 3 or 4 years or even a decade down the road.
     
  14. 194342

    Physician 7+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,991
    Likes Received:
    1,310
    Status:
    Resident [Any Field]
    Sort of true about people in general, right? We eat the candy bar now and get fat, neglecting how tough it will be to lose the weight later. Saying that, I still really like the idea of pursuing a MD/PhD program. The only question is... will the MD/PhD programs like me?
     
  15. linuxizer

    linuxizer MS0
    10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2003
    Messages:
    276
    Likes Received:
    0
    MDApps:
    Status:
    MD/PhD Student
    Cause and effect, perhaps? :)

    Ari
     
  16. seraph524

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Messages:
    1,588
    Likes Received:
    1
    Status:
    MD/PhD Student
    This is why Neuronix is awesome.
     
  17. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
    Messages:
    12,627
    Likes Received:
    1,577
    Status:
    Attending Physician
    Sorry folks,

    I take back what I said previously. I had what I hoped would be my last thesis committee meeting yesterday. Unexpectedly and very undesiredly my committee has increased what they want to see from me for my thesis. They want a third publication at least submitted ON MY THESIS before I can go and my second publication on my thesis accepted. It is unlikely I will get enough data to submit that third publication in the time I have due to numerous setbacks that are out of my control. I'm already far behind schedule on that due to factors, again that I feel are out of my control. That publication is pretty far off and is based on experiments that were not in my pre-lim and only came up within the past 6 months. Similarly, the second publication that has been rejected twice now... I resubmitted it, but who knows if I will even hear back on it in 3 months?!

    Meanwhile, I have one publication in tie breaker review not related to my thesis that they will not count towards my thesis. I have another publication in prep that is also not related to my thesis. Since starting in the lab I have had more conference talks and presentations than anyone else in the lab. I am told none of that counts.

    So now it is looking unlikely I will finish this year. As I was typing this message, the equipment manager walked by to let me know I likely will lose next week's experiment as well.

    I take back everything I said about trying to get done in 7 years. It turns out this whole game does come down to luck in my opinion.

    At this point all options are on the table for me, including me dropping out of the PhD portion of my program. I feel like I am being screwed over due to a lot of factors that are completely out of control and despite all of my hard work. I don't want to be here anymore and I am extremely frustrated.
     
  18. seraph524

    2+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2006
    Messages:
    1,588
    Likes Received:
    1
    Status:
    MD/PhD Student
    Sorry to hear that :(

    No wonder every MD/PhD student I talked to on interviews who is in their PhD years tells me they wake up everyday asking themselves why are they putting themselves through hell.
     
  19. dphoenix

    dphoenix New Member
    7+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2003
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    0
    Neuronix,

    I feel for you man. As a recent graduate of the PhD portion myself, I understand how hard it is. Some words of advice, if I may.

    First of all, if you are now dismayed that you have to finish in 8 yrs instead of 7, you should remind yourself that having 2 pubs almost in at this point is being ahead of the game. Sure there are those lucky bastards that finish in 6 and 7, but these are the minority - most people finish in 8 or more. IT IS A MYTH THAT MOST PEOPLE FINISH IN 7 maybe 6, no matter what the PD tells you- I think for premeds this is the most important fact to accept.

    I think at some point in the last year of the PhD too, one stops focusing on "what will get this published" to the mentality of "what will get me out of here". These are separate things; you need only to satisfy your commitee and your PI, not publish; publishing is not strictly a requirement to graduate (try to find that specifically in your doctorate requirements). Thus, it is just a game to play with your committee. The best tactic I have seen (which I have used myself) is basically a game of chicken; you need to act as graduating by such and such a date is already a given. In a way, you must push and force your graduation - stop asking what needs to be done, next time summarize your work as if it is completed for your doctorate. If there is a committee member that is hard to win over, then change him/her. Remember, there is no rule that says that the committee that you usually meet with must be the one you defend against. Talk to your PI constantly about your plans to return to med school, and do not budge. Eventually they will take the path of least resistance and the momentum towards your defense will start. A critical part is to set your defense date. Once your defense date is set, there is virtually no way that you will not graduate by then. So in a month or two, start asking your committee members when they are available for a defense. If they ask you about the second pub or third, say that "oh by then, they will be published/submitted"; Don't take no for an answer.

    It sounds like at this point you have really gotten the most out of the lab experience and staying any longer will only add to your bitterness and make it less likely you pursue a research career. Fight for your defense - remember it is just a game and if you keep trying to satisfy their expectations, you will be there much longer than you want.
     
  20. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
    Messages:
    12,627
    Likes Received:
    1,577
    Status:
    Attending Physician
    Everyone is welcome to chime in. I wouldn't post if I didn't want feedback. I appreciate your advice. I'm just going to clarify my position a little bit.

    3 if the one in tie-breaker review gets accepted--and I bet it will if I resubmit it to a lesser journal regardless.

    If you read my other posts I agree with you and say this repeatedly. 8 years is the average these days. However, I have tried my damndest to work hard and set up my coursework and other requirements as minimally as possible so that I could finish in 7.

    Publishing IS the requirement with my PI and committee. They were ready to let me graduate 6 months ago with the data I have. The only sticking point is the publications. I have fulfilled the requirements set forth in my pre-lim and agreed upon during the first year of grad school. Nobody argues that I don't have a lot of/enough data. I had pretty significant chunks of data and text cut out of the two publications on my thesis due to publication word limits. I wish I could make a separate publication out of that, but it's really just that I kept my best figures. There is similar other data that I don't have enough time to follow up on that could also go into my thesis. I'm afraid that by bringing this stuff up they're just going to keep holding me here though.

    Not that I would do this, but I could make up a bunch of nonsense data and submit it for publication and probably graduate. That's how stuck on just "do you have a third publication?" I feel my PI and committee is.

    That's what I was doing. Nobody had a problem until I had hard time getting that one paper published.

    I will do my best. :thumbup:

    Off to do a critical experiment...
     
  21. dphoenix

    dphoenix New Member
    7+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2003
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hey Neuronix, sounds like that third publication was best left out, but i suppose that you're done with that now. Just a few clarifications though -

    You are preaching to the choir my friend. I too busted my ass and "had everything lined up", my committee saying I can graduate in my 2nd PhD year. But committees are fickle, and am now ending up doing it in 8. Many an MD/PhD have tread this very same path I realize, but somehow all us mudphuds secretly believe that somehow we're different. Seriously, the quicker you realize that this is all part of the normal process, the less angry and more tolerable it will be.

    EVERY MD/PhD I have talked to feels this way. I really think that you can change the conversation around instead of focusing on publications, but rather to whether or not it is appropriate to graduate you. In my humble opinion, I do not think you can afford to have the committee wait until publication as the review process as you know is a long obstacle in of itself.


    I'm not sure if you get what I mean. I mean that you must make it clear to them that you ARE leaving. If the committee suddenly has a problem with that, then they are not getting it. Its somewhat akin to trying to stop a moving train fast bearing down towards you - it should feel like there is no way to stop it. Otherwise, they will keep putting more requirements on you.

    PIs and committee members really lack gumption if you put them to the test. Has anyone specifically said "Well it is a requirement to have 3 publications for you to graduate?" Make them defend why it is necessary to have the manuscript copyright forms in hand to prove that you are a good scientist. Is this a requirement for your entire department? Ask other graduates. Your PI should be your ally on this. Ultimately, if your committee members are really that hostile, then find a new committee, because at that point you will have nothing to lose.

    I don't want to be unsympathetic, because I am quite the opposite, but realize that this situation is not unique and quite common in the MD/PhD path. I had a friend who was in the same situation, and ended up publishing 5 fantastic papers over 6 years - needless to say he is no longer pursuing academic medicine. Learn from other's mistakes.
     
  22. linuxizer

    linuxizer MS0
    10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2003
    Messages:
    276
    Likes Received:
    0
    MDApps:
    Status:
    MD/PhD Student
    No advice, just wanted to chime in and say that stinks and I'm sorry. Hopefully they'll work it out reasonably.

    Ari
     
  23. Ariodant

    Ariodant Fiat Lux
    7+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    54
    Status:
    MD/PhD Student
    Sorry to hear that Neuro, hope things will turn out better than they seem at this point.

    An MSTP in my undergrad lab graduated on time (i.e., 4yrs PhD) without major publication on his thesis, but others I know graduated in 5, being pushed by their committees for publication after publication. Neuronix has a somewhat special circumstance due to his field, but still, I feel it is more like a school and thesis committee-specific problem than MSTP.
     
  24. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
    Administrator Physician PhD Faculty SDN Advisor 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2002
    Messages:
    12,627
    Likes Received:
    1,577
    Status:
    Attending Physician
    Yeah, who benefits from this scheme? I'm of the paranoid opinion that I'm useful and they want to keep me around to keep doing side projects and tech work for the new equipment we're getting. If I had focused more on my thesis and not on side projects/keeping my PI happy I wouldn't be in this mess in the first place!

    But, I will never accept/tolerate this. If I get held back, I'm going to just go have a good time and become the world's worst grad student. I've seen what doing hard work gets me.
     
  25. Tyc00nman

    Joined:
    May 27, 2008
    Messages:
    226
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Non-Student
    that is a really cute dog neuronix. i almost had to question my masculinity saying that, but, that is a cute dog. dang it!
     
  26. Ariodant

    Ariodant Fiat Lux
    7+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2007
    Messages:
    463
    Likes Received:
    54
    Status:
    MD/PhD Student
    Better to be paranoid than laid back in this situation. Grad students are cheap and excellent labor, and trapped in their labs--akin to slaves in a civil setting. And slave masters sure won't feel compelled fighting for your freedom.
     
  27. sluox

    Physician 10+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2002
    Messages:
    1,560
    Likes Received:
    571
    Status:
    Fellow [Any Field]
    I just want to add that my class this year (at a top 10 private school) will be mostly graduating in 7 yrs instead of 8. I think everyone's getting smarter, even in experimental fields traditionally slow for PhDs.

    If you want to graduate fast, here are some tricks
    (1) At the first committee meeting, outline your project and time table
    (2) Repeat at the second one
    (3) Go to every conference and present your work. This pads your CV.
    (4) Write the paper as fast as you can, since revision and submission and review takes FOREVER
    (5) Push push push. Most PIs don't care, as long as you produced reasonable results. Everyone else on your committee is just doing work they don't want to be doing. Believe me when you are faculty you won't want to sit on people's meetings time and time again.

    MSTPs recently have been extremely interesting in their career paths. All the ROAD specialties are in the top selection lists. Realize that even if you do really well during your PhD, the credentials are unlikely to carry over once you apply for your first independent award (i.e. you have to do a postdoc/fellowship and shine there ANYWAY). So why bother churning out that Nature paper when it doesn't even COUNT. Many MSTPs (>40%) have opted out of the translational research career pathway. Adding insult to injury, many of the top specialties now almost require a PhD if you don't have astronomical STEP I/grades. You can almost think of having a PhD now as a necessary step to getting into a "lifestyle specialty". NIH's MSTP was established to train scientists, but now it has this unintended consequence to funnel a lot of MD/PhDs into competitive specialties. There are way more MDPhDs now than 10 years ago, and the number of clinician scientists is not growing nearly as rapidly.

    And, do derm programs care if you published 2 or 3 papers and where? No. (Actually my rad onc program director told me that they do...dear lord) The less competitive, more research oriented specialties are so desperate for MSTPs they'll give you anything...They sure as hell don't care about the quality of your PhD either. Your committee doesn't care. The only person who cares is you (and possibly your boss, if he doesn't have tenure)...the question you should be asking: is it worth it to ME to work 70 hours a week during PhD.
     
    #26 sluox, Jun 21, 2008
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2008
  28. blazinfury

    5+ Year Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2008
    Messages:
    203
    Likes Received:
    0
    Status:
    Pre-Medical
    What are some other under-represented or less competitive programs?
     

Share This Page