research and neurosurgery

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Sep 20, 2016
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I will be entering a MSTP program in the fall. My primary interest is pediatric neurology, although I am interested in neurosurgery as well. This interest is due to

A) From what I've gauged from talking to students on the interview trail, neurology is very diagnostic in nature and there is not much that can be done to help patients. It can also get boring and highly repetitive.

B) The financial compensation. I was actually 95% committed to the idea of pediatric neurology until I learned the residency is five years and that salaries appear to be very low (about 90k). It seems like a poor pay off when compared to neurosurgery, which is two years longer but with a much higher pay off.

My interests are in rare neurological diseases and therapies for them (enzyme therapy, gene therapy, drug delivery, blood-brain barrier), but I'm not sure how to align this with interest with neurosurgery, whereas it seems to be perfectly suited for pediatric neurology. Furthermore, the life style and work balance seems better in pediatric neurology, meaning I would have more time to enjoy my family and invest time in research. I feel like long-term I'd be more comfortable with that lifestyle.

However, I have also heard stories where neurosurgeons will cut their hours and then due to their highpay, will be able to take more days off. For example, on my interview, an M3 MSTP student informed me that he plans to pursue neurosurgery and that balancing research will not be that challenging. In fact, he can do a few surgeries here and there and then spend the rest of his time pursuing research. I have also heard about neurosurgeons working half the year and then taking the rest off.

From what I've seen at my instiution, neurosurgeons who are involved in research make about $280-330k, whereas those who do no research make about $400-600k. The neurologists I've looked at... are around 77k-150k.. I'm not sure how to wrap my head around those low figures (there was even one 13k figure for an MD-PhD whos been there for 30 years)..

Something like that seems ideal for my situation, as it would allow me to hone in on my research interests, while still pursuing a challenging and well compensated clinical career. I'm just not sure if I want to because A) I'm more interested in rare diseases B) Not sure if my research interests align with neurosurgery and C) I'm not sure if the neurosurgical lifestyle is for me. I would appreciate any advice.

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I would advise against going in to a field for the perceived compensation and belief that you can pull back on hours and have a lifestyle you desire.
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