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The Need for MD/PhDs

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hawkeey

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As has been recently seen on this forum, there are many who would question the need for federally MD/PhD programs. Why are these needed and why not pursue one or the other and save time?

The overall argument is that both MDs and PhDs have become so specialized in their practice of medicine or science that there is now a need for physician-scientists trained in both fields. These individuals form the interface between science and medicine where a gap is emerging. How can one seek to study cancer if they have never seen a patient suffering from it or do have the rigorous scientific training to analyze the problem? In the past, some physicians have become interested enough in the scientific basis of medicine that they began doing more lab work. These days, however, this is becoming financially difficult with the rising costs of both college and medical school. To continue the exchange between science and medicine, federal and state governments with other private sources have donated funds to lift the financial burden for individuals seeking to work at that interface.

Admittedly, it is very difficult to do both. Does one do patient oriented research or disease oriented research? Most people end up using their training from one degree more than the other at any point in time, but this does not have to be true continuously. Pursuing a combined degree is a difficult decision. Either degree by itself is equally prestigious. The question is are you willing to pursue a career where you can actively take advantage of the dual degree training? Can you justify that medicine will inform your science? Will research really help you inform patient care? These are questions that each individual will have to determine for herself and that will undoubtedly be asked during an interview.

For futher reading, see here:
http://www.physicianscientists.org/Publications.html

Also check individual program's philosophies on the subject.
 

dl2dp2

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I have reservations about using NIH money to fund PhDs not in the biomedical sciences...I know this happens at Penn and Chicago and possibly at a couple of other places...

Epidemiology perhaps, but anthropology and economics are really stretching it, and history of medicine and humanities should probably not be funded by NIH. I think these PhDs are necessary things to have, but just because everybody gets a PhD, it doesn't mean at all that all PhDs are the same. They should be funded by private foundations like the Guggienheim and so on and it's not fair for us to compete with these people for NIH money specifically designed for biomedical research.

A graduate student in anthropology, for instance, has told me that "science is a religion and needs to be subjected to social critiques like all religions," and went on a tirade about the political ramifications of animal research. Ideological positions like this make rational discussion impossible. Much of the contemporary work in humanities is often anti-intellectual and very antagonistic to science. In the trial on Evolution, a postmodern theorist was called on to testify against Darwin. I think having these people around us can be very stressful for everyone.
 

beetlerum

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I have reservations about using NIH money to fund PhDs not in the biomedical sciences...I know this happens at Penn and Chicago and possibly at a couple of other places...

Epidemiology perhaps, but anthropology and economics are really stretching it, and history of medicine and humanities should probably not be funded by NIH. I think these PhDs are necessary things to have, but just because everybody gets a PhD, it doesn't mean at all that all PhDs are the same. They should be funded by private foundations like the Guggienheim and so on and it's not fair for us to compete with these people for NIH money specifically designed for biomedical research.

A graduate student in anthropology, for instance, has told me that "science is a religion and needs to be subjected to social critiques like all religions," and went on a tirade about the political ramifications of animal research. Ideological positions like this make rational discussion impossible. Much of the contemporary work in humanities is often anti-intellectual and very antagonistic to science. In the trial on Evolution, a postmodern theorist was called on to testify against Darwin. I think having these people around us can be very stressful for everyone.

I completely disagree. Economics, for example, is extremely useful for health policy, and in fact, there are several physician-economists floating around who have had a big impact on health policy. I believe the current FDA commissioner has a PhD in economics. In fact, because there are so very few of them, I would say that there is actually a great need for some MD/PhDs with econ training. I can see great value in some MDs trained in anthropology as well.

By the way, while I agree that some of the sociology of science stuff gets completely out of control, science can be subjected to social critiques, because it is, in fact, a social and political process as well as a scientific one. I don't think that any thoughtful person could disagree with that--just disagree about the specifics and when a social critique of science is useful.

Oh, and obviously any position on whether science is a religion is an ideological one, even the position that it is crazy to compare science to religion. But some ideologies are better than others.
 

xanthines

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No offense, but what are you disagreeing with? Sluox clearly stated he thought MD/PhD's in econ, the humanities, the "soft sciences" were useful. His issue was with NIH money (clearly earmarked for BIOMEDICAL research) for purposes other than biomedical research. Or at least I think that was his intended point.

On the flip side, it's not clear to me whether or not MSTP students seeking degrees in "other" fields use NIH money. Even though a program may be NIH-funded, I think a program certainly has the right to seek out funds from other sources as well. Perhaps that is how MSTPs can fund PhDs in non-biomed fields?

-X

I completely disagree. Economics, for example, is extremely useful for health policy, and in fact, there are several physician-economists floating around who have had a big impact on health policy. I believe the current FDA commissioner has a PhD in economics. In fact, because there are so very few of them, I would say that there is actually a great need for some MD/PhDs with econ training. I can see great value in some MDs trained in anthropology as well.

By the way, while I agree that some of the sociology of science stuff gets completely out of control, science can be subjected to social critiques, because it is, in fact, a social and political process as well as a scientific one. I don't think that any thoughtful person could disagree with that--just disagree about the specifics and when a social critique of science is useful.

Oh, and obviously any position on whether science is a religion is an ideological one, even the position that it is crazy to compare science to religion. But some ideologies are better than others.
 

Hard24Get

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On the flip side, it's not clear to me whether or not MSTP students seeking degrees in "other" fields use NIH money. Even though a program may be NIH-funded, I think a program certainly has the right to seek out funds from other sources as well. Perhaps that is how MSTPs can fund PhDs in non-biomed fields?

-X


You are right. I am at Penn and the non-science PhDs are not funded with NIH money, but through other benefactors. Often, the PhD is funded by the department and the MD is only partially funded due to limited funds for these folks. So, nothing to get upset about, the NIH would ever allo misappropriation of their funds.
 
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