What is the average age for MD/PhD applicants? Depressed about wasting years.

reese07

10+ Year Member
Feb 4, 2007
516
18
Status
Pre-Medical
I am 21 but I dont think I can apply until a year or two later. Would applying at age 24 be considered non-traditional? Can someone out there please change my view on applying after a gap year or two because of weaknesses in an applicant? I'm just depressed that while most of my peers are getting into their graduate programs right after graduation, I will end up doing post-bac stuff and studying for the MCAT instead. I feel like a bum, because I always had they image of me being independent and working after I'm 27. I'm also sad about the idea of finishing an MD/PhD program in my lower thirties. Do MD/PhD students have a "student-like/non-independent" experience all throughout their time in med school and getting a PhD? Believe me, I really want to become a physician scientist...that's why I am hoping for someone to change my sad perspective on sacrificing my youthful years for a passion for research -_-
 

mystifire

10+ Year Member
Jan 27, 2007
135
26
Status
Medical Student
Get over what your peers think. Get over the age thing. You are 21 now. You can feasibly be applying in 2-3 years while you are 24 which is YOUNG and not non-traditional. I mean, seriously? Think about this. Doctors and Scientists and especially Doctor-Scientists are in school a LONG time. Many have taken time off to do other things in the process of schooling. Some, as early as high school, do years off before college, take years off after college, do prestigious fellowships, Teach for America, Peace Corps, Workforce, travel and whatnot before grad school and med school. Some stay in med school or grad school an extra year or two. Some take extended residencies or post-docs. Some take extended sabbaticals to do other things. The higher you go, the greater variation in age.

Stop thinking about it as black/white :: student/workforce. This life is not like that. Should you even be accepted to MSTP, hell, you would get a (modest) living stipend. Technically you would be getting paid to go to school and going to school would be your job! And after that you will be paid modestly to work 80 hours a week as a resident and being a resident will be your job.

But the entire image of 30 year old MSTP student is not what you think it is.... MSTP is one of the most prestigious graduate programs in the nation. It is almost expected most of them will graduate in their 30's. So YES, they will be allowed to have an independent life going on. Many of them do. Many get married and start families. Some even buy houses on their modest stipends. And I am sure most feel respected as an adult making those adult choices, despite being a student.

You are only being a bum if what you are doing in your gap years is laying around playing video games, sleeping, and doing nothing... like a bum. But taking time off to do enhancing and constructive once-in-a-lifetime experiences is looked at favorably.

I think you have not yet come to realize something that you really need. Life is a journey and you are always in flux. You cannot think of life being "on pause" while in school and then resuming once you are done. Becoming a high achieving professional takes a long time no matter what career you choose and you have to realize that school is a part of professional life. Learning never ends. Everything you do, every position you hold, every school you enter, every degree you complete.. is just another step to help you keep going in the direction you are going. If you have gone through your life thus far thinking you will do a non-stop run of schooling and then at some point finish with a lucrative job so you can have a spouse/house/2.5 kids lifestyle...... it doesnt always happen that. In fact, nowadays, that is becoming more and more of a fantasy then a feasible reality.
 
  • Like
Reactions: JMan33

Shifty B

10+ Year Member
Aug 13, 2008
452
97
Status
Attending Physician
So, I think it's reasonable to think of starting an MD/PhD path in your mid 20s. It isn't going to be like you are in college anymore, living in a dorm. In most places you can get a respectable apartment/house and start living more like an independent adult. You will basically have a job. The job will have a relatively low salary, but the benefit of having a lot of freedom and opportunity for time off/travel.

This is particularly true if you are in a program in an affordable city. If you go to a very expensive city (NY, SF, etc), you may have a more student-like lifestyle. You may have to live in subsidized housing and so on. Still, many people in Manhattan in their mid 20s with jobs live in small crappy apartments as well.

Many people in my program got married, had kids, bought houses, etc.

For me personally, I would consider the upper limit of starting an MD/PhD program at 28-29. Why? If you start at 28, take 8 years, and then do a residency that is an average of 4 years long, then you are 40 by the time you finish. That is too depressing for me. Some might consider it, but not me.
 
May 30, 2010
599
3
Status
Medical Student
It all depends on what your upper limit is. For me, still being in school at age 30 would be depressing to me.
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
Staff member
Administrator
Lifetime Donor
10+ Year Member
Oct 12, 2004
18,915
4,161
Florida/Fellowship
Status
Fellow [Any Field], Attending Physician
I am 21 but I dont think I can apply until a year or two later. Would applying at age 24 be considered non-traditional? Can someone out there please change my view on applying after a gap year or two because of weaknesses in an applicant? I'm just depressed that while most of my peers are getting into their graduate programs right after graduation, I will end up doing post-bac stuff and studying for the MCAT instead. I feel like a bum, because I always had they image of me being independent and working after I'm 27. I'm also sad about the idea of finishing an MD/PhD program in my lower thirties. Do MD/PhD students have a "student-like/non-independent" experience all throughout their time in med school and getting a PhD? Believe me, I really want to become a physician scientist...that's why I am hoping for someone to change my sad perspective on sacrificing my youthful years for a passion for research -_-
Good grief, dude, you are so young that you don't even have any concept of how young you are (and that includes being a future 24-year-old med school freshman). It took me 14 years to finish my MD and PhD (separate degrees with some time working thrown in there), and I'm going to be a 36-year-old intern six months from now. Never mind getting started in graduate school programs: my peers who went straight through were all working on getting tenure as professors while I was starting med school! Sometimes I'm older than my residents and even my attendings. And you're worried about being a couple of years behind? Sheesh. If you're a bum, what the heck am I? Maybe a vacuum sucking the matter out of the known universe???

So all kidding aside, no, *you* are not going to be a nontraditional student. *I* am a nontraditional student (started med school at age 31). 24-25 is the average starting age at many med schools, and plenty of MD/PhD applicants take a year or two off before going to med school. You will not be too old to begin an MD/PhD at the tender age of 24. You will almost certainly not even be the oldest person in your program at the age of 24. There are also advantages to being a little older when you start med school rather than coming straight out of college, not the least of which is that you will hopefully have a little more perspective than you do right now. ;)

Out of curiosity, what is so special about the age of 27 in terms of working? Being someone who was working around that age, I can tell you that it ain't all it's cracked up to be.
 

Caristra

10+ Year Member
May 18, 2004
704
6
www.facebook.com
Status
Medical Student
I have seen MD-PhD's start in their late 20's and they were still younger tan some of the MD students that start in their 40's. I really would not worry about your age. If this is what you want to do with your life, then go for it!
 

Neuronix

Total nerd
Staff member
Administrator
15+ Year Member
Mar 14, 2002
13,063
2,360
the beach
Status
Attending Physician
I feel like a bum, because I always had they image of me being independent and working after I'm 27.
You were going to be independent at 27 after doing a PhD? If you're lucky you'd finish a PhD by then... Then what? You think you're going to get a job these days with just your PhD? Hah! Off to post-doc for you. So I'm not clear where this sense of independence by the age of 30 is coming from no matter what path you take in biomedical research.

I'm also sad about the idea of finishing an MD/PhD program in my lower thirties. Do MD/PhD students have a "student-like/non-independent" experience all throughout their time in med school and getting a PhD?
During the PhD it varies. During medical school I felt like I'm in high school again. I hated high school. The return to clinics felt like, Neuronix starring in: The Thirty Year Old Dweeb.

So yeah, get ready for that sort of thing.

Believe me, I really want to become a physician scientist...that's why I am hoping for someone to change my sad perspective on sacrificing my youthful years for a passion for research -_-
No changing of perspective here. Commit yourself to it or find another pathway. But any sort of biomedical research is going to require hard work through your 20s and 30s. The alternative is to just go to straight medical school, and you can be an attending when your MD/PhD peers are just finishing medical school. The tradeoff there is crippling debt.

The concept of sacrifice vs. living life is a discussion for elsewhere. For me, being tied down to one location and having little control over my schedule for an extended period of time caused a lot of problems in my personal life. As I apply to residency, the programs in the region of the country I wanted to be in have rejected me. But other people make it work just fine. It's all circumstance I guess.
 

chutzpah

Medic!
10+ Year Member
Oct 4, 2008
146
2
Status
On my interviews so far, I think the median age of current interviewees is 23-24. I feel I'm sort of 'nontrad' coming directly from college since it doesn't seem as common as one would think.
 
Jan 13, 2010
55
0
Status
agree with chutzpah :)

mystifire's post was so inspiring and kick-you-in-the-ass i almost wanted to cry ; )
 

gbwillner

Pastafarian
Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
Jan 30, 2006
2,194
314
You've got the Touch- You've got the Power!
Status
Attending Physician
No to have reality sink in to you youngsters or anything.....

but starting MSTP at 24 means.....

1. Finishing with an MD/PhD at 30-34
2. Finishing residency at 33-39
3. Finishing post-doc or subspecialty fellowship at 34-44
4. Becoming assistant professor at 34-45

And those numbers are pretty much best case/wost case (where you would actually go through with it)

Here are some examples
1- best case- Miraculous 6-year MSTP (finish at 30- I only know 2 people that have done this). Residency in Clinical Path/IM/Peds (finish 33)- 1 year post doc (possible with CP since you get so much research time) with no fellowship (finish 34)- instructorship- 1 year (finish 35). Done. I would say level of difficulty in pulling this off AND being succesful scientist is 10/10.
2. Worst case- MD/PhD in 10 years (finish at 34. I know several people who have done this- switched labs, etc.). Let's knock it back a year for argument's sake and say 9 years. There, you're done at 33. You decide to do a residency in Surgery (done at 38). You decide you want to do a surgical fellowship (2-years) and then need to do a post-doc since you haven't really had time for any research (3 years). You're now ready for a position as Assits. Prof at 43. That's assuming you're not at Harvard/Johns Hopkins/WashU or whatever where you will have to be an instructor first. Odds of pulling this off... 8/10- really, only because you've already quit by now 90% of the time.
Everyone else is in the middle somewhere.

Enjoy! My point is you better love what you are doing, and if this jouney is a means to an end you are in for a world of pain. A world of pain.
 
May 30, 2010
599
3
Status
Medical Student
yeah i am surprised by all the encouraging responses of starting mdphd in mid-20s. once you break it down, you will start making a regular salary when most people are already at their career peak
 

tortuga87

7+ Year Member
Aug 11, 2010
185
44
Status
MD/PhD Student
yeah i am surprised by all the encouraging responses of starting mdphd in mid-20s. once you break it down, you will start making a regular salary when most people are already at their career peak
I would say not to worry about what other people think. You are already considered crazy for doing the most intense thing school can provide. A little bit more crazy wont hurt :p
 
  • Like
Reactions: eteshoe

gonogo

10+ Year Member
Jan 31, 2007
203
8
Status
Fellow [Any Field]
To the OP:

Just think very well whether you really want to go the MD/PhD route, make sure you're really passionate about it. As someone else mentioned, during the PhD portion of the program you'll feel very independent. However, once you get back to the wards as MS3, and throughout most of internship and residency, you'll have more the highschool feeling. Not only most of your peers will be much younger than you, but many of the attendings will be your age or younger.

I'm not trying to dissuade you from going into an MD/PhD program. Just make sure you know it's exactly what you want to do.
 
Nov 2, 2010
141
9
Status
Pre-Medical
yeah i am surprised by all the encouraging responses of starting mdphd in mid-20s. once you break it down, you will start making a regular salary when most people are already at their career peak
I think the MD-PhD program takes that into account so graduates do not have crippling debt like med students do.

To OP: Let's see, 27. So even if you applied now you'd start at 22. You want to finish the MD-PhD program in 5 years.

I suggest either changing that paradigm of being "independent," whatever that means, at 27, or work non-stop from now until you're 27.

But I have an answer for you and that is to do the MD-only first, then research. You won't have a PhD, but you'll out by 26-27 depending on when you apply. Then residency. Then do a postdoc or research fellowship somewhere for a few years. So this way you effectively swap the order and get your MD first, then you go on the research path. This seems to satisfy your need to be with same-aged people, although I can tell you right now it's probably not going to be a huge deal. I had buddies in college that were in the army for a few years before college and fit in just fine. It's not like you're 50 and everyone else is 20.

By the way, I only know of 1 sure-fire way of failing at life and that's to try and please everyone, so less "what will my peers think" and more "what do I want to do with my life."
 
Jan 9, 2011
14
0
Status
Pre-Medical
I think the MD-PhD program takes that into account so graduates do not have crippling debt like med students do.

To OP: Let's see, 27. So even if you applied now you'd start at 22. You want to finish the MD-PhD program in 5 years.

I suggest either changing that paradigm of being "independent," whatever that means, at 27, or work non-stop from now until you're 27.

But I have an answer for you and that is to do the MD-only first, then research. You won't have a PhD, but you'll out by 26-27 depending on when you apply. Then residency. Then do a postdoc or research fellowship somewhere for a few years. So this way you effectively swap the order and get your MD first, then you go on the research path. This seems to satisfy your need to be with same-aged people, although I can tell you right now it's probably not going to be a huge deal. I had buddies in college that were in the army for a few years before college and fit in just fine. It's not like you're 50 and everyone else is 20.

By the way, I only know of 1 sure-fire way of failing at life and that's to try and please everyone, so less "what will my peers think" and more "what do I want to do with my life."
The only problem with doing the MD first (correct me if I am wrong, I'm just a pre med here.) is that while doing the PhD your going to get a bit rusty on all of the MD stuff you learned. (Hence the structure present in most MD/PhD programs).

OP if it makes you feel better, I am young for my class, and plan to apply and enter an MD/PhD program as fast as one could High school-4years college-Boom. No breaks. Even then, I will be 22 when I enter the MD/PhD program. So starting at 23,24,25,26..really it doesnt matter as long as you want to do the MD/PhD.

*p.s. the only thing about people who take breaks between undergrad/md/phd whatever, from what I hear, is that program reviewers will be very critical and will want to know u just didnt take a break just because (lazyness). If they see you volunteered, shadowed, did basic research etc (the key thing is they want to see you apply yourself) and had a good reason for doing so, then you're good to go.
 

Shifty B

10+ Year Member
Aug 13, 2008
452
97
Status
Attending Physician
The only problem with doing the MD first (correct me if I am wrong, I'm just a pre med here.) is that while doing the PhD your going to get a bit rusty on all of the MD stuff you learned. (Hence the structure present in most MD/PhD programs).
I think you misread. He said MD-only (no PhD involved here) followed by research. That is, to have a large component of research in fellowship, thereby gaining research experience (although not a PhD) later.

By the way, doing a PhD that isn't a part of a residency or fellowship training program after completing the MD is wholly impractical. You certainly shouldn't do it between MD school and residency.
 
May 21, 2010
1
0
Status
Listen to everyone's advice on whether this is the best choice for you, but don't be depressed about the time that's passed. There's a saying: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is now. Keep that in mind.
 

Sanad

10+ Year Member
7+ Year Member
Sep 16, 2006
41
2
Status
Medical Student
Reese07, if you love research and wanna be a physician as well as a scientist, 24 is a very good age to start. Think of it this way. When you'll be done, you'll have a job you love. Imagine all the opportunities that would be open to you with an MD and a PhD. Im 24, just finished Medschool and everyone here in Pakistan then goes on to a clinical residency but I always wanted research with medicine. So now i've finally decided to do a PhD in immunology. We dont have MD/PhD programs here and so its much tougher for us to get into a phd program as we have to pay the International fee and stuff but I persuaded my parents and made a 4 year plan. I'll be doin my PhD and wont give a crap about what anyone says or does cuz I'd be doin what I love! If you love it, go for it. Dont hesitate. And dont think 24's old. Cmon! Stop callin me OLD :)
 

SaltySqueegee

El Rey de Salsa
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Jul 10, 2003
1,261
3
www.studentdoctor.net
Status
MD/PhD Student
No to have reality sink in to you youngsters or anything.....

but starting MSTP at 24 means.....

1. Finishing with an MD/PhD at 30-34
2. Finishing residency at 33-39
3. Finishing post-doc or subspecialty fellowship at 34-44
4. Becoming assistant professor at 34-45

And those numbers are pretty much best case/wost case (where you would actually go through with it)

Here are some examples
1- best case- Miraculous 6-year MSTP (finish at 30- I only know 2 people that have done this). Residency in Clinical Path/IM/Peds (finish 33)- 1 year post doc (possible with CP since you get so much research time) with no fellowship (finish 34)- instructorship- 1 year (finish 35). Done. I would say level of difficulty in pulling this off AND being succesful scientist is 10/10.
2. Worst case- MD/PhD in 10 years (finish at 34. I know several people who have done this- switched labs, etc.). Let's knock it back a year for argument's sake and say 9 years. There, you're done at 33. You decide to do a residency in Surgery (done at 38). You decide you want to do a surgical fellowship (2-years) and then need to do a post-doc since you haven't really had time for any research (3 years). You're now ready for a position as Assits. Prof at 43. That's assuming you're not at Harvard/Johns Hopkins/WashU or whatever where you will have to be an instructor first. Odds of pulling this off... 8/10- really, only because you've already quit by now 90% of the time.
Everyone else is in the middle somewhere.

Enjoy! My point is you better love what you are doing, and if this jouney is a means to an end you are in for a world of pain. A world of pain.
Good post. Just to add to the experience and detract from the speculating going on:

I'm 31yo now, I'll be 32 when I finish the MD/PhD next year. I bought a home with my wife about 3 years ago. We're starting a family. We've got the dogs, cats and all the other things going on in life. I took 5 years for college. Started when I was 19yo and finished when I was 24, then went directly into the MD/PhD program. I have a residency lined up in Pathology, with an assistant professorship lined up afterwards, I'll be 36 by that time. Then the reality is, is that will be the time I will actually have to prove myself to society...

I have to say it is all about mind set. I have a few MD/PhD student colleagues that haven't quite gotten it into their skull that "life has already started." And they're still waiting for the Play button to be pushed in life. Some how they think it is all on hold. I'm gonna wait to get married till after X, or I can't do Y until after Z.

Meanwhile I stick to my 7a-6p schedule (as much as I can during clerkships; easier during research years) and take the rest of the time and invest it into enjoying the little things in life. Going for walks outside, playing with the dogs, talking with my spouse, gardening, going ice-skating. I'm not saying don't be good at research or medicine, just try to find a balance at all stages in life.

Sometimes I swear, for people who are Sooooooo smart, they sure have a maladaptive mind set. Don't let it be you. You do have the right and choice to set boundaries and priorities in life.
 

echosensei

New Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Feb 3, 2006
30
0
Status
SaltySquegee, sounds like pathology is the right field for you. Or dermatology. But for those of us who do this as cardiologists, surgeons, or else, 7 AM to 6 PM is not how it goes. I leave for work at 6:30 AM each day and am lucky if I'm home by 8 PM. I've been a practicing academic cardiologist for 21 years, which is how old my daughter (who is applying for MD PhD this cycle) is. It doesn't get easier the older you get. Her dad is an academic pathologist (after 4 years of sleep-deprived life as an OB), and has it much better...even makes it to his golf league one evening a week.
 

Shifty B

10+ Year Member
Aug 13, 2008
452
97
Status
Attending Physician
I leave for work at 6:30 AM each day and am lucky if I'm home by 8 PM.
This is an interesting comment. For your generation, this perhaps is tolerable, but I think very few people in the current generation of medical students and residents find this reasonable. The desire for balance of lifestyle and career is much stronger now.

Which is why the demand for lifestyle specialties is out of control. No one is interested in working 14 hours a day, and I can't blame them. Unless some of these specialties come up with a way to modify their lifestyle, it's going to continue too. I wouldn't be a general surgeon for any amount of money...
 

SaltySqueegee

El Rey de Salsa
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Jul 10, 2003
1,261
3
www.studentdoctor.net
Status
MD/PhD Student
SaltySquegee, sounds like pathology is the right field for you. Or dermatology. But for those of us who do this as cardiologists, surgeons, or else, 7 AM to 6 PM is not how it goes. I leave for work at 6:30 AM each day and am lucky if I'm home by 8 PM. I've been a practicing academic cardiologist for 21 years, which is how old my daughter (who is applying for MD PhD this cycle) is. It doesn't get easier the older you get. Her dad is an academic pathologist (after 4 years of sleep-deprived life as an OB), and has it much better...even makes it to his golf league one evening a week.
Very true. And this is probably an important point to emphasize ; not all fields within medicine are as amenable to fitting research into a given day. For me, Pathology provides a way to "titrate" my clinical workload and at the same time still fit research into the second half of the day. Medicine and definitely surgery was not offering that for me; despite how much I enjoy the patient interaction. Importantly, the time I spend with family is very high on my list. Of course, there are exceptions within the field of medicine or surgery, and they are, THE exception.

For me, I am playing the odds a bit. Depending on the department chair priorities, and the field you might go into, your time for protected research and clinical responsibilities will vary wildly. Hence Pathology as a nice in between. For everyone, here there has to be some balance between family, clinical and research. Think hard on this one. For me, I ended up putting clinical time toward the bottom.

Warning to the up-n-comers, some department chairs only pay lip service to protecting your research time. Get it in writing, at the very least.
 

solitude

Senior Member
10+ Year Member
Dec 27, 2004
1,616
78
Status
"Men who are unhappy, like men who sleep badly, are always proud of the fact."
-Bertrand Russell


People are always whining about how much they work. At every level, from the pre-schoolers who are gunning to get into the right private school, to high schoolers gunning to get into the right college, to college students gunning to get into the top MSTP, etc etc etc. It never ends.

My dad is an academic surgeon-scientist at a top department, endowed chair, the whole shabang, and I can tell you that he made the time when I was growing up to just be my Dad. And he still does. Of course there were nights when he was on call and had to be in the OR, and there are days over Christmas when we're watching football and he's writing papers on his laptop. He was the only guy at my football games wearing a shirt and tie, because he came straight from work at 7 on a Friday. But he made the time and he came. He also had time to raise my two siblings, volunteer extensively, and pursue a number of different hobbies including learning a new instrument and a new sport, both from scratch and in his 40s. He sleeps 7 hours per night. (To be fair, my mom stayed at home, but that is another discussion entirely, for the ladies :).)

Having gotten to know many of his colleagues, and having many friends whose parents were also faculty at the med school, and in getting to know many faculty at my current MSTP, I've concluded that people are full of **** when they whine about how much they work. Do college students work hard to get into med school? Yes, I did it and nearly worked myself into nervous exhaustion at one point. Do med students work hard? Yes, obviously, I currently do it often. Do residents work hard? Yes, obviously. Do faculty work hard? Yes, of course they do. Does ANYBODY work as hard as they complain they work? I really think the answer is usually no.

We were all lucky enough to grow up in a society where talented individuals have many career options available to them. At any point, any of us could quit the rat race, PARTICULARLY us because we aren't supposed to have any debt. A few months ago I was the 2nd year med student in the room for the assistant chief of the fire department for the large city I live in. I mentioned that I always wanted to be a fire fighter but I never really pursued it--he offered me a job on the spot based on my medical background. I declined, because I really, really like what I do now.

But if you don't like the rat race, just get out. I don't understand why people keep on doing something that they hate. Life is too short. Chances are if you're constantly whining about how hard you work, it's because you wish you weren't working. The solution is not to work less, or to whine less, it's to be happy, and you should find a way to do that, and find it fast.
 

gbwillner

Pastafarian
Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
Jan 30, 2006
2,194
314
You've got the Touch- You've got the Power!
Status
Attending Physician
Good post. Just to add to the experience and detract from the speculating going on:

I'm 31yo now, I'll be 32 when I finish the MD/PhD next year. I bought a home with my wife about 3 years ago. We're starting a family. We've got the dogs, cats and all the other things going on in life. I took 5 years for college. Started when I was 19yo and finished when I was 24, then went directly into the MD/PhD program. I have a residency lined up in Pathology, with an assistant professorship lined up afterwards, I'll be 36 by that time. Then the reality is, is that will be the time I will actually have to prove myself to society...

I have to say it is all about mind set. I have a few MD/PhD student colleagues that haven't quite gotten it into their skull that "life has already started." And they're still waiting for the Play button to be pushed in life. Some how they think it is all on hold. I'm gonna wait to get married till after X, or I can't do Y until after Z.

Meanwhile I stick to my 7a-6p schedule (as much as I can during clerkships; easier during research years) and take the rest of the time and invest it into enjoying the little things in life. Going for walks outside, playing with the dogs, talking with my spouse, gardening, going ice-skating. I'm not saying don't be good at research or medicine, just try to find a balance at all stages in life.

Sometimes I swear, for people who are Sooooooo smart, they sure have a maladaptive mind set. Don't let it be you. You do have the right and choice to set boundaries and priorities in life.
Nice post. I went through a similar thought process as I also went into Pathology and am currently finishing residency in a research-track academic program. Just a few thoughts on your plans though:

1. If you are at a good pathology training program, there is no way you get home by 7PM, especially your first year, during surgical pathology (my apologies if you are going into CP)
2. I also thought that I could fit in both research and clinical work within a single day. In practice, let me tell you in AP this is impossible. The volume of work is too great. You simply cannot run a lab and sign-out at the same time, and will end up doing what people in medicine do: have discrete blocks of time where you sign out and devote at least 90% of your day to that task. From experience, I can tell you this ends up meaning surgical pathology attendings who run labs sign-out for 1-2 weeks at a time, for maybe 1-2 months a year. Most have a very specialized sign out. What you propose may be possible with a very low-volume service, like optho path or medical kidney. But if you do general, or even a major subspecialty (GYN, ENT, GI, etc.) it's just not feasable.
3. So, in retrospect, let me just say the advantages of Path to medicine are not as great for a physician-scientist as I thought before starting residency. I could have ended up doing the same research, with the same protected time, had I gone into medicine. PSTP programs would also had given me built-in research time within my fellowship of choice. Yeah, the fellowship adds more time (in reality only like 1 year of clinical duty) since the remainder is research time.
4. Even if you have a "promised" Asst. Professorship after residency... that may not be the best thing. At some point you have to be productive, and by that I mean write grants. If you go straight into your professorship, the clock starts ticking. So you will have 3 years to get an RO1. IF you fail, you will quickly become full-time clinical or have to find a job elsewhere. If, however, you do an instructorship, or fellowship with research time, the clock does not start. That means you have an additional 1-3 years to have enough data to start writing grants, and may have a grant before you even become Asst. Prof., making your chance of success significantly higher.
 

SaltySqueegee

El Rey de Salsa
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Jul 10, 2003
1,261
3
www.studentdoctor.net
Status
MD/PhD Student
Nice post. I went through a similar thought process as I also went into Pathology and am currently finishing residency in a research-track academic program. Just a few thoughts on your plans though:

1. If you are at a good pathology training program, there is no way you get home by 7PM, especially your first year, during surgical pathology (my apologies if you are going into CP)
2. I also thought that I could fit in both research and clinical work within a single day. In practice, let me tell you in AP this is impossible. The volume of work is too great. You simply cannot run a lab and sign-out at the same time, and will end up doing what people in medicine do: have discrete blocks of time where you sign out and devote at least 90% of your day to that task. From experience, I can tell you this ends up meaning surgical pathology attendings who run labs sign-out for 1-2 weeks at a time, for maybe 1-2 months a year. Most have a very specialized sign out. What you propose may be possible with a very low-volume service, like optho path or medical kidney. But if you do general, or even a major subspecialty (GYN, ENT, GI, etc.) it's just not feasable.
3. So, in retrospect, let me just say the advantages of Path to medicine are not as great for a physician-scientist as I thought before starting residency. I could have ended up doing the same research, with the same protected time, had I gone into medicine. PSTP programs would also had given me built-in research time within my fellowship of choice. Yeah, the fellowship adds more time (in reality only like 1 year of clinical duty) since the remainder is research time.
4. Even if you have a "promised" Asst. Professorship after residency... that may not be the best thing. At some point you have to be productive, and by that I mean write grants. If you go straight into your professorship, the clock starts ticking. So you will have 3 years to get an RO1. IF you fail, you will quickly become full-time clinical or have to find a job elsewhere. If, however, you do an instructorship, or fellowship with research time, the clock does not start. That means you have an additional 1-3 years to have enough data to start writing grants, and may have a grant before you even become Asst. Prof., making your chance of success significantly higher.
Thank you for the reply. The points you make in 3 and 4 are the items I have been going back and forth on a considerable amount lately.

Just a few brief clarifications: My PhD was extremely productive, resulted in my advisor obtaining a number of grants from the data I generated. We had, and still have, a very good working relationship. As a result, he has arranged with the Pathology department to protect some of my time during residency and afterwords during an asst professorship, also he has set some money aside for me to conduct experiments as well as direct one of his technicians to dedicate some time to a couple of my projects. So, hopefully this will help get me off to a good start. He also carries some political weight, so that helps too.

The downside is, the academic center I'm at is not the largest, and does not have a very large volume. However, this may be a mixed blessing based on the points you make. I've talked to a number of the pathology residents, and have a general idea of the hours involved. However, I do know the dept of medicine is not as generous with research time for their residents (we had a number rotate through our lab for their required 1 month; *shakes head*; what can you even learn during that time).

So, in short, I have some people doing some heavy lifting for me both financially as well as setting up experiments.
 

gbwillner

Pastafarian
Moderator Emeritus
10+ Year Member
Jan 30, 2006
2,194
314
You've got the Touch- You've got the Power!
Status
Attending Physician
The downside is, the academic center I'm at is not the largest, and does not have a very large volume. However, this may be a mixed blessing based on the points you make. I've talked to a number of the pathology residents, and have a general idea of the hours involved. However, I do know the dept of medicine is not as generous with research time for their residents (we had a number rotate through our lab for their required 1 month; *shakes head*; what can you even learn during that time).

So, in short, I have some people doing some heavy lifting for me both financially as well as setting up experiments.
Looks like you have set things up nicely for yourself in your department. I would only caution you about one more thing.... The world of academic pathology is a pretty snobby place. If you are settled down and cannot move from your current location, then you've already seemed to have done the best you could do for yourself. If, however, you are thinking you may not stay at your location indefinitely.... I would recommed going to the best possible academic program. You would not only have the "reputation" of your program under your belt, you would also be around other successful scientists and have a lot more opportunities for successful research.
 

SaltySqueegee

El Rey de Salsa
10+ Year Member
15+ Year Member
Jul 10, 2003
1,261
3
www.studentdoctor.net
Status
MD/PhD Student
Looks like you have set things up nicely for yourself in your department. I would only caution you about one more thing.... The world of academic pathology is a pretty snobby place. If you are settled down and cannot move from your current location, then you've already seemed to have done the best you could do for yourself. If, however, you are thinking you may not stay at your location indefinitely.... I would recommed going to the best possible academic program. You would not only have the "reputation" of your program under your belt, you would also be around other successful scientists and have a lot more opportunities for successful research.
LOL. It's as though you're in my head, thought broadcasting my primary career concerns that I've had over the past year.

I know I'd be reasonably competitive if I applied to some "higher" academic locations, but I've had to weigh my options very carefully.

1) I live in an excellent neighborhood with excellent schools with a ridiculously low mortgage. If I go to a local with a "higher" degree reputation as far as academics go, I'll most certainly have to rent, and would probably be paying twice as much as I am now. And if I stay on with a piddly pay, lets say worse case I get bent over, and I end up with 70K a year, I would still be able to double up my mortgage payments and have everything, including student loans paid off in about 15years! I'm not crazy about the winters, but financial freedom feels pretty damn warm.

2) I have a research advisor, who I suppose, has taken me under his wing, provided me with a ridiculous amount of support past and future, drags me to grant reviews and meetings, etc. And, in this funding environment, it is uncertain if I would have that same support. It's a rare thing. Although, I must say I am a bit torn with "what else is out there (Postdoc)," and the thought that I'm ready to go at it on my with my own projects and research plan (i.e. stay where I'm at). Moreover, despite the small size of our institution, we have an unprecedented biorepository of fresh frozen tissue samples (normal and otherwise) that my advisor wants to provide to me. I get the feeling that he is grooming me or something. (yes, I was the golden child in the lab ;) )

3) The academic center I would be doing my Pathology training at is no where near the top, but at the same time, is not scraping the bottom. So I figure if I have a decent residency training, am board certified in AP/CP, have a modicum of research under my belt with prelim data ready for grant submission, I'm pretty sure I could exit stage-left and segway into a fellowship/professorship somewhere should things head South at my present local.

I don't know. I never used to have to plan my life out this far. *Sigh* Sorry for high-jacking the thread.

Anyways, to the OP: you'll do fine if you start at age 24. It's what happens later that gives the real headaches.
 

echosensei

New Member
10+ Year Member
5+ Year Member
Feb 3, 2006
30
0
Status
I actually just have one more piece of advice, and I think it is the most important one of all. It's the one my husband and I have given our daughter since she was a wee little girl:

FIND WHAT YOU LOVE AND DO IT! The lifestyle of a researcher, physician, or both isn't worth it unless you are passionate about what you do. My husband chose to do a pathology residency after being a practicing OB partly because he wanted the flexiblity he didn't have in obstetrics. He loves it.

When my daughter was at home, we made sure that at least one of us (and usually both) was always home, at sports matches, dance recitals, and other activities. In 18 years, we were both on call at the same time only once. At one point in my career, I worked mornings until she got out of school, and then either went back or laptop worked after she went to bed. It's hard. I could only do it because I love what I do for a living. I have a very unique subspecialty (there are fewer than 100 of us trained to do what I do in the US). But I love every minute of it. Do I get 7 hours of sleep? Only when I'm on vacation. But that's OK, because I love what I do.

It is also pretty common for us academics to ratchet up our time after we become empty nesters. The time you have your children at home is so short, but there's plenty of time to be productive after they fly the nest.