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What made you guys decide on MD/PhD?

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by rolliespring, May 20, 2014.

  1. rolliespring

    rolliespring Gin no Samurai 5+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2012
    Hi guys I thought I'd get some feedback on this forum.

    First of all I want to say I'm really bad at deciding things. I've been thinking about this question for a while and it's quite bothering me right now. I'm interested in viral/gene therapy and our lab does really cool stuff that are related. I really can't see myself being a doctor without doing research but is MD/PhD for me? I would love to see the direct application of my research on patients. But what is the thing that made you guys decide on MD/PhD and not just doing research with a MD?
    I'm planning on shadowing a few MD/PhD's in the future. Are there any specific things I should look/ask for before deciding on this path?
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  3. pipettequeen


    May 30, 2013
    As an applicant during this horrible funding climate, I'm not sure anyone can be 100% certain that they want to pursue MD/PhD. However, based on really enjoying research, knowing I would want to do research as a physician, and the many benefits to choosing the combined program (no medical school debt, a very structured and supportive environment for the training, competitive advantage in applying for residency/grants/etc.) it seemed logical to apply that way. If I decide later on that I don't want to use one of my degrees, I will still have no medical school debt and training that will likely make me a better scientist or physician. I am young, didn't take any gap years, so an extra 4 years does not seem like a huge deal to me and I am looking forward to both medical and graduate school. I love learning!
    Member011 likes this.
  4. StIGMA

    StIGMA Doctor Professor PhD 7+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    One should choose MD/PhD over MD because you require PhD training for your career, which is generally only the case if you plan to run a lab. There are many other ways to be involved in research without 4+ dedicated PhD years. Assume many programs don't have a structured and supportive training environment (lower your expectations, the PhD and MD are distinct and only harmonize as much as you arrange it for yourself) and assume the PhD won't give you a significant competitive advantage for residency or grants.

    Agreed, except (and as you point out at the end of your statement) there are intangible benefits to either training pathway. Are these intangibles (refined critical reasoning for a PhD, clinical knowledge for MD) worth 4 extra years of your life if you no longer use the other degree? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

    "I love working" long hours, 7-10 years straight (and then residency/fellowship/post-doc/applying for startup funds/ and on it goes).

    If you plan to primarily be a scientist, MD/PhD is an excellent career choice. If you plan to primarily be a clinician, an MD is versatile enough to still be a "part-time" scientist.
    Last edited: May 20, 2014
    Neuronix and gbwillner like this.
  5. mTORC

    mTORC 2+ Year Member

    Apr 26, 2013
    Such a downer. Also, @pipettequeen, definitely agree :)
    Member011 likes this.
  6. StIGMA

    StIGMA Doctor Professor PhD 7+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    I did not state anything negative. I am among the more optimistic people in my year at my program, FYI (finishing year 5 with a defense date set). I enjoy what I am doing, and I either enjoy or tolerate the long hours. I definitely don't want to do anything else with my life. It is important to be realistic about the realities of MD and PhD training- it is difficult, and many things happen outside of your control. If you come in with sky high expectations, you (potentially) have a lot more room to be disappointed. I guarantee you will not be as optimistic as you are now for the entirety of your training (although I sincerely hope you hold on to as much optimism/idealism as you can). Let's see how you feel in 6 years.
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
    mTORC likes this.
  7. mTORC

    mTORC 2+ Year Member

    Apr 26, 2013
    Definitely agree and I'm realistic because I have taken to heart what a lot of people on this forum tell us... I am really appreciative of the advice. I'm just trying to preserve our excitement, which will presumably get us through at least a few more months of the arduous training!
  8. StIGMA

    StIGMA Doctor Professor PhD 7+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    The start of medical school will be one of the most exciting times of your life- congrats to all you future mudphudders. Definitely celebrate when you can!
    "a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace."
    mTORC likes this.
  9. LADuck00


    Jan 8, 2014
    MD/PhD is a path for students who see themselves doing primarily research. You sound like you are mainly interested in a career as a physician but would like to be involved in some ongoing research projects. In this case I would recommend doing a good fellowship and/or an off-year of research during medical school. As others have said there is no shortage of opportunities for physicians to get involved in research. It's actually a requirement for many residencies and fellowships.
  10. miz

    miz 2+ Year Member

    Oct 14, 2011
    I picked the MD/PhD path because I wanted to do biomedically relevant research and didn't have any significant background in medicine or biology. It's working out well so far. I can't imagine being a clinician full time, even moreso now that I've done a few years of medical school. I'm sure it'd be fine, but I am much happier now that I'm back in the lab.
    Good mentorship has somewhat assuaged my anxiety about future job opportunities and grant funding. I feel that my PI and older peers in the program are supportive re: publication, project timeframe, grantwriting, future postdocs/fellowship, etc. and it makes the unknown seem doable. This was something I had to find independent of my program administration (re: stigma's point about structure and supportive training environment), but it was there. There are also unsupportive or apathetic mentors out there to be avoided, too.
  11. uniqenam

    uniqenam MSTP c/o 20?? 2+ Year Member

    Jun 27, 2011
    I would be lying if I didn't say that at least a decent part of it was "well, if the whole science thing doesn't work out for me at least I can still have a job!"
  12. gbwillner

    gbwillner Pastafarian Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    I never thought about the job market when I applied. Of course, Bill Clinton was president at the time.

    For me it was that I could not decide between the two professions and I could not see myself fulfilled with just one. It was that simple.
    Reckoner, rolliespring and mTORC like this.
  13. Neuronix

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

    Mar 14, 2002
    the beach
    What made me decide? I was on the fence and then I got a 37 on my MCAT. Not how you should pick :roflcopter:
    Lucca, rolliespring and phonyreal98 like this.

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