PhD-MD

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  • #33499
    JennyS182JennyS182
    Participant

    I was just thinking about pursuing an MD-PhD and realized I know nothing about it. What exactly do MD-PhD’s do? Do MD-PhD’s actually get to practice medicine?? Do they pick a specialty like pediatrics or surgery? Do they have to do a dissertation too? Does anyone know a good site with good info about MD-PhDs or a site with forums for MD-Phds?

    #33500
    SpiritDoc2B_dup1SpiritDoc2B_dup1
    Participant

    Hi!

    I’m pre-MD/PhD although I’ve already started working on the PhD in Molecular Pathology. You might want to check out the following we site on SDN (Student Doctor Network):

    http://forums.studentdoctor.net/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=32

    There are quite a few pre-MD/PhD’s and MD/PhD students although I believe I’m one of only a few that are also Moms. I try to post on Mommd as often as I can, but I think I’m one of the few Moms considering this option on this site as well. Good Luck!

    Kim

    #33501
    Doc201XDoc201X
    Participant

    Hi!

    I’m pre-MD/PhD although I’ve already started working on the PhD in Molecular Pathology. You might want to check out the following we site on SDN (Student Doctor Network):

    http://forums.studentdoctor.net/forumdisplay.php?s=&forumid=32

    There are quite a few pre-MD/PhD’s and MD/PhD students although I believe I’m one of only a few that are also Moms. I try to post on Mommd as often as I can, but I think I’m one of the few Moms considering this option on this site as well. Good Luck!

    #33502
    YearstogoYearstogo
    Participant

    Originally posted by JennyS182:
    I was just thinking about pursuing an MD-PhD and realized I know nothing about it. What exactly do MD-PhD’s do? Do MD-PhD’s actually get to practice medicine?? Do they pick a specialty like pediatrics or surgery? Do they have to do a dissertation too? Does anyone know a good site with good info about MD-PhDs or a site with forums for MD-Phds?

    Hi. I am in the seventh year of an MD/PhD program (fifth year of research after two years of medical school) and also have two young children.

    The actual MD-PhD degree is exactly what it sounds like, you get an MD, and you get a PhD! It varies between schools, but at my school when you’re in the MD part, you’re just like a regular medical student, and when you’re in the PhD part, you’re pretty much like a regular graduate student, including classes, qualifiers, and dissertation. Upon graduation, most MD/PhD’s will do a residency just like everyone else, and will have the exact same qualifications to treat patients as straight MDs. MD/PhDs are more likely to subspecialize into something that you can most easily combine with research. For examples, ob/gyn is not a common MD/PhD field, but things like neurology, pathology, and the medicine subspecialties are.

    The big idea (I think!) with MD-PhD is that you bridge the gap between the bench and the bedside, that your clinical and research findings will inform each other. So, a lot of people will do a 10% clinical/90% research or a 20%/80% split. It would be very difficult to accomplish anything in research with much less time than that. Of course, plenty of people graduate with both degrees and never look at the lab again, or never set foot in clinic again.

    The forum on student doctor network is for people applying to MD/PhD programs — I do not know of a similar forum for people already in a program.

    The advantages: If you’ve got the grades and qualifications to get MSTP, your whole way through the degree is paid, with stipend (my program, by the way, does not have this! I’ll have as much debt as most in the end). If you do want to do clinical research, you will have a more complete perspective and easier access to the relevant patients. Also, if either research or clinic just stinks, you can drop it and focus on the other one. If it’s the time of your life when you want to have kids, the PhD years are very flexible. My kids are two and a half years and ten months. It’s been disruptive to my lab work but otherwise no problem to do the billions of doctor’s appointments that happen during the first couple of years.

    The disadvantages: It is very, very long. What may look interesting and cool beforehand may not seem so great when you’re in, say, the seventh year of the program and all your medical school classmates are about to finish their residencies. Attrition is high. Also, you may decide that you really only just want to research or only just want to practice clinical medicine, and you could have been where you wanted to go a heck of a lot faster with just making up your mind in the beginning!

    Anyway, if you’d like to look at the student MD/PhD webpage from my school, please see:

    http://people.bu.edu/mdphdstu/sidebar.html

    The timeline given there is a rather rosy three-year PhD. Some peole do it that quickly, but most take four, and some take more. There are a lot of email addresses listed for students in all years of the program, so feel free to email to get samples of student sentiment from all stages. Just don’t be offended if you don’t get as many responses as you might like!

    In general, I would say it requires a lot of stamina to make is through this degree (not that I’ve made it through yet, mind you, but I think I will). The medical school years are more intense while you’re in them, but if you study and perform adequately, you proceed to the next level. The PhD is not that way at all — it is quite possible to fester and rot for long periods of time, and still make no progress! Please give strong consideration to these factors before applying.

    Anyway, feel free to email me directly if there’s anything I can help you with. Good luck!

    Cindy

    #33503
    residentmomresidentmom
    Participant

    I began as an MD/PhD with all of the perks like stipend and no tuition. Unfortunately, after a year I realized that I did not want to spend 8+ years in school, and I withdrew from the program. It was a very difficult decision, and I felt like I let a lot of people down.

    I guess the moral of the story is to be sure it is what you want. Also, the qualifications are generally more rigorous than for just med school (high MCAT, really good grades), and you will definitely need lots of research experience (I had 3 years). Good luck with your decision!

    #33504
    Doc201XDoc201X
    Participant

    Originally posted by Yearstogo:
    The forum on student doctor network is for people applying to MD/PhD programs — I do not know of a similar forum for people already in a program.

    This is basically true, but many current MD/PhD students post in the pre-MD/PhD forum. You may also get good although not plentiful, feedback from MD/PhD residents in the Residency forums on SDN as well.

    As for the length of the program, yes it is long but in the end worth it in my view if you know that you want a career in research. The MD/PhD pathology residents I know are by far way ahead of their MD only counterparts when it comes to basic knowledge/research protocals. Also, I’ve NEVER heard of anyone complain of how long the process took once they begin to reap the benefits of completing the dual degree program.

    Finally, once you decide on MD/PhD realize that there are many routes to earning the combined program. I know a mother that got married, and had 5 kids while going from undergraduate, to completion of the MD/PhD program. I know of another that had 2 kids first during graduate school and then went to medical school. As for me, I hope to be a PhD candidate (having completed courses, oral and written exams, and defended my proposal) before I start medical school. Not every school allows this kind of flexibility so check program requirements.

    Kim

    #33505
    YearstogoYearstogo
    Participant

    [QUOTE]Originally posted by pathdr2b:

    As for the length of the program, yes it is long but in the end worth it in my view if you know that you want a career in research. The MD/PhD pathology residents I know are by far way ahead of their MD only counterparts when it comes to basic knowledge/research protocals. Also, I’ve NEVER heard of anyone complain of how long the process took once they begin to reap the benefits of completing the dual degree program.

    Yes — if you KNOW you want that career. MD/PhD would definitely prepare you better for a research career than straight MD. Unfortunately, it seems that I know a lot of people who *knew* they wanted that career, and now, many years in, are really not so sure. Sort of like, when everyone gets married, they *know* they’ve found their soulmate, and yet there are a lot of divorces … Part of my problem with the length of the program is the section I am in. Late graduate school — it feels like it’s been going on forever. Medical school is intense, but you get swept through in a herd, so at least in the first two years there isn’t so much of this unbelievable feeling of stasis. I think that you can really believe something about yourself, but that during the process of two degrees, each of which is quite difficult on its own, that that something can change.

    Also, the MD/PhDs you know in lab are probably ones that have chosen to continue with research (very likely in pathology), and will thus have a much more positive view of that than all the MD/PhDs you’re NOT meeting, who did a clinical residency and never looked back.

    As for the financial perks if you can get full-funding. That sounds wonderful, I wish I could say I were experiencing them! I came to the program in a rather odd fashion and didn’t actually apply that route. However, if you really want to do MD/PhD but don’t have the super-qualificiations to get one of the fully-funded spots, there are certainly partially-funded slots that are not as hard to obtain. For example, I will receive partial tuition wavers for my medical school years (with the PhD years paid for, of course), with the largest discounts occurring in my last two years of medical school. My school is exceedingly expensive, but at least this way I come out with a more normal debt load! Still huge, but a lot less than my friends who did straight MD with all loans.

    Anyway, I’m not saying people should NOT do this program, they should just be prepared for it to really drag at times, and for there to be occasions when they wish they, too, were almost finished with residency!

    Cindy

    #33506
    LaramisaLaramisa
    Participant

    I think the hardest thing about doing the PHD for me was the isolation. I only did the first year medical school courses, but in medical school it seemed to me you’re with a big group of people doing basically the same thing at the same time, and I had the impression that there’s more support and comradary (sp? ). Kind of we’re all in this together thing.

    While doing a PhD it can be pretty hard to keep your spirits up when you run into problems with your experiments (which almost everyone inevitably does) and it seems like you’re getting nowhere fast. (I could relate to the comment about ‘festering’ (and this banging your head against the wall icon seems to fit! :banghead: ) My program was pretty small so there weren’t alot of PhD students and my advisor was nice enough but pretty detached. I had also been working in a non-profit human services group that worked with psychiatric patients for 6 years before grad school, so I had been used to being around all these nurturing social worker types, so this was also a bit of a shock about the grad school environment for me.

    One thng that helped me cope was that I did some special summer research programs – this helped because it got me temporarily out of my home lab (in a dreary basement in a very old medical school building with lots of cockroaches- in theory good to avoid interference with all our electrical equipment) and together with other researchers in my area – also meetings & congresses help. These were my lifesavers during the 6 years it took to do my PhD (which of course I was assured would only take 3 :p ) But I was pretty broke with lots of student loan debt(despite the welcome but very very small fellowship) and burnt out by the time I finished.

    Well, that turned into a bit of a therapy session, didn’t it? :rolleyes: (and I can’t stop editing!!)

    #33507
    Doc201XDoc201X
    Participant

    Originally posted by Yearstogo:
    [b] [QUOTE]
    Also, the MD/PhDs you know in lab are probably ones that have chosen to continue with research (very likely in pathology), and will thus have a much more positive view of that than all the MD/PhDs you’re NOT meeting, who did a clinical residency and never looked back.
    [/b]

    I actually don’t know any MD/PhD pathologist in the lab. As a matter of fact, our lab is made of MD only folks wishing they would have pursued the MD/PhD :p However, after talking with a few of the MD/PhD residents in pathology, it appears that most will NOT pursue a career in research. My point is that because they have the MD/PhD if they change their minds at some later point which a few of them have said they may do, they already have the professional credentials to “hit the ground running”. I personally LOVE the idea of having professional choices.

    On the other hand, I can also remember being a disgruntled graduate student in the lab, and as hard as it was for me going through a divorce and raising a child, I’ve never regret that decision either especially since my molecular pathology PhD program uses so many of the concepts/skills I previously learned.

    Finally, in the almost 40 years I’ve been on this planet I can’t think of ANY decision I ever made where I was 100% sure it was the right thing to do. Life just doesn’t work like that, IMHO. Of course, I’m more likely to see the “cup” as half-full rather than half empty 😀

    #33508
    efex101efex101
    Participant

    Okay I am somewhat confused but I was under the impression that the MSTP was for those that WILL be pursuing research when they are done? I was also considering this route but after three summer research experiences, talking to MSTP program directors, talking to M.D./Ph.D students/graduates/ and talking to PI’s, I came to the conclusion that NO you do not need the combined degree to be involved in research. Almost every single PI that I have had were only M.D. and very good at their job. Yes, the combined degree will give you more depth to your knowledge but a lot can be learned on the go. Almost every single program director emphasized that the combined degree is for those that will at least spend 80% of their time conducting basic science research so that did it for me. I want more patient contact not more basic science research. Also, I will be more than likely involved in clinical trials were the combined degree will not be the best choice but a MPH will be the best choice. Another important factor is that the MSTP is not “just a free ride” they expect you to finish and if you do not well, it is not the best position to be in. Yes, people do quit the MSTP but it is frowned upon. So make sure that this is what you really want and I know that sometimes you are not 100% sure, but it is a huge step and you are literally taking money from someone (NIH) and then not producing your end agreement if you bail out. Sorry for the long post and maybe I will ruffle feathers but I feel very strongly when someone may do something just to see…what it is like (this statement is not intended for anyone on this board just a general comment. I am just tired of hearing so many pre-meds spouting off about a combined degree and they have yet to step in a lab even for one sumer/semester shish. Know what you are getting into before you do it, that will help. Although I bet it is much harder than any of us can imagine to do the combined degree. Good luck.

    #33509
    LaramisaLaramisa
    Participant

    Another job where a combination MD/PhD is preferred (and probably soon will be practically required) is in the early development of medicines – leading teams that work at the interface between laboratory research (pharmacology, preclinical safety and toxicology, and biological models in vitro and in animals) and clinical research (studies in healthy volunteers and patients). Jobs in this area would be in biotech or pharma industry or academia. The person leading these teams is often an MD/PhD. This is a very interesting area that uses both degrees very effectively. These are the people that can understand the basic science and laboratory work well enough to decide which drugs are most likely to be effective in the clinic – and also have the clinical insight to understand where the medical need is the greatest and understand the fine points of the clinical application. You can also work designing early clinical ‘proof of concept’ modeling studies to evaluate whether drugs that appear to work in animal or laboratory models are likely to work in humans (which they often don’t). One big focus of research right now is in finding ways to determine early on in small well-designed clinical studies, which medicines have the best chance of success- before wasting time, money and patients on large clinical studies – for a drug that may never make it.

    #33510
    Doc201XDoc201X
    Participant

    Originally posted by efex101:
    [b] Okay I am somewhat confused but I was under the impression that the MSTP was for those that WILL be pursuing research when they are done?
    [/b]

    I think it’s important to clarify MD/PhD and MSTP. First, the two are NOT the same. People pusuing the MD/PhD are not necessarily MSTP folks. MSTP is the MD/PhD funding mechanism provided by the NIH at certain and often highly ranked medical schools. I will not be an MSTP MD/PhD student because I can get more money, to the tune of about 10K more, to do the MD/PhD with NCI funding instead. I also need to “design” my own program because of my family situation and when you have your own money, you make more of your own decisions. Again, not every school will allow this and I’m already limited as to the schools I can apply to. However, this is mainly because I’ve already started my PhD coursework.

    Originally posted by efex101:
    Also, I will be more than likely involved in clinical trials were the combined degree will not be the best choice but a MPH will be the best choice.

    I was originally interested in Cancer Epidemiology and found that the MD/PhD with a concentration in epidemiology would give me more career advantages in public health than the MD/MPH. I had however, planned to get the MPH along the path of the PhD in Epidemiology because it is such a recognized professional degree.

    Laramisa brings up some important points. In the “real” world people with the MD/PhD are going to have many more professional advantages than individuals with either the PhD or MD. While working in the pharamaceutical industry I noticed this advantage myself. Also if you look in academia at the credentials of the people in charge many are also MD/PhD’s especially in fields like Pathology and Radiology.

    Finally, MD/PhD doesn’t have to equal lab work There are schools where you can get the PhD in areas like Religion, Epidemiology, and Health and NEVER set foot in a lab.

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