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Thoughts on MD-PhD and its prospects

jasparjaspar Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
Hello!

I was wondering if anyone could shed some light on the MD-PhD program from a personal point of view (especially people enrolled in it), as I have read quite a bit on the internet about it and some things still remain blurry. I am going to start my final year of BSc Neuroscience this fall in the UK and I am currently working in a lab for an institute in the Netherlands. Even though my whole background suggests an easy choice to continue with a PhD after my graduation, I have always had my eyes set on medicine and neurosurgery in particular, and my life suddenly took an unexpected turn when I decided to go into research. I am loving my degree and my work right now is extremely satisfactory, but I cannot for a second stop imagining finishing med school and entering surgical residency, so after a bit of research this MD-PhD program popped up as an option and since it's quite a new thing for me, I hope someone could give me a heads up on what exactly the future of an MD-PhD looks like - would I have the exact same credibility and opportunities as someone who has just finished med school and is off to start their residency? After possibly obtaining an MD-PhD I would want to dive straight into pure medicine and pursue my all time goals of being a surgeon, so I'm a bit more interested in the pure medical field that one could go into with this degree. And I can imagine that raising some questions as to why not go into med school only if that's the future I want, however research has also grown on me these last few years of university and I'm sure once I have established a name and a career for myself, I would eventually return to it one day; besides, having obtained this bachelors right now and not follow it through would be too heavy on my conscience if I only go into med school. So please share any experience you have had with yourself or your colleagues, also if you know a bit about how the process goes for international students, I'd be extremely grateful!

PS Where I am coming from I've been told that with a BSc and sufficient lab experience I could go straight into PhD and skip the Master's (even though lots of people get surprised) - would that be the case for the MD-PhD program as well? Having obtained a Neuroscience bachelors from the UK and taken the MCAT, would I be eligible for this program? Thank you so so much!

Replies to: Thoughts on MD-PhD and its prospects

  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,550 Super Moderator
    An MD/PhD can be useful in the right circumstances. However, this:
    I would want to dive straight into pure medicine and pursue my all time goals of being a surgeon, so I'm a bit more interested in the pure medical field that one could go into with this degree.

    makes it pretty clear to me that you do not need a PhD. An MD alone would be fine. If you don't want to pursue research as a full-time career, there's no purpose in extending your training by an additional 4-5 years. You can love something and still not make a career out of it.
    And I can imagine that raising some questions as to why not go into med school only if that's the future I want, however research has also grown on me these last few years of university and I'm sure once I have established a name and a career for myself, I would eventually return to it one day

    First of all, you can do research with an MD. Plenty of MDs do - if you wanted to practice for many years and then turn to research and becoming an academic physician, there are opportunities to do that. You could teach and do research in an MD program or a PA program. You could also teach and do research in a school of public health (there are several MDs at my school).

    I WILL say, though, that re-entering academic research is difficult. Academics are insular and if you work as a surgeon without doing research or publishing for, say, 10 or 15 years - regardless of whether or not you have a PhD - you might find it very difficult to re-enter the field as an academic. Many MDs do practice and then go on to do research by doing some kind of post-doc, or joining the EIS, or getting a one-year MPH or MS in clinical research. There are many opportunities for you to do applied research and/or research-related things outside of academia, too, and that would be easier to enter after years of surgery.
    besides, having obtained this bachelors right now and not follow it through would be too heavy on my conscience if I only go into med school.

    Frankly - and I say this in a supportive way - this isn't a good reason to get a PhD. First, people are notoriously bad at predicting how they will feel in the future. (There's research on this!). After you dive into your med school classes and surgical residency, you might feel awesome. Many, many people go onto careers that don't align with their bachelor's degree. Secondly, again, the PhD will add on at least 3 but more likely 4, or perhaps even 5, years to your education. That's 3-5 years you could be doing residency or making money (and putting away for retirement). It's not a bad thing if you really needed both MD and PhD for the career that you want, but you do not.

    But the answer to the question would I have the exact same credibility and opportunities as someone who has just finished med school and is off to start their residency? is yes. As long as you have the MD, residencies don't really care whether you also have a PhD or an MFA or an MPP or whatever else you might have earned concurrently or before the MD; as far as I know, they are interested in your med school and exam performance.
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