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Old 18th-September-2010, 05:33 AM   James Black's time 18th-September-2010, 12:33 AM    #1
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Default PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

Which is the best path?

I don't like to be forced to do one thing for the rest of my life: I'd like to research, I'd like to practice medicine, but I don't think I could stand doing just one of the two permanently. However, if I had to do just one, I think practicing medicine would present a bit more of variety in situations and environment, (research may have varying situations but Id be stuck in the same lab all day, wouldn't I?) and especially with something like Internal Medicine (and/or Infectious Disease) as a specialty, I'd have a decent amount of thinking time rather than surgery time.

I'm considering the following possibilities...

-PhD in Bioengineering or Molecular Biology
-MD, most likely specializing in Internal Medicine/Infection Disease
-PhD/MD with Molecular Biology and then probably a specialty in Internal Medicine
-MD, (probably a specialty in Internal Medicine), and then follow up with a Biology degree
-MD, then research fellowship
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Old 19th-September-2010, 04:14 AM   Aphasia's time 19th-September-2010, 12:14 PM    #2
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

If I'm not wrong it's cheaper, easier and more profitable (compared to being a gp) to become a specialised nurse.

Also, doctors have to interact with people a lot (patients, medical staff, peers, seniors, etc.)
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Old 19th-September-2010, 06:48 AM   EyeSeeCold's time 18th-September-2010, 10:48 PM    #3
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

It's not so bad putting in a little effort when you're doing something you enjoy.
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Old 19th-September-2010, 03:54 PM   James Black's time 19th-September-2010, 10:54 AM    #4
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

Easier doesn't matter much to me, tbh. Actually, I'm more likely to fail an easier course/degree than a difficult one. I'm currently retaking a few of my lower-level classes because they're dragging down my GPA.
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Old 20th-September-2010, 12:11 PM   Agent Intellect's time 20th-September-2010, 07:11 AM    #5
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

You can do research with just an MD, but you won't get all the practice from a PhD program. MD will cost a lot of money, while PhD can sometimes be free (I'm looking to go for one in neuroscience at MSU, which one can essentially get paid to do). A professor of mine (who has a PhD) told me that getting an MD would probably be more worth the while financially, and would probably actually open up a wider range of possibilities. I'm still most likely going to go for a PhD because I know I'd want to do research, but that's just me.
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Old 20th-September-2010, 12:42 PM   Architectonic's time 20th-September-2010, 10:12 PM    #6
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

Which would you prefer - working in a lab or seeing patients?

Getting both is a huge waste of time.
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Old 20th-September-2010, 02:27 PM   James Black's time 20th-September-2010, 09:27 AM    #7
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

If it is possible to do minimal, effective research as an MD, I think I'd prefer that. I'm not all about pay or glory, but it seems PhDs are under appreciated and underpaid. However, I could get past that, but theres important aspects such as, A) I'd prefer a job that would offer me variety as in "90% this, 10% this" or 80/20, etc: I'm not too knowledgeable about researching, but I imagine practicing medicine is a bit more varied, and if not, 10% research + 90% medicine is surely more varied than 100% research? Also, B) as much as I love figuring things out, I think I'd enjoy quicker, more satisfying results (saving people's lives?) versus a slow, hard-earned result that may not even come (research).
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Old 4th-October-2010, 03:14 AM   J-Spoon's time 3rd-October-2010, 07:14 PM    #8
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

Actually I think you have the opposite. MDs are financially rewarding and more hands-on, but about as unvaried as a profession gets. You're a diagnosing machine. Take a look at medical school curricula, it's going to be 100% memorization. Diagnosing can be interesting to an extent (having a plethora of symptoms to choose from to come up with your deduction) but really you're going to be making pretty much the same dXes 90+% of the time, then once in a blue moon, you'll get something truly freakish that will be sort of satisfying.

But then you get sued for malpractice for misdiagnosing something undiagnosable in the first place.

Surgeons are even more robotic and routine-oriented, at least in medical you get to use your brain instead of muscle memory.

"100% research" is deceptive - you're basically tackling a problem that doesn't have an easy answer so really the angles you approach it from are up to you. Depending on the research, it could be the most infinitely varied job ever, though your tolerance for failure has to be high as with any hard science (which you mentioned). And yes, true, PhDs are underpaid and underappreciated - you're not going to be living in a mansion as a research scientist, and no one is going to throw you any parades any time soon.

I'm not trying to say that academic research is the best thing ever, but medicine is much, much more mundane than media makes it out to be. If you're trying to avoid routine, I'd definitely stay away from medicine in the form of a practicing physician. If you're an undergrad, maybe you've shadowed some doctors already, if you haven't, DO IT NOW. Not only is it going to give you some perspective, but most med schools want to see some kind of clinical experience on that application.

Just my two bits, based on interactions with MD classmates and being in a PhD program. If there are any physicians on here, I'm sure they can agree or disagree.
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Old 4th-October-2010, 02:14 PM   James Black's time 4th-October-2010, 09:14 AM    #9
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

Thanks for the reply. ^.^ I also responded to your other post here: http://intpforum.com/showpost.php?p=195026&postcount=12
Thanks again for your input.
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Old 18th-October-2010, 02:59 AM   Jackooboy's time 17th-October-2010, 09:59 PM    #10
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

Hi James,

I graduated summa cum laude in political science from a major northeastern university and am taking the nursing route as it fits my requisites of being meaningful via helping others and creating financial security and stability in my life while not taking too much time to complete.

I'm not willing to put the time and money into an MD and the nursing thing will let me gradually decided if I like the field or not vs. medicine which requires you to be working on your doctorate before you can decide if medicine is for you.

If nursing doesn't work out, I'll probably combine nursing with an MBA or JD and may do this even if I enjoy nursing.

I'm happy that you're a motivated person willing to dedicate so much of your life to understanding medicine and biology and wish you luck.
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Old 18th-October-2010, 05:54 AM   snafupants's time 17th-October-2010, 11:54 PM    #11
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

Dr. Dre/w, Dr. J, Dr. Pepper, Dr. Suess, Dr. Phil, Dr. Strange/love...so many doctors.
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Old 20th-October-2010, 03:36 AM   del's time 19th-October-2010, 07:37 PM    #12
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

I've been going to school part time to be a paramedic, and as a part of the curiculumn I've had to do rotations in a level 1 trauma center as a critical care technician. What J-Spoon says about the mundaneness of a doctor's existence is absolutely correct.

I can only speak about emergency medicine, but even there a lot of it is the same. It certantly isn't routine, but if you just look at your patients as vital sign and lab test numbers, a lot of them are basically the same person and are given the same treatment. While I personally find it non-routine and exciting, I haven't been doing it for years and can see how, if you have a highly objective, analytical mind (something INTPs possess!) it could get boring because 70% of the time you basically see the same few conditions presenting slightly different ways.

The variety comes in with the people you meet and their individual stories. If you don't look at people as numbers.

You also wake up having no clue what you'll see that day. I've gone in and started my day off being attacked by a drunk, an hour later was doing CPR to someone who coded on the MRI machine, and after that was in triage looking at a one year old who scraped her elbow. (Again, to a seasoned ER doc' that's all pretty mundane, but to me it's still exciting.)

That's mostly emergency medicine though -- I think internists have a much better idea as to what they'll be doing when they come in every morning, but I really have no idea what they do day to day.

With that said, I agree that you should shadow some docs NOW if you haven't. The more, the better -- and make sure they work in different environments and have different specialties.

I feel obligated mention that paramedicine is also pretty challenging as well, and in many regards is much less routine since you also have to worry about environmental factors like how to safely extricate a patient who may have a spinal injury from an upside down car, and then rapidly do a trauma assesment, stabalize the patient, and monitor the vitals/adjust treatment and keep in contact with medical control at the same time -- all while in the back of a speeding ambulance!

And despite all I said, I plan on finishing my four year degree by taking night classes next year, and will probably apply to medical school as well, although I'm personally more interested in international health than biomed research.
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Old 25th-November-2010, 06:34 AM   jarred's time 25th-November-2010, 01:34 AM    #13
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

I realize that this thread has been open for a couple months now, so although it may no longer be relevant, I have a few things to add.

Both the PhD and PhD/MD routes will offer full financial support. You won't pay a dime. Depending on which program you choose, you'll also be paid a stipend that sums to between $15,000 to $30,000 per year.

For any MD program, you will be taking a hefty amount of money out of your pocket. If you're like me and don't come from a wealthy background, this means taking out loans which will have to be paid back. If you have an interest in research, I recommend opting out on this route. While it is possible for a lot of MD's to switch out of more clinical oriented work to focus on research, the salary for researchers isn't quite up to the level of clinicians.

To me, you sound like a good candidate for a PhD/MD program. Depending on where you are at in your life, you'll have your work cut out for you, though. Those programs are extremely competitive. They are also difficult, but if you're motivated and resilient to stress, then I say go for it.

I'm currently a PhD student in genetics and genomics, so if anyone has any specific questions or would like to know more, shoot me a message and I'll get back to you.
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Old 13th-December-2010, 01:27 AM   Döden's time 12th-December-2010, 05:28 PM    #14
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

Another latecomer to the conversation. But ah well.
The head of the Neuroscience department of my school was talking about this exact issue. He too said that the MD will be pretty unvaried. "Glorified car mechanic," he called them.
You can do research as an MD, but keeping up with the latest journals in science is really difficult when you're busy being a doctor. There is a lot of pressure on doctors nowadays. He said that 50 years ago a doctor doing research was far more feasible than it is today. The fields have become more and more compartmentalized.

And he also said you'll look like him before you actually get to do if you go the MD/PhD route (he was pointing to his balding, grey head or hair).
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Old 13th-December-2010, 01:36 AM   James Black's time 12th-December-2010, 08:36 PM    #15
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

Well, since I've had time to think about this, and with Döden's addition, maybe its a good time to revive it. I think I'd enjoy the PhD thing more than being an MD: especially given my hatred of rote memorization and my understanding that an MD has a ton of memorization... I always look at PhD's as being underpaid and underappreciated compared to MDs, but in the end, its not all that bad: PhDs salaries aren't as bad as I previously thought, and underappreciation won't really bother me... Especially not if I'm the CEO of some large tech corporation (...Well, I do hope to be...) or the scientist to cure some disease that has long ailed us, or created some method or device to help improve and/or extend human life.
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Old 13th-December-2010, 03:20 PM   James Black's time 13th-December-2010, 10:21 AM    #16
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

This seems to be a common problem with us INTPs: "What major?"

Engineering, Computer Science, Molecular Biology, Biotechnology, Informatics, etc... Theres just too many choices.
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Old 19th-December-2010, 02:27 PM   Awaken's time 19th-December-2010, 02:28 PM    #17
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

MD/PHD: Adds more years to your training which may or may not be unnecessary. Medical School will burn you out and leave you in massive debt, I never understood anyone who did both. Also, to be honest everyone I know that did MD/Phd was a super weird nerd. This may fit your personality or it may not.

MD alone: You could still do clinical research. A lot of the MD's I know that do research are not Phd's. They just work at academic hospitals. It is not required to have a Phd to do research as an MD. I would talk to someone who is currently doing research in the field you are interested in and ask them if it is completely necessary to get a Phd.


Do not get into the "INTP cant work with patients" stereotype. I am an INTP and I love working with patients. It gives you endless entertainment and the interaction is not the same as your typical small talk bullshit. You are the person of power that can manipulate the conversation any way you see fit. Also, if you go into a field that involves procedures, it gives you the opportunity to use great focus on a task that is interesting and fun.

That being said, medical school education is memorization and regurgitation. As an INTP, it may be like hell on earth unless you are a good memorizer. Phd, on the other hand, allows for more free thought during and after training. MD alone allows for a certain degree of free thought after training(although most of your practice will have to be evidence based), but the training definitely does not take much of a brain.
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Old 8th-January-2011, 03:48 PM   Zensunni's time 8th-January-2011, 10:48 AM    #18
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

The best part of a Ph.D. over an M.D. is that you are officially trained and competent in doing original research. Once you have your degree, you are free to research whatever strikes your fancy. After becoming an expert on a subject, you can move on to the next subject and begin again.
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Old 9th-March-2011, 03:22 AM   James Black's time 8th-March-2011, 10:22 PM    #19
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

I hate to revive this thread, but I have to ask a second question...

With a PhD, one can't practice medicine...
With an MD, could a person still research/design/develop or fiddle with biomedical engineering, biomechatronics etc?
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Old 11th-March-2011, 04:43 PM   Zensunni's time 11th-March-2011, 11:43 AM    #20
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

Technically, yes. Most people have a Ph.D. in microbiology or whatever if they are in a lab setting. MD generally regulates you to human research.

They are both doctorates and people often end up far from where they planned once they embark on research. You go where your interest leads you.
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Old 18th-March-2011, 12:59 AM   digital angel's time 17th-March-2011, 07:59 PM    #21
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Default Re: PhD Vs MD Vs PhD/MD

I agree with "go where your interest leads you." I'm not in medicine. I have thought about it and sometimes still do.
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