Busy summer- and an update!

Hey all, I haven’t really had the chance to check in any time recently- since starting my thesis research, things have been rather crazy.

My MS is almost done in terms of classes, only research credits and a few miscellaneous classes remain. Looks like the graduate GPA will end up being in the 3.6-3.7 range.

Research is also being very rewarding. I inherited a project from another student who was juggling too many things for which prelim data had been collected. Ran the data and am working on putting together the IRB to send to my advisor tomorrow (which I’m actually working on now- need a break!) so we can expand the study to a larger scale. I’ll be first-authoring, and we’re hopeful to have the article submitted by Thanksgiving. I may get co-authorship on another paper in the same timeframe for which I’ve done a fair deal of the experiments on. I’m getting together an abstract now to give a poster presentation at a conference in two months’ time.

This is definitely making me really comfortable with my choice to pursue a PhD before DO school. I love research and I’m learning I wouldn’t be happy without it in my career. I was able to speak recently with an attending who does cardiac surgery who told me his biggest regret was not going MD-PhD; after 35 years of hearts, he rarely if ever cracks a chest to see something he hasn’t seen countless times in the past.

Yet I’m also finding that no matter how much I love research, I’ll never be satisfied without being able to practice medicine as well. Yesterday I gave a presentation to half a dozen hematologists whom we want to help us recruit patients into the study (fliers alone don’t deliver a few hundred subjects a month). As awesome as that was, it was frustrating to know that with only a PhD, it’ll always be someone else using my discoveries to save lives. I’m also giddy that I’ll be doing aseptic animal surgery through the next year too- must be even more awesome with patients who are human (and also intended to survive the surgery).

I’m also feeling more confident about success in medical school once I get there. I’ve learned more A&P just in working in my lab than I did through 170 undergraduate credits by quite a large factor. And I love the pace and the stress of it- the only downside to doing 60 hours of work a week is the fact I’m paying my school for the privilege of doing it. But unfortunately, with a 2.7ish undergraduate GPA, I accepted that there’s no way around that quite a while ago.

Aside from school, I’m working on upping my civic involvement- I’ve been putting off joining a Kiwanis Club, but since I’m not living somewhere I know I’ll be for at least a year and hopefully 4-5 beyond, I’m ok to start doing that more. And once I get my PhD apps done and my paper submitted, I’m hoping to start accumulating some shadowing as well.

There are downsides, of course- I don’t think I’ve been here a dozen times since the conference. But commitments outside of cyberspace are making that a necessary sacrifice from time to time.

The process isn’t without stress- I still have days where I wonder whether or not my uGPA will preclude me from my dreams or where I wonder if fulfilling my dreams will leave me with more debt than the GDP of a number of the world’s smaller countries. But I feel like I’m doing the right things to get where I want to go, and on some level, I think I need to just go with that. Getting through life requires the occasional leap of faith that with hard work, things will work out.

Feedback always appreciated! And if anyone else has an update to post, feel free to chime in in this thread too!

Sounds like you have great passion for what you are doing!! Enjoy this time. The CT surgeon had a great point about what happens when you specialize.

Keep us posted!

Just to play the devil’s advocate, you know that you don’t need a PhD in order to have an active lab or be a research PI. I worked for a neurologist at UCSF who had an MD, no PhD, and was well funded and had an active lab, as did several MD colleagues. In my experience, it seems that it is the research that matters most, not necessarily the degree(s). You can always do a post-doc as an MD (minus the PhD), and many medical schools support the year of research in between didactics and clinicals, and you’d still be in a good position to apply for funding from various grant agencies, such as NIH, NSF, AHA etc. Some grant funding agencies tend to favor medical degrees over the PhD. That said, if you plan on trying to match for neurosurgery, or some extremely competitive residency, that is where the MD,PhD comes in very handy, from what I’ve heard. Neurosurgery residents at UCSF are still expected to publish first author at least once a year, so there is definitely still a great research aspect in many MD pathways.