Yes, I wrote PhD-MD, not MD-PhD.
So I have a master’s in psychology and have been working in research / education technology for years. I’m taking organic chem right now.
Last week, I just got recruited by one of the experts I work with to work directly with him at his university and get a fully paid PhD in psychology (cognitive or developmental). He is associated with the top education research institutes in the country (he’s actually the assoc. director). We are working together on a new reading assessment, which raises a lot of research questions for my company, and it would be easy for me to design a project for the dissertation that gets me data, is relevant, and that I could even get paid for and finally own the intellectual rights to it.
I am interested in the clinical aspects of medicine as well as research. Right now my primary interest is in research and practice in psychosomatic medicine, as related to oncology, surgery, sports medicine. In a PhD like this one, I would gain really good statistical and research skills. I could also continue to take advanced bio and chem courses–I am finishing up my last pre-req this year–so long as it somehow fits into what I am doing. My friend, who just finished a phd in clinical psych, said the the post-doc fellowships at medical centers, which hire MD PHDs as well as regular PhDs, will be looking for people with background in both of these.
I wonder if anyone has any feedback for me about how I could leverage this opportunity as I move forward on my winding path to medical research and practice, esp those with a research background.
Yes, I wrote PhD-MD, not MD-PhD.
really, does no one have an opinion on doing a phd in psychology on way to md ??
I think the reason a lot of people haven’t responded is that most people haven’t considered doing a PhD and MD consecutively.
I have an M.S. in biochemistry and I had been thinking of doing a PhD while I am waiting for my husband to finish his PhD (usually 3-4 years with an M.S.) but decided against it. I am so focused on getting into medical school that I couldn’t devote all of my time to research. Doing PhD level research is a big, big commitment.
Have you considered the MD/PhD programs?
I actually have considered MD/PHD programs, but as far as I know, there are no programs that give a PHD in cognitive or neuropsychology which is my background. I don’t have enough background in chem, bio etc. to be competitive at the moment for an MD/PHD.
Which is why I’m wondering whether it makes sense to do this. Full funding, a faculty mentor who I can work with, a company that could possibly sponsor me and give me data sets, and with research questions and a project I could collaborate with them on–I could feasibly finish it in 3 years. I’m looking into the possibility of continuing taking bio and chem courses, and beefing up my basic science background. My mentor is known for his contributions to basic science and applied research, albeit in psychology, and has serious connections.
If it weren’t for these factors, I probably wouldn’t consider the opportunity. My thing has always been that I won’t do a PhD unless it’s paid for, I have a mentor, and I have a project in mind. These requirements are likely all met.
I still want to go to med school… wonder if it makes sense for this to be my winding path to an MD/PHD?
I wish I had some advice to offer you. I don’t know very much about psychology. It sounds like you would eventually want to do research (and maybe see patients too?) so it might not be the worst idea in the world. It would give you the opportunity to get some research skills if you really want to end up doing medical research.
You said that you have an M.S. in this field so you probably know the time commitment required to do a PhD… but PhDs have a way of being all-consuming in terms of your time. Also, in my field, PhDs and MDs don’t seem to really understand each other very well. It was really interesting explaining to my graduate advisor that I wouldn’t be continuing on for the PhD in her lab because I wanted to go to medical school instead.
Do you need the PhD (in addition to the MD) to do what you really want to do?
Of course, if you decide to try for the PhD: Make sure your advisor is a good graduate advisor! Good researchers sometimes make absolutely horrible advisors (learned this the hard way) and it will take you a lot longer to finish the PhD. Talk to past graduate students in that research group. Find out how long graduate students typically take to finish the degree, etc.
I personally think you should only pursue a PhD if you would be satisfied with that degree only. The idea of a PhD being a stepping stone to medical schools simply isn’t a good one to most people due to the rigor and lack of specific end point assiciated with earning the degree.
In other words if MD or MD/PhD is what you really want go for it and don’t “settle”. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.
- dogdays Said:
Medical schools don't teach research skills, how to apply for grants, ect. Sure you can learn those skills as a post doc following med school, so why not just learn those skills in a PhD program when the level of expectation for your work will be more reasonable? I've met countless MD's who did post Docs who speak of the deer in headlights syndrome as they try to master both clinical skills and research skills as MD's early in their career.
- pathdr2b Said:
Well I definitely don't think of this PhD as a stepping stone to the MD; I am sure I could go straight to the MD if I wanted to. However, I have been doing work with this researcher on one of the best projects of my career so far; he also said his doctoral students with masters degrees have been finishing up in 3 years. He's known for being a great teacher, has awards for both teaching and research, and is a great people person.
I think that it's possible to learn skills in this PHD that will be useful in the future, which is why I'm considering it. This mentor like I said has amazing connections as well and it would totally boost my ability to get big grants. Finally, I could have a ready made project doing my thesis on a new assessment being created by my current company.
It's just that my goals for the use of these skills in medicine are not super clear to me yet. I know that I really like creating assessments and doing all the studies and analyses needed to make them robust. I just wonder whether a cognitive/developmental psych PhD, with further bio/chem coursework, would allow me to move towards, say, molecular psychiatric research.
Any suggestions of journals, scholarly articles, organizations I should read? Other strategies for trying to figure this out.
- dogdays Said:
Why did you want to switch out of the PhD route, and how did you approach your advisor about this? What reasons and details did you provide to him/her, and how did they respond?
Well, there are people that I am sure have done PhD and then MD. However, it seems very round about. Why do I say this? Well if you were to do a PhD, you would do your research, take classes and then defend your thesis. this can take up to 7 years. Now I know that you said that many people in his program do it in 3, this is the same amount of time in the PhD program you will spend in an MD PhD joint degree program. And if you want to do it in Psychiatry/Psychology I do not think that should be a problem as long as the program offers that route.
The question that would come to mind of the adcoms would be: “Is this applicant indecisive that she just got her PhD and now wants an MD?” Just playing Devil’s advocate here.
If you go PhD, are you going to complete a post-doc? That can add many years to your plans. These are the things you should take into account. The final decision of course, is yours. See if this researcher is associated with any medical school and try to aim to get accepted to that school. That way at least you stand a good chance of not only getting your cake, but eating it too.
I decided not to do a PhD because I love science (love research) but it wasn’t what really excited me and it really is the excitement and determination to make some type of scientific discovery (even if it is small) that gets you through the rough patches of the PhD. Medicine has always been in my heart. I was talked out of applying to medical school when I was in my early twenties and I got discouraged. I think I am old enough now not to let other people discourage or distract me.
The scientists I have worked with do not really understand MDs (even when they have MDs as collaborators on research grants) and seem to think that their research skills are subpar (I don’t know if this is true or not). Most graduate advisors have expectations of their graduate students beyond just receiving the PhD, publishing a lot and participating in writing grants… They really want their grad students to become big in their field too and perhaps take on graduate students themselves (it makes the original graduate advisor look good). I understand this, they did just spend a lot of time mentoring you to be a scientist…
My conversation with my adviser did go ok. I know she was pretty disappointed though. I did feel pretty terrible about this for quite a while. Just be honest with people about your intentions and don’t take it personally if they are less than excited about your future plans. Don’t get discouraged.
The best advice I can give to anyone is to do whatever it is that really turns you on (sorry, I don’t know how else to put this).
I agree with the pathdr2b about the combined MD/PhD (this is intriguing to me too). If you want to be a physician/scientist, try to find a program and go for it!
- gabelerman Said:
Yep. Exactly. So what's key is how do I make this PhD work toward, not against, my MD future?
- gabelerman Said:
Gabe, this is good advice. Exactly what I needed to hear! I hadn't thought about it. He's associated with FSU, which has a good COM as well as a strong psych program... I thought about asking my mentor about this possibility, and calling the med school as well. I am afraid of getting shut down by people who wouldn't really like this idea; I need to figure out the best way to make it a winning situation somehow, and so how to break this down? How do I figure out the politics as well as the research needs/trends, and what else should I be looking at, who should I be talking to ?
- gabelerman Said:
Do you know of any MD PHD programs with a PhD in psych/psychiatry? I've been unable to find any. U Penn used to have one, but it seems to no longer exist!
- gabelerman Said:
Good question, and I guess the answer to that depends on just what the original path in is, whether I do a PHD separately, or find a way to do an MD PHD at FSU, or work with researchers at both places as a PHD and find my way into the COM afterwards.... etc.
Gabe, thanks so much for helping me think through this. I like how you think - very logical.
Most MD/PhD are in biomedical type fields. Now, Mayo has now a clinical PhD which may be what you are looking for but not sure if it would be in the specific area you are interested in. No sense in asking here a question that has not been encountered that much…I would call a whole bunch of medical schools and ask them. Good luck.
Back in the day, FSU used to accept transfers into their MD program for purposes of pursing the MD/PhD. You should definitely look into that.
Also, as a Gator Alumae, I’ll try not to hold your wanting to attend FS WHO against you, LOL!!!
Thanks for the links. BTW, I’ve gotten some awesome and thoughtful feedback on this rather obscure question on this thread (I love OPM!!), but will definitely start calling med schools. Just thought I’d get some feedback on schools here first. I’m all about efficiency.
BTW efex, are you the Mayo grad who spoke at the OPM conf this past June? Your presentation was great!
- pathdr2b Said:
Also, as a Gator Alumae, I'll try not to hold your wanting to attend FS WHO against you, LOL!!!
Nice tip path!! I will definitely look into that -- sounds perfect.
From ivy league to FS WHO .... LOL!!! You're making me pause...
Yup, anything about Mayo, I can answer, and about PhD can get you with the right person…