To PhD or not to PhD, that is the question

Dear fellow OPMs:
First of all, cheers to everybody who just finished finals! With such a long way to go in school ahead of us, at least that’s one more semester under the bridge. As my statistics professor is fond of saying, hopefully when grades come back it will be time to break out the champagne and not the vodka!
I was wondering whether some of you might have advice for me on the following dilemma. I am currently 2 years into my PhD in Kinesiology, just about to begin the dissertation, and taking pre-med coursework simultaneously. Having recently confessed my med school ambitions to my thesis advisors, they are giving me conflicting opinions. One says I can finish the PhD and do med school prep at the same time, the other one says I am better off forgetting about the PhD and just studying hard to ace the MCAT.
I have heard that it looks bad to adcoms if you start a degree and don’t finish it (though I already hold a Masters, so at least that is some more recent proof of not being a quitter). I also realize that a lot of medical programs are hot to trot on these MD/PhD programs nowadays, and if I already have a PhD, it puts me out of the running on that front. I get the idea you have to be some kind of research rock star to get into those programs anyway, so I haven’t been too worried about it. Does anyone have any thoughts on this issue?
RMG, Dr. 2B

I would finish my Ph.D while doing pre-reqs…a Ph.D will look good to adcoms. You mention M.D/Ph.D but if you are already in a program getting the Ph.D why get out of that program and then apply to the M.D/Ph.D? finish this one and apply.

I agree with efex. Finish your pre-reqs and study for MCAT while you are working on your dissertation. Then you could start medschool right after you finish your Ph.D. I assume that after just 2 years into your PhD program, you mean you are finished with your grad school courses and starting your dissertation research, right?

Yup, I would also suggest that you complete your PhD. If, for some reason, you don’t get into med school, you have a useful degree. Additionally, med schools look a little askance at applicants who seem as if they might be dabbling with advanced degress.

Would you mind clarifying your term “dabbling”. Do you mean that you can have too many because you do not have focus? Or something to that effect.
Thank you,

Fellow OPMs:
Thanks for your feedback! Well, it seems that efex, Judy and Laramisa are all in agreement that I should finish the PhD. I am glad, because that is the direction that I have been leaning in as well. Re: Laramisa’s question, yes, I have completed all of the graduate coursework (whew!) and am just now starting the dissertation research. Thought I’d better do a sanity check before things really start to heat up… having been through the Master’s dissertation process, I know how all-consuming research can be. But I figure if other people can have kids and a job and prepare for med school, I can have a brain-child and a job and prepare for med school! I appreciate your support.

I concur with the finish PhD seniment. I finished mine before I started med school, and was told is really helped my application.

I am currently in a PhD program in philosophy, finishing up my 3rd year of coursework and taking my comprehensive exams before passing into the advanced standing phase. All I will have left after that is dissertation writing. Some PhD programs offer the option of applying for your Master’s once you are officially ABD (all but dissertation). This is a nice option if you are willing to swallow your pride and accept a degree that you have way exceeded in your PhD requirements.
I think a lot of self-reflection is necessary to make this decision. If you think that writing a dissertation while you are taking your MCATs will affect your score, either take a leave of absence from your PhD program or explore the option of getting your Master’s degree instead (you can always write the dissertation later). If you are confident that it won’t, why wouldn’t you try and do both? To some degree, the very fact that you were matriculated/accepted/funded in or by a PhD program and pursued it for two years is in itself impressive. There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind. If you decide to leave your program (I wouldn’t suggest doing it without a master’s unless you absolutely HAVE to), then try to get some excellent recommendations from your PhD program faculty. These will testify to the fact that you would have had a successful career in your PhD specialty had you not decided to go to medical school. This way you can assure schools that your decision was made primarily because you have a deep desire to be a doctor.
I think medical schools will realize that you have taken a great risk to attend medical school by leaving your PhD program early (especially if you receive a Master’s and give the concrete impression of having started and finished something), if that’s what you decide to do. Don’t be afraid to point that out to them in your application, either
That’s my two cents. Hope it helps.