Why MD/PhD?

So, as I am in my second week on medical school proper and one week away from my first set of exams while still finishing up my paper from my research rotation ,I figured this would be a good time to remind myself why I am doing this.

I’m sure many of you reading this are either PhDs or MDs (or on your way) and wondering why on earth anyone would want to do both. Most frequently I hear people suggest that embarking on an MD/PhD is a sign of poor decision making–an inability to focus on one thing properly. There is one aspect of this critique that I agree with, and that is the focusing on multiple areas. However, personally, I think that having multiple academic interests is a positive, not a negative.

A pretty good representation of the wide variety of areas in which I am interested!  Source

While I did not always know I wanted an MD and a PhD, I have always been one of the those cliched pre-meds who “always wanted to be a doctor”. Clearly, throughout high school, college, and beyond I engaged in the appropriate extra-curricular activities in order to confirm my desires and ensure that I understand what it meant to be a physician (as much as one can without actually being a physician). However, along the way I discovered research as a career option.

I first fell in love with what I now know to be research watching Child of our Time by Dr. Robert Winston – a show which aimed to follow 25 children born in the year 2000 and try and gather a clearer picture of the impact of nature and nurture on behavior. There are obvious flaws to the experiment (the lack of confidentiality associated with also being a television show being paramount!), but the concept fascinated me. In college I conducted research in language development, bioethics, and Tourette’s and tic disorders before working full time in public health research in substance using populations after graduating.

My college career was hinged on interdisciplinary interests as a pre-med who double majored in cognitive science and philosophy. I have always been drawn towards bringing these different mindsets together to help answer the questions I am looking at. I still can’t help but work a little bit in multiple fields (as you can see from my research page).

But can’t you still do research with an MD?
Yes, of course! But I really wanted to be able to hone my research skills. In medical school you have the opportunity to conduct research, most often in the summer between classes but it is much more infrequent for medical students to receive rigorous training in statistics, grant-writing, and research methodology. I want to really have the opportunity to develop those skills.
I know that in my future I want to be able to treat patients and conduct research. I realize that there are serious temporal and financial constraints to my desires but I want to provide myself with all the tools I might need to fulfill these desires. I am excited about research and medicine and want to do both. For now, that is enough.

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