MD vs. PhD vs. MD/PhD : what's best for research?

JOHN L. CARROLL jcarroll at
Sat Dec 18 13:34:05 EST 1993

>I have also known many fine researchers who
>have MD's, but whenever and MD fellow has come to the lab there is a general
>groaning over who will train him/her.  It has been my (limited) experience
>that most MD's come into the lab with an "attitude".  That consisting of at
>least two facets: 1-I already know everything, 2-I'm not going ask you anything
>because...(I honestly don't know why this is).  As a result there is a certain
>degree of animosity from the start.

Speaking as an MD who does basic research...  the above is true.  
However, Ph.D's also have an "attitude" towards MD's.  An MD in a basic 
research lab is often assumed to be incompetent, inept, and snotty until 
proven otherwise.  The MD who takes science seriously often has to go to 
great lengths to "prove" him or herself before being taken seriously by 

I don't know why MD's coming into a basic lab have an "attitude".  In 
some cases it may be due to anxiety.  An MD going into a basic lab has to 
be willing to take his or her humble position at the bottom and work up 
again to some level of competence and expertise.  This is VERY anxiety 
provoking for some.  In some cases, the MD has undertaken a fellowship in 
a clinical subspecialty that requires "research" training.  My experience 
has been that many don't have a clue about what they are getting into. 
Many MD's coming out of residency have not the slightest idea what 
science/research is...  they also have no clue about how difficult it is 
to acquire the skills/training to be a good researcher.  

I don't know if it's a good thing or not but in the near future I think 
the research community will become clearly divided...  MD's doing more 
clinical research and Ph.D's doing basic research.  This is a result of 
the funding crunch and the increasing cost and complexity of research. In 
addition, the "reward" system is likely to change...  making some of the 
arguments concerning compensation irrelevant.  
John L. Carroll 
Baltimore, Maryland 
Internet: jcarroll at  

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