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

JOHN L. CARROLL jcarroll at
Sat Dec 18 10:26:05 EST 1993

     The discussion on the topic of whether an MD vs. MD/Ph.D vs. Ph.D. is best for research has been a bit unfocused so far.  Which is best depends on what youwant to do.  There is no single answer to this question.  If you want to do 
clinical research, human physiology, and human drug trials, human drug or devicetesting then I think an MD background is a great advantage.  It is quite 
difficult for a non-MD (at least in the United States) to do research involving human subjects (difficult in the sense of getting approval from local human 
research ethic committees).  

     If you want to do basic research there is little question that Ph.D. training is better preparation...  at least it is more efficient than getting an MD
degree so you can work in a lab 60-80 hours/week.  Concerning the MD/Ph.D., thiscan be an advantage for when one is studying certain specific disorders (some
genetic disorders, cystic fibrosis, others) in which it is advantageous to span
clinical research ---- molecular biology.  It is very difficult to generalize.

     The "bottom line" is that the whole research scene has changed and will
change much more in the next few years.  Money is SO hard to get (for everybody)that basic researchers will be forced to devote 100% effort to research whether they have an M.D., Ph.D., D.V.M., MD/Ph.D. degree....  it won't matter. Clini- 
cal medicine is getting to be so complex (on many levels) that to be a
a good clinician and support yourself you'd be forced to see patients MOST of
the time.  The days of the "triple threat" (teacher, clinician, researcher) are

John L. Carroll 
Baltimore, Maryland 
Internet: jcarroll at  

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