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

Greg Berns greg at
Wed Dec 29 11:08:28 EST 1993

As someone who went to med school (I'm in the 4th yr now)
after getting the PhD, I don't regret the decision at all.  My
own situation was that after completing the PhD, I found myself
in a field that not only did I believe was relatively unimportant
in the grand scheme of biomedical research, but seemed to be
somewhat of a dead end.  I also found in limited contact with
MDs that I enjoyed working with patients and applying basic
research in the clinical setting.  Med school seemed like a good
way to branch out into other fields and have the chance to
really apply science in a tangible way.  For me, it was probably
the best decision I've made.  Because med school forces you
to become basically acquainted with all the major specialties,
there is truly something for everyone (things you would otherwise
know nothing about).

My recommendation is this: before making the plunge into med school,
find a clinical MD who you can hang around with and get a feel for
what clinical medicine is like.  This is important, because as a
young MD or MD/PhD you will be expected to see patients -- so you
better enjoy it.  Second, with the added time for med school and
probably residency, you're looking at an extra 5-10 years of training
beyond what a PhD/PostDoc program would take.  But, in 5-10 years
you will still be 5-10 years older, and you don't want to be in a
position wondering, "what if I went to med school...?"

Greg Berns, PhD, MSIV
School of Medicine
Univ of Calif, San Diego
greg at

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