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Becoming Both a Researcher AND a Medical Doctor

Have you ever considered becoming both a researcher and a medical doctor? Applying to an MD/PhD Program can let you practice medicine while also making important contributions to clinical research. Here are 15 facts to get you started!

    1. There are 115 different American Universities that offer MD/PhD combination programs, according to the AAMC list of MD-PhD Programs by State.
    2. Curriculum will vary somewhat from one program to another but according to the AAMC’s MD PhD: Is it Right for Me?, these programs all combine medical with clinical research training. Generally, medical school is emphasized more in years 1-2 and again in years 7-8, while graduate school/research is emphasized in the middle years (3-6).
    3. 55 MD-PhD programs are partially supported by training grants from the National Institute of General Medical Science. These programs are known as Medical Scientist Training Programs or MSTPs. MSTPs are usually better funded than non-MSTPs. A list of the MSTP programs by state can be found on National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) website.
    4. Most MD-PhD programs offer financial support in the form of stipends and tuition waivers. Each program differs in how much each student is supported. See the differences on the previously linked AAMC table.
    5. You apply to most of the MD/PhD programs on the American Medical Colleges Application Service (AMCAS) platform. When you apply, you must designate yourself as an MD/PhD candidate and extra essays will be required.
    6. Princeton Review reports that MD/PhD programs are highly competitive. Princeton Review notes that in the 2016/2017 academic year, there were 1,936 applicants; 649 of them were accepted.
    7. Because the programs are so competitive, the admissions requirements bar is set high. According to Princeton Review, successful applicants had an average total MCAT score of 513.9 and an average GPA of 3.78.
    8. Research experience is expected in an MD/PhD candidate (including summer projects, senior research theses or research activities after undergraduate study is finished). However, the How to Distinguish Yourself as an MD/PhD Applicant site notes that simply outlining the studies and their results is not as important as showing your intellectual curiosity and drive.
    9. The AAMC’s page Is an MD PhD Right for Me?, the site notes that an MD-PhD dual degree takes approximately 7-8 years to finish. Then you have to finish a 3-7 year residency program if you want to practice medicine. It is good to understand the time commitment before entering into these kind of programs.
    10. The AAMC’s Career Paths for MD/PhD Graduates, the site notes that about 75% of MD PhD graduates wind up in pharmaceutical or academic medicine positions.
    11. The Career Paths sites also notes that for MD/PhD graduates who wind up in academic medicine, about 70-80% of professional time is spent in research.
    12. The NIH offers a wide variety of grants and funding opportunities to those with an MD/PhD background.
    13. There are MD-PhD programs that allow you to get a PhD in the humanities or the social sciences. The AAMC has information on these programs as well.
    14. If you drop out of an MD-PhD program, some schools require you to pay back the investment that the school made in you. Read each school’s policies or talk to the school’s admissions office before you decide to apply.
    15. There are a variety of factors to consider when you are an MD/PhD graduate choosing a residency, according to Science.

Brian Wu

Dr. Brian Wu is an Admissions Advisor at MedSchoolCoach, and is an avid writer, researcher and MD/PhD admissions expert. He was part of the admissions at USC-Keck.

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