3: How research convinced me not to pursue a PhD

Ann Arbor, MI-

For most of my life, I didn’t understand what research was. Hearing the word “research” engendered in my mind images of sterile, white lab coats and strange chemicals. But after working as a research assistant for 3 years, I believe my definition of the word “research” has expanded.

With that, came a dilemma: should I pursue an MD or an MD/PhD? Of course, the MD/PhD is a larger time commitment (8-9 years, as opposed to 4) and more competitive than the MD. However, those were not the biggest factors in my decision to pursue the MD.

For those of you considering a dual degree – specifically the MD/PhD – I’d encourage you to honestly reflect on what you enjoy. I knew I enjoyed working with patients and conducting research. With that, I developed four reasons for not pursuing an MD/PhD:

  1. Is it possible to do research with an MD? While the PhD awards you protected time to conduct research, MD’s can not only do research, but also become PIs.
  2. What are my goals? I hope to conduct research throughout my career. However, the NIH came out with a study revealing that most MD/PhDs do not conduct research after graduating.
  3. What do I enjoy? MD/PhD’s tend to split their time about 80/20: 80% of the time in lab, and 20% of the time seeing patients in the clinic. I hope to spend most of my time with patients.
  4. What is my learning style? I’d rather continue learning to conduct research through experience than through academic instruction.

I was able to make this decision by honestly reflecting on these four bolded questions. However, this is an important decision, so rush if you feel that you cannot decide. It took working in two labs over three years for me to be sure of my decision.

Thank you for reading.

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