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I have BS in Biotech, an MS in Neuroscience and applying MD-Phd next June. I have always wanted to go into academia and eventually establish my own lab. However, I have been receiving a lot of critical feedback about MD-Phd programs. Suggesting that to be a good Physician, you don't need a PhD, and good PhDs don't need the MD. That most MSTP graduates end up utilizing only one degree. I was under the impression to do good translation research--an MD-PhD would be the best option. What are the befits/disadvantages of applying MD-PhD?

I know the faculty I would like to work with, already. Would contacting them improve my chances during the application process?

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As the question asks about the benefits, I'm only going to post this as a comment: I completely agree with the feedback you've been hearing, an MD-PhD is almost always completely unnecessary. – eykanal Dec 19 '12 at 18:03
For what its worth, my brother in-law is a notable researcher in his field. He has complained about not having an MD. He reports that an MD-PhD is one of the important evaluation criteria used by some grant-awarding organizations. – Hal Feb 22 '14 at 0:53
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Doing good translational research is hard because it requires a good understanding of clinical issues (both from the patient and carer sides) and a strong research background. In order to obtain those skills you need to spend time in the clinic and time in the lab. An MD-PhD program guarantees that you will have the opportunity to spend time in both environments. It is worth noting that having that opportunity doesn't mean you will capitalize on it. Further, you don't need to do an MD-PhD to have that opportunity.

Another advantage of some MD-PhD programs is that you can get funding for the MD side. If it is what you want to do, saving 100k USD isn't a bad thing. If it isn't what you want, trading a few years of an MD salary for 100k is a bad investment.

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It depends a lot on the kind of research you envisage doing. Since you say that you want to go into academia, I'll look at it as "what added value does an MD provide". My understanding of these things is that if you want to do almost anything patient facing, having an MD makes it a lot easier. Others have mentioned access to certain kinds of grants as well. But for example if you plan to work with flies or mouse models, then getting an MD in addition might not be a good time/money trade off.

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