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I am in a Ph.D. program in Engineering and I do probability, statistics and differential equations. My relevant previous works are: Modelling of blood flow, programming using DNA molecules. (But most of things I do, which will lead to a Ph.D. are very mathematical and don't involve any medicine.)

But lately I feel very inspired to pursue a career in Medicine instead. I am planning to complete my Ph.D. (I am from India) and then join a MD program (in USA).

  1. I am interested in the mathematical modelling of living systems. I have read some papers in this area. I noticed some of these papers don't get the maths or physics right at times. I feel I would have the right skills to contribute here.
  2. I am also interested in Bio-medical instrumentation. I have degree in Mechanical Engineering and I feel I would have the right skills for this industry.

I am aware that to be able to pursue either of above, I don't need a MD degree. But lately, I feel very passionate about actually saving lives and working closely with people. It is like a dream that keeps me inspired and working all the time. I want the MD degree.

So I want to know:

  1. Is such a thing possible? Would I be eligible to apply? I am not very well clear about 'pre-med' course requirements.
  2. I am asking specifically about the MD program in USA on mind. However information about MD programs in other countries, would also be useful.
  3. If it is possible, I want some advice on how to go about preparing for it?

(If you feel strongly the need to discourage my decision, please feel free to do so, giving adequate reasons. I would find that useful too.)

Thanks!

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Medical doctors with a previous experience in engineering are indeed in an excellent position to do clinical research involving technology or modelling. From your question it seems like you are more interested in the practice of medicine than research, and that is fine because in some fields of medicine (e.g. radiology) an engineering background is a definite advantage to practice medicine efficiently.

I know 3 people who started (a 6 years) medical school after another degree. Two after a degree in Physics and one after a PhD in biomedical engineering. All 3 are happy with their choice but their situation is not yours. Can you afford to go to school for many more years?

If you do, in North America a previous degree (and engineering is a frequent one) is usually required prior to entering medical school. Med school usually lasts 4 years. Admission criteria vary between schools but the previous degree should typically include the following, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges:

At a minimum, students will likely complete the following types of courses:

  • One year of biology
  • One year of physics
  • One year of English
  • Two years of chemistry (through organic chemistry)

To browse through institutions, you might find this site useful.

At the institution I know, the requirements include:

  • 1 year of biology
  • 2 years of chemistry
  • 1 year of physics
  • some laboratory experience
  • 1 year of maths (calculus and stats)
  • 1 year of a course requiring writing.
  • "[being] comfortable with upper-level mathematics (through differential equations and linear algebra), biochemistry, and molecular biology

An additional requirement is that you completed at least one year of university in the USA or Canada.

In Europe it varies a lot. For Germany, Switzerland and Austria, there are no requirements for a previous undergrad degree and it's usually hard to skip years if you have one. Most universities require that you have a high school diploma from a country they recognize. The programs are usually over a 6 years period. They typically involve a lot less mathematics than in North America. You need to be reasonably fluent in the local language.

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    Proficiency in local language is a must in almost all European countries for medical education. Moreover, if you are from non-European country, you will have to pay (high) tuition fee. – d.putto Aug 6 '15 at 16:17
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You have a few questions going on here, so I'm going to try to address the largest issues.

The field of biomedical engineering is a fascinating one. It is also only tangentially related to the actual field of medicine. If you wish to perform engineering, as you indicate in your first two points, then you should finish your PhD and grow your career as a researcher performing medical research. If you wish to perform medicine, as you indicate later in your question, you should complete your degree (always a good idea), then apply to medical school, become a doctor, and treat patients.

If you wish to do both, well, that is very hard to do. You essentially have to take a path involving the worst of both worlds; you need to do all the schooling of both, and then balance the requirements of being both a medical practitioner and a researcher. In many, many cases, this is extremely difficult to do. This is particularly true in the current medical climate, where doctors are being pushed towards seeing more patients than ever, and their research time is being decreased significantly, if not eliminated altogether.

All that being said, there are many MD/PhD programs across the country that strive to educate individuals for exactly what you are asking about. These highly competitive programs do exactly what you're asking for; have students both perform research and complete medical school, thereby earning both an MD and a PhD.

It sounds like you are simply looking to enter medical school, though, as you are already earning a PhD. To that end, I cannot answer whether you are eligible, I can only suggest you check individual department requirements. Regarding advice, it sounds like you only need advice on the medical school component (since you're already in a PhD program), which I'm not qualified to dispense.

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  • Thanks for the informative answer. "in the current medical climate, where doctors are being pushed towards seeing more patients than ever, and their research time is being decreased significantly" - I found that to be particularly useful. – Inspired_Blue Aug 5 '15 at 4:30
  • A couple of things I found out: 1. If one already has a Ph.D. then they aren't eligible for the MD-Ph.D. program at most places. 2. Most US universities discourage foreign students to apply. The few that do allow, take very few. 3. The MD program is very expensive. I have to figure out how to finance it. Nothing looks right at this moment! – Inspired_Blue Aug 5 '15 at 4:34
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    @Inspired_Blue - Medical school is incredibly expensive, you can easily spend >$200k over the four years of schooling. You may be able to enroll through the military (not sure if foreign status prevents that), but then you owe them years of service. It's an expensive, long journey. – eykanal Aug 5 '15 at 13:57
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It is difficult to add something to the excellent answer by @eykanal (+1) on such a challenging and important topic (+1 also goes to the OP for that as well as the excellent formulation of a question).

I just wanted to add that I have seen quite a number of people, who became medical doctors after taking some other career path (usually, engineering), but most of those cases imply switching from engineering after bachelor's degree, not later stages. Part of the problem is that studying for an M.D. is not only extremely stressful, but also very long (I'm not sure whether you have relevant pre-med credits and if you'd be able to transfer them). Time (that is, the length of study) is quite an important factor, unless you're young and/or have no family obligations and other circumstances.

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  • Could you tell me more about "whether you have relevant pre-med credits and if you'd be able to transfer them"? Thanks! – Inspired_Blue Aug 5 '15 at 4:35
  • @Inspired_Blue: The pre-med credits that I meant are minimum academic requirements in relevant for medical school disciplines. The details are spelled out in a nice answer by Cape Code (+1), along with some links. It is pretty easy to find all those prerequisites online, but there might be some slight differences in subjects and/or other aspects across medical schools. So, my best advice is to visit websites of the schools that you (potentially) target and study their admission information. – Aleksandr Blekh Aug 5 '15 at 5:43
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I understand your interest in pursuing medicine from an engineering background. I have a bachelor's in computer science and I have physician friends with bachelor's and master's degrees in mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineering. However, all of us have nearly completely given up our former careers and devote our time to clinical medicine. We still have an avid interest in engineering, but simply don't have the time for it.

If you are considering medical school, I encourage you to think of it as a true career change, rather than hoping to merge the two careers.

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