Choosing a Training Path:
PhD followed by MD
The objective is to complete dual training either at one institution or at two or more institutions. How you accomplish your training may be the result of a carefully crafted career plan or by simply taking advantage of opportunities that appear as you follow your training. Usually it is a combination of planning and serendipity. Never lose site of your ultimate goal and realize that there are several different pathways that will get you there. Your own personal circumstances are important in determining the steps you take along the way. Remember that although the end is important, the journey must be pleasant, fun, and as direct as possible so that you do not become a perpetual trainee. In some programs the trainees are offered flexibility to achieve the best training that suits their own background.
This pathway provides for a strong research background before entering your MD program. A PhD in the biomedical and related sciences should provide you with a strong background in science and an in-depth focus in one specific area. Exposure to science that relates directly or indirectly to understanding the pathogenesis of human disease is most helpful. The PhD degree provides you with a unique perspective as you carry out your medical training. It enhances your ability to focus on medicine as a discipline that relies on hypothesis testing in abnormal human biology. Whatever your PhD was about, you bring to your medical training the academic rigor of investigative work that focuses on in-depth knowledge, thorough understanding of experimental design and effective critical analysis. Your graduate courses and thesis work provide excellent training to carry out critical analysis of the medical literature to guide diagnosis and treatment of your patients. The difficulty is that in most MD programs, you will be away from the research milieu and will need some further research training at the end of your MD or residency training. This may be in the area of your PhD research or you may have identified new areas of interest during your medical training.