What’s an MD/PhD degree?
An MD/PhD degree is for those with a special interest in both research and medicine. Once you graduate with an MD/PhD degree, you’ll forever be known as a “physician-scientist.”
In a typical MD/PhD program, the first two years are the first two preclinical years of medical school. After that, you’ll spend three or four years, and maybe more, in a PhD program, followed by finishing your medical school rotations. The program integrates the scientific and medical education of both scientist and physician.
Sometimes the medical school coursework will qualify as required graduate courses. Admission to these programs is very competitive. You can also consider pursuing the degrees separately, either sequentially or with years separating their completion. You can find a list of all MD/PhD programs on the American Association of Medical Colleges website.
Uh, more four more years of school?
The MD/PhD track is for students who like both medicine and research. It is designed for doctors who want to become research physicians. If your goal is to teach on the faculty of a medical school, work at a university or research institute, take your place in hospital administration or have a role in setting community health policy, this may be the route for you. You’ll have the chance to not only care for patients, but to help in advancing knowledge and developing new treatments.
What do MD/PhDs study?
According to AAMC, most MD/PhD candidates earn a PhD in biomedical laboratory disciplines like cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, immunology, physiology, neuroscience or biomedical engineering. There are a few MDPhD programs that allow trainees to do graduate work in fields like economics, epidemiology, health care policy or anthropology. This allows for a broad range of interests.
If you are certain you want to practice medicine, but not as sure you want to be a medical scientist, you can start medical school and then either transfer to an MD/PhD program at the same university or add a PhD program when you finish medical school. Your level of interest in research will likely inform this critical decision!