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Masters (2 years) or Research Assistant (1) before applying MD/PhD?


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Hey guys, so my situation is that I'm applying to a couple of MD schools this cycle but recently have been interested in going for MD/PhD instead. My app isn't competitive this year, but I will be on a pub this Winter (nth author), and am also completing a senior thesis as my PI's first student, so I think I will be able to make a lot of progress. He also wants me to stay on as a grad student, and I think I could really make some quality contributions to his project.

If I don't get accepted this year, I'd obviously be taking at least one gap year. My thinking is that one year of being an RA won't really impact my future career, especially as I would be applying during that time. A Masters would be something tangible, allow me to probably get some good quality pubs, and would also give me extra time to beef up the rest of my ECs (advocacy, volunteering, etc). However, an MD/PhD is already a long road ahead, and I don't know if that alone is even worth it, never-mind with adding on two more years of school.

My stats are good (3.9X, 100th percentile MCAT), and I think I could become competitive across Canada and in the States. Any advice? Thanks!

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32 minutes ago, offmychestplease said:

Getting a PhD along with an MD is not worth it. The only time it makes sense to get a PhD is if you need it for very academic / poor job prospect fields like NSx and Cadiac. And even then, it's much better to get a PhD in residency as the PhD will be infinitely more relevant to your career, the pay will be much more, and it would take less time during residency. But for 99% of people, they should not get a PhD along with an MD.

There's a reason why the MD/PhD cohorts are extremely small at most school. Roughly a handful, because very few people feel that strong a calling for research. If OP is really interested in research, it could be a worthwhile path. The pay will not be that much higher if you're doing it during residency tbh, because MD/PhD programs have fundings that cover your MD tuition (so ~100k across the whole degree). On the other hand, once you have an MD or are in residency, your PhD can be done on more clinically relevant projects i.e. clinical studies.

As for your original question, OP, I was in your shoe last cycle. It really depends on what your long-term research goals are. For me, a Master's just didn't seem all that useful (or quite meaty enough for research purposes), especially when done before med school and wouldn't contribute much; unless it's done under a PI who is a clinician-scientist and in a field that you later on want to specialize in (but again, this is a big IF and you are very likely to change your mind re:specialties once you're in med school). I was personally prepared to work as an RA for a year if it hadn't worked out (I'm glad I didn't have to). ^^

But that's just me. Do what feels right to you in the end.

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18 hours ago, DrOtter said:

There's a reason why the MD/PhD cohorts are extremely small at most school. Roughly a handful, because very few people feel that strong a calling for research. If OP is really interested in research, it could be a worthwhile path. The pay will not be that much higher if you're doing it during residency tbh, because MD/PhD programs have fundings that cover your MD tuition (so ~100k across the whole degree). On the other hand, once you have an MD or are in residency, your PhD can be done on more clinically relevant projects i.e. clinical studies.

As for your original question, OP, I was in your shoe last cycle. It really depends on what your long-term research goals are. For me, a Master's just didn't seem all that useful (or quite meaty enough for research purposes), especially when done before med school and wouldn't contribute much; unless it's done under a PI who is a clinician-scientist and in a field that you later on want to specialize in (but again, this is a big IF and you are very likely to change your mind re:specialties once you're in med school). I was personally prepared to work as an RA for a year if it hadn't worked out (I'm glad I didn't have to). ^^

But that's just me. Do what feels right to you in the end.

Thanks for this response! Yes, I would agree that a Master's doesn't seem all that useful in itself, especially if I were to continue on in a PhD eventually. The main benefit would be the likely guaranteed publications that would help for MD/PhD applications. Also, I know this might be cliche, but due to personal reasons I am pretty set on my speciality (non-competitive), so the Masters would likely be applicable. My main concerns with RAship are finding a lab that is looking for a 1-year RA right now, and also does work in one of my research interests. 

 

I guess the best situation may be where I don't have to make this decision :P

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4 hours ago, Remyelination said:

Thanks for this response! Yes, I would agree that a Master's doesn't seem all that useful in itself, especially if I were to continue on in a PhD eventually. The main benefit would be the likely guaranteed publications that would help for MD/PhD applications. Also, I know this might be cliche, but due to personal reasons I am pretty set on my speciality (non-competitive), so the Masters would likely be applicable. My main concerns with RAship are finding a lab that is looking for a 1-year RA right now, and also does work in one of my research interests. 

 

I guess the best situation may be where I don't have to make this decision :P

Ah for me the RAship would be at the same lab I did my thesis in. But yea if you continue MSc in the same lab, the chances that you'd get published as 1st author will be really good and will definitely help your MD/PhD if you do apply.

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