Choosing a Health Profession
Allied Health Program
How to Prepare
M.D. /Ph.D. programs train aspiring students to become leaders in medical research. Students who pursue this option earn both an M.D. and a Ph.D. with in-depth training in clinical medicine and medical research. These programs are designed specifically for students wanting to become research physicians. Although the M.D. /Ph.D. career involves clinical experience, it leans heavily on medical research. The dual M.D. /Ph.D. program is ideal for those who want research to be an integral part of their professional career. This dual degree program is demanding, difficult, and a great opportunity to advance medical knowledge.
Because M.D. /Ph.D. students pursue two graduate degrees, they spend a longer period in graduate training. The average program is 7 to 8 years, consisting of a break between the second and third years (after the preclinical portion of medical school) to complete his or her Ph.D. The student then returns after three to seven years to resume medical school by beginning the clinical portion. A major benefit of pursuing a dual M.D. /Ph.D. degree is that these programs are often funded by federal and institutional grants, and some students even graduate debt-free. M.D. /Ph.D. graduates are often in a better position to secure funding for research than M.D. graduates are who pursue a research fellowship after residency.
The field for M.D. /Ph.D. graduates is expanded compared to the typical M.D. track because graduates have the choice of entering into a residency or continuing their medical research, sometimes simultaneously. A dual degree track usually leads to a position as a faculty member at a medical school, university, or research institute such as the National Institute of Health (NIH). Many graduates choose to enter into a clinical residency position after graduation followed by fellowship training.
Just as with any M.D. program, demonstrating a commitment to serving others is an integral part of any medical profession. Many students wonder if previous research experience is necessary for acceptance into an M.D. /Ph.D. program. Although research experience is not necessary, dual degree programs do look for substantive research experience. M.D. /Ph.D. programs like to see applicants having put in sufficient time pursuing research opportunities to understand what they are getting into. This may include, but is certainly not limited to, summer research projects, senior thesis research, or one or more years pursuing research activities after the applicant’s undergraduate degree.
Prospective M.D. /Ph.D. applicants should strive to attain as much undergraduate research experience as possible prior to applying. Sustained research experience and a passion for investigation and medicine are imperative for an M.D. /Ph.D. applicant. The area of investigation is of less importance than the depth and quality of the research experience. It is not uncommon for candidates to have already authored or co-authored research publications before graduation.
The MCAT is required for admission into M.D. / Ph.D. programs; however a program may require the GRE in addition to the MCAT. Schools vary in their specific application process and requirements to M.D. /Ph.D. programs. It is important to check the specific schools you wish to apply to for accurate information about the application process.
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