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Medical research or doctor?

  1. Apr 12, 2008 #1
    Hi! im post-graduate 12th grade (dont know if that makes me college competent by american/english standards or what...) and currently not studying in any institution. (Reading a lot of science at home though :smile:) Im wondering whether i should get in to som medical research-education of some kind, like farmacology or bioengineering, or to study medicine to be a doctor.

    To be a doctor is of course good financially speaking, and i'll never have to worry about being unemployed, (worst case scenario ill be overworked, but that would only happen if i find what im doing to be boring :rolleyes:). But my doubts there is that the work might be overfocused on patient care, relations, social stuff and other less-relevant to the question-of-what-the-universe-is-made-of criteria that i find more interesting. Can i go into research as an MD?

    anyone who workes on this who might give som tips?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2008 #2

    You've really got to love people to be a doctor. And in the United States we're in the middle of some ongoing difficulties for the medical profession including a period of malpractice insurance rates that make it difficult to earn a living in many states. The malpractice insurance rates result primarily from a large number of lawsuits where juries are granting large awards to patients for just about anything that goes wrong.

    The United States is also in the middle of a period of the federal government playing an increasingly large role in the medical profession, perhaps en route to a total take over of health care. If this happens, there won't be much liberty in the profession for medical doctors, and I would also expect salaries to drop to levels more comparable with similarly educated professionals, but with ongoing liability issues that are much greater than other professions.

    Over the next 30 years in the US, I'd look for the research-related jobs to be reasonably rewarding financially (comared with others), but to grow increasingly more competitive as folks with medical training and aspirations steer away from patient care due to liability issues and government over-regulation.

    Michael Courtney
  4. Apr 13, 2008 #3
    OK thanks! Fortunately I live in Sweden and will possibly work in German as a doctor if thats the path i choose. But I take it an MD-education doesnt rule out research in any form of cellular biology and its sub-disciplines from your post. Thats good.

    I take it from your name you're a doctor, what would you say is the most rewarding with the job?
  5. Apr 13, 2008 #4
    I don't know how it is in northern Europe, but I can introduce you to several MDs who are un(der)employed.
  6. Apr 13, 2008 #5
    Sounds strange to me, at least in Sweden there's a HUGE need for doctors. Especially in the field of radiology i've heard. It might of course be different in other countries... Where are these MDs situated in Europe?
  7. Apr 13, 2008 #6
    The US. At least one of these left medicine because he could not make enough money to support his family and pay off student loans.
  8. Apr 13, 2008 #7
    That doesnt seem to be a problem in Northern Europe, but whatever happened to them? Did they go into research?
  9. Apr 13, 2008 #8
    FYI Greg: there is such a thing as an MD/PhD program for people like yourself who are interested in research work in medical science. Basically you spend two years in medical school, another two to three years doing graduate work in biology, biochemistry, biophysics, or whatever you're interested in (as long as it pertains to medicine), and then another couple of years in medical school doing rotations. You graduate with both an MD and a PhD. The advantage of being a physician-scientist is that you can do clinical work and have the research skills of a PhD. It's a longer process, but it may be worth looking in to.
  10. Apr 13, 2008 #9
    I heard those programs are pretty tough to get into. They say it's hard to get into medical school. Well, as I understand it, only the best of the people are are accepted into med school can get into those programs.
  11. Apr 13, 2008 #10
    Thanks for the Idea arunma. Yep, sure its tough. Grades are a lousy way of determining who fits better for this or that profession.
  12. Apr 13, 2008 #11


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    You can technically do research as an MD, but you will have very poor training for it. As arunma indicated, an MD/PhD is better if you wish to do clinical research. If your interests are not clinically oriented, then a PhD alone is the better choice, and a lot faster (many people entering MD/PhD programs do not complete the entire program and pick one or the other).

    Do NOT go into an MD program simply for the money. That will not be sufficient motivation to get through school if you do not really enjoy medicine and working with people. I don't know how medical schools in Sweden work, but in the US, you are not only evaluated based on your science knowledge, but on your professionalism and interpersonal skills. If money is what motivates you, you're better off going into business, not science or medicine.
  13. Apr 14, 2008 #12
    Only one (that I am aware of) went into research and he worked as a biotechnician.
  14. Apr 14, 2008 #13
    I'm a PhD, not an MD. I teach and do research rather than care for patients.

    Talk to a few medical doctors before you commit. I find direct patient care unappealing, but some people find it very satisfying.

    Michael Courtney
  15. Apr 14, 2008 #14
    I recommend looking at studentdoctor.net

    There is a lot of information there on all sorts of medical training programs and their forum is very helpful too.
  16. Apr 16, 2008 #15


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    Good suggestion as well. It can go either way. I've had summer research interns who have decided they dislike research and would rather go into medicine, and I've had summer interns who have fallen in love with research and abandoned medicine during the experience. The same works for shadowing physicians; some do it and walk away even more enthusiastic about practicing medicine, while others realize they aren't cut out for patient care. It's a good idea to get a little exposure to both options before making a final decision.
  17. Apr 17, 2008 #16
    In my country of origin doctor is profession number ONE!
    Everybody wants to be doctor and people will do everything to go to medical school, even selling their house or inherited land to fund the 5 to 10 (!!!) years of undergrad study to just get this degree
    Yes, it is the most expensive course because students have to buy dead bodies for lab study, among other things
    Upon graduation most of them will vie for place in government-owned/public hospital because once they get in they will be guaranteed job and survival for the rest of their life though the salary is just enough to make living
    So, how do doctors get rich, making money 2 to 5 times that made by a vice director of a big company?
    Just open a private practice (general physician) at your home in evening after duty in hospital and exploit any pitiful sicky patient coming to you by overcharging them from the health check fee and selling the prescribed medicine 5 times its original price
    That's the way it is and a doctor will not just be highly respected, he/she will also be easily the richest in the county, outperforming the supposed to be biggest money-maker businessmen
    Smart is not it? Yes it is smarter than trading forex/stock in Wall Street.
    So, don't waste your time doing medical research unless you have got satisfied passing this first phase and want to do something else.
  18. Apr 17, 2008 #17


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    Again, if you're doing it for the money or prestige, find another profession. You actually have to CARE about what you're doing and your patients to be a good doctor.

    I don't know how it's set up in Sweden (the country the OP is in), but in the US, none of what you described is ethical or legal (there is no purchasing of bodies...bodies used for the anatomy courses are donated by people who wish them to be used for that purpose upon their death, and one certainly should not exploit their patients by overcharging them for medications...that too would be good reason to lose one's license).

    If I may inquire though, what country do you live in? Just in case I ever get sick there, I'd like to know to request immediate evacuation to a hospital in another country. :bugeye:
  19. May 7, 2008 #18
    There's isn't a profession existing today I would educate myself into, only for the money. As moonbear pinpoints ever so often, this is completely the wrong reason. My current opinion about money couldn't be much lower.

    As it is right now for me, science generally is my favorite subject, with cellbiology, histology, microbiology, astrophysics and some particle physics as favorite, amongst others.
  20. May 7, 2008 #19


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    i believe the situation is very different in europe, but here in the us, as of 10-20 years ago, almost all med students intended to go into practice, because they can make mroe money there, although there definitely are unemployed doctors in US.

    The MD/PhD route was less attractive financially, although more apealling intellectually, so the med schools sweeten the deal for those students by waiving essentially all fees.

    so the deals is if you want to be a medical scientist, then med school is essentially free but you have to go longer, and you make less money afterwards.

    my expertise here is that my wife is a physician so i lived through this with her in med school between 1984- 87.
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