Why Two Degrees?

Looking over the long road ahead of me, one might consider asking, incredulously, why somebody would want to do an MD/PhD program at all. It’s certainly a justified question, to which the short answer is that I think receiving training in both clinical medicine and research science will be especially valuable in my future career.

The MD and PhD degrees differ in more than just the requirements – they represent two perspectives on problem-solving. The way I see it right now, medicine ultimately teaches students how to correctly apply what we have learned to new situations, and how to recognize something you have seen before when it is placed in a new context. Graduate school, however, teaches students how to find the gaps in what we know, and design questions that will yield new information.

I think the two schools of thought are complementary, and that having experience with both will improve my skills as a clinician and as a researcher. Additionally, in the field I’m currently looking at, neurology/neuroscience, I will be able to help bridge the gap between what we’re continually learning in the lab (neuroscience) and the application of that knowledge to patient care (neurology). Not only through translational research (a popular buzzword) I do myself, but also by being cognizant of and having experience with developments on both angles.

I wrote this a while back on mistypedURL, but I think it’s worth sharing again here.

It’s Over, But Not Really

Jeff, Fourth Year Medical StudentIt is now just over a week since I marched at my Commencement ceremony and received my diploma. Yes, the actual diploma was inside the folder — which is very exciting since all my previous diplomas (college and high school) had to be mailed to me once the financial office had decided that I no longer owed the school any money.

I suppose that this is officially my first post as an M.D. I am now a graduate. So perhaps this post does not really belong here on this blog any longer. I now can tack on the suffix M.D. to my name.

I remember one day after graduation when I sat staring at my diploma. As I stared at it, I almost could not believe it was in front of me. I looked at the piece of paper — a sheet of paper that has been the most expensive (physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally) paper I have ever earned.

I’d also like to acknowledge that I owe a great deal to Loma Linda University School of Medicine and specifically, Dr. L. Werner. Almost 3 years ago I skipped out on exams and walked into his office on the Thursday of test week. I brought with me a form and requested his signature on my withdrawal form. It was an hour before he finished talking to me. That day, I failed at dropping out of medical school because our academic dean cared enough to spend an unscheduled hour with a student he didn’t know. It would’ve been so easy for him to sign that sheet and be done with me. But he didn’t. And for that I am, and will forever be, grateful.

During the days prior to graduation, I was very excited. At the same time, I also felt nervous. Nervous about being done. Nervous about new responsibilities. Nervous about wearing the long white coat I have wanted ever since I looked into the mirror and saw how funny I looked in my short white coat. I am now waiting for my long coat. Literally — kind of. I sent an email to the Graduate Medical Education (GME) office a few weeks ago with my size. I hope I sent in the right size. Again, I am excited. But again, I am nervous about the long white coat and all the responsibility it represents.

I have a few more weeks before residency starts and I step onto the wards as a new intern. During this time I will have to complete some online modules and get certified for Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS). I will also complete my move into a new place. It is a few weeks that I know will go by very quickly. Actually, I feel like the next few years will go quickly, but I don’t really want to think about that at this point.

And so, my medical school career is over. One chapter is completed. But I know that I am far from the end. Medical training continues at the next stage — residency. I know, too, that it will continue long after I leave residency. Medicine, as they have taught me throughout medical school, is about lifelong learning. In the grand scheme of things, I am still at the beginning. I have a long way to go. I know the road ahead will be hard. But it’ll be full of adventure, I’m sure.

This will be my final post. I wish I’d had more time to write here during this past year, but as many of you know, life sometimes gets in the way of things. I would like to say thank you to the readers, my fellow bloggers, and Loma Linda University School of Medicine. It has been a lot of fun writing and reading here. And I wish you all the best.

(For those interested, I will continue to blog on my own personal blog at JeffreyMD.com.)