Monday, February 07, 2005

Speaking Two languages

In response to the post at Orac Knows I thought I'd add my two cents to the conversation. Though I'd first like to thank Orac for the post, I always love hearing from fellow MD/PhD's who are a lot farther along in the process than me!

For me, being a physician scientist is not really about wearing two hats, but is instead about about speaking two languages. For those who think that MD/PhD's are spreading themselves too thin, or giving one discipline the short end of the stick, I ask, would you ask a translator to pick a language? Putting two translators together who speak different languages is not exactly conducive to having a conversation. And while having partnerships between doctors and basic scientists is important, there is something to be said for being able to approach a problem with multiple perspectives, using insight gained from medicine to steer your research, being able to assimilate the results of basic research in to theories of how to better treat your patients....

Perhaps I'm a bit lucky in that my preferred area of research (functional neuroimaging) is a bit more conducive to being a physician scientist in that the disciplines are not incredibly far apart (one way or another, I'd be working with people and not mice or cells.) But I recognize the importance of having physician scientists who focus on basic science--it is a very different language than most of us are familiar with, and requires years of study. While doctors with no PhD training can certainly be great scientists, we M.D./Ph.D.'s are afforded such luxuries as protected research time, shortened fellowships with a research focus, a competitive edge when applying for grants, and more!