HOUSTON, TX – Despite 4 years of medical school, 3 years of PhD training, 5 years of child neurology residency, 1 year of clinical neurophysiology fellowship, and 1 year of epilepsy fellowship, Dr. Needmore School still doesn’t know what she wants to do with her career. “I definitely need more time,” she notes. “There’s still so many directions I could take this; should I stay in academics and do research? Should I go into industry to design clinical trials? Maybe I could go back to my undergrad alma mater and teach basic science?”
Drawn to the MD/PhD program due to the appeal of a free education and “not having to choose between anything, really,” Dr. School has neither medical school debt nor clear ambitions to drive her career decisions in any particular direction. “I’ve made an average of $40,000 for the past 14 years, and it’s been totally fine.” She has felt ambivalent about offers from recruiters to read EEGs from home or to start out as an attending for $200,000/year. “Why do I need that kind of money? I mean, there is only so much artisanal cheese that I can buy.”
Dr. School’s former MD/PhD classmates have had similar struggles in making career decisions. One is taking a semester to hike the Appalachian trail to “clear his head” and come up with more career ideas. Another has completed her internal medicine residency and will now start a second residency in pathology, to “fill some holes in her knowledge base.” Several have attempted to register for additional undergraduate courses, but were turned away due to “having multiple doctorates and really needing to get a job.”
Inspired by her friends, Dr. School has decided that her education is nowhere near complete, and she is now studying for the LSAT to become more “well-rounded” with a law degree. She muses, “I think that Dr. School, MD, PhD, JD just has a nice ring to it!” Her parents, having already retired, are now preparing for a 32nd consecutive year of buying their daughter school supplies for the upcoming school year.