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Life of a PhD in this day and age. How does it compare to dental/medical school?(help for a lost undergrad)


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So obviously a lot has changed from when most PIs and tenured professors were graduate students. I'm trying to learn more about grad school. My background can be found here:

 

How is life for a PhD student? Are you still able to keep in touch with your non-academic friends? One thing I'm really worried about for grad school is the disconnect with the real world. How is family-work balance? Do you find yourself still able to spend time with your family and friends? Can you still enjoy things you do? 

 

One thing that attracts me to dental academia is the work-life balance. Dentists already have awesome work-life balance, so I feel like I could easily slip into faculty without the intensity of straight science. 

 

I know this is vague, but if anyone could share their thoughts, I would appreciate it very much. You don't have to be a STEM PhD, I want to hear from everyone. I'm also interested in higher ed administration, law and political science. 

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My experience, which I've also shared in other threads, is that you have time exactly and only for those things that you find important. It's easy to get sucked into the work and occasionally indeed there are pressing deadlines and you need to work crazy hours. But on a regular basis, you structure your own time and schedule your own events. If downtime with your family and friends are important to you, you'll have time for them. If you neglect them, on the other hand, you might end up not seeing them at all. Same goes for hobbies, sleep, chores, volunteer work, trips and any other activities - you often need to be active in making those things a priority, but if you do then there is no reason why you can't have a good balance between your work and other aspects of your life.

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I see. What is your perspective compared to professional school? Can you give me your comparison of similarities and differences between graduate school and dental/medical school? Particularly, those who end up going into medical and dental academia. I don't mean a comparison between a linguistics PhD and an orthodontist or neurosurgeon. Dental/medical faculty vs other phd

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I know several who have gone to med/dent/vet school but none of which are faculty. I'm not in a STEM field, either. It's going to be harder to get both sides of the equation.

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I see. What is your perspective compared to professional school? Can you give me your comparison of similarities and differences between graduate school and dental/medical school? Particularly, those who end up going into medical and dental academia. I don't mean a comparison between a linguistics PhD and an orthodontist or neurosurgeon. Dental/medical faculty vs other phd

 

In a long run, regardless what discipline it is, to go to academia, you'll just need to do research and getting publish even without a PhD (e.g. MD). As a result, you'll have to build yourself up from doing what a MD would do PLUS research, before reaching any admin positions in academia-related settings. You can look up these program directors (and whoever established in these fields) and look at their CV for their background.

 

Multiple friends of mine are in dental school, pharmacy schools, and medical schools, but none of them are doing any basic/translational research since their undergraduate studies. As far as I've been told, in general, they go to classes everyday from a couple hours (e.g. 8-12 pm) and everyday the lecture covers multiple chapters (in pharm/med school). Hence, they spend a lot of time to study, with a couple hours a week to "be social"/bond with their class/schoolmates. The details of the curriculum can be found in any med/pharm/dental school programs, and I would recommend you to google it since I'm almost certain that their curriculum by 3rd year and graduation requirements are very different (e.g. pharmacy students need to accumulate X amount of hours internship in pharmacy store and etc. prior graduation.) I personally find it "more chill" going into grad school in STEM field compare to my friends, simply because classes are less important (to us than to professional school students) and, while depends on your PI in the lab, our work schedule in the lab can be pretty flexible. I know a few people/friends who like to going into the lab late and go home in early morning (I was one of those), and some PIs don't really care as long as you get things done/your research is progressing. Obviously though, it's not a very healthy lifestyle and discouraging intellectual communication in the lab since you might be the only person in the lab after 9 / 10 pm.

 

I'm not sure what do you mean by "work-life balance" in your first post. As far as I know, MD is almost always 24/7 on-call. While DDS isn't, you might have to be 24/7 if you run your own dental clinic (from my experience living with my uncle during a holiday break) in order not to lose any customers.

Edited by aberrant
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It depends being on call. Family med/internal med/derm/othalmology aren't on call. A derm I shadowed plays golf with PGA people.

 

I'm not saying I just want to make money and live. I want to go into faculty, so I'm actually losing free time. It's just that a PhD can take a long, long time with little pay. If things go the route of family and I decide to settle down. I don't think I'll be able to do that until after grad school. I would want to be a young parent and an active 20 year old.

 

That's also partially what weened me away from medicine. I want to have power over myself.

 

The only thing with dentistry is that I'm just not sure if I want to teach dentistry. Regenetive medicine, genetics and craniofacial biology sounds interesting, but I don't know how I would feel about oral biology. I just haven't been in biology labs.

 

On the other hand, I LOVE what I'm studying in biology right now. I could see myself doing environmental science, environmental/biological engineering, ecology, biology etc.

 

And another part of me loves political science and the politics of higher ed, so I might want to go down the higher ed administration route(my new school will be a T10 program for this)

Edited by dmb1785
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It depends being on call. Family med/internal med/derm/othalmology aren't on call. A derm I shadowed plays golf with PGA people.

 

Family med isn't? That really depends. But for a 3rd year onward MD students or MD in residency, for sure they don't have time for PGA. Depends on your residency, i supposed. My friend doing his at ER and he could be in a 15-hour shift, starts at 6 / 7 pm.

 

As for your question about chemistry PhD in the chemistry board, I also made a respond.

 

Given that you like quite a lot of different subjects (biology, poli sci, environment sci, ecology, chemistry, etc.), I would suggest you to take more hardcore classes on these subjects to see if you actually love it, before consider applying graduate school. The truth is, lower division classes often dumb down the materials so that others who need this specific course the fulfill some other requirement can get it over with.

 

Also, you wanna go into grad school / professional school with the right reason.

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I have met many basic science phd profs who teach md courses. PhDs tend to go into academia and those with professional degrees tend not to. However there is some cross over. The main distinction is if you want to do clinical work or not. If not getting paid enough for the 6 years it will take to do a phd is bothersome to you, I'm not sure you're cut out for it. PhDs are meant for those who really love what they do, they are not a means to an end.

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Ok, my really long and heartfelt reply somehow wasn't posted.

 

Basically, I am passionate about what I do. If I wasn't I would pick the best ROI major(engineering) at one of the top public schools in my state and live happily ever after. I WANT to do dentistry due to personal problems in oral health. I want to own a practice because I want that patient interaction. I love helping people and teaching, so I would definitely want to do something more than just the typical PTA for my kids. I would want to teach. I see Bernie Machen as one of my examples. He's a pediatric dentist, now president of a flagship research university. I want to help students and remain in academia. I love research and learning about science. I don't get bored when reading about science. I want to work in a lab and all that. 

 

However, I also don't want to settle down after 10+ years of education with a 60k salary. I want to be able to provide for myself and live respectably. I see DMD/MS as best of both worlds.

 

Now my problem, I don't know if I'm all that interested in TEACHING dentistry. I would love to work as provost or dean, but I don't know how much I'd enjoy teaching oral biology. I'd love to get into regenerative medicine or genetics or maxillofacial biology, but I don't care so much about microbio(yet, I haven't taken the UD course). I'm interested in ecology and environmental science. I'm the only kid in my intro class who loved the plant chapter in bio 1. That's interesting for me, and I can see myself doing environmental health science or environmental science. I also am so much into student affairs and education that I could see myself getting a PhD in higher ed admin or doctors in education. Gordon Gee did that. 

 

I live in a state with a very affordable dental school. I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud and hoping someone will be able to relate. 

 

Thanks for all the advice guys.

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Look up the people you want to emulate. Read their CV. Look at their career and possibly personal trajectories. How long did it take them to reach each milestone? Which colleges did they attend? conferences they spoke at? Journals they published in and how frequently? This should tell you a lot about how hard they worked. You should also see patterns in similar careers. If possible, sit down and meet with them. Most people like to talk about themselves when given an opportunity.

 

My next door neighbor is an MD/PhD and faculty at a famous teaching hospital. She works all the time. But her faculty position is from her research, publishing, running a lab, and getting the funding to do all of that. She still does hospital rounds, treats patients in the hospital clinic once a week, and works with new doctors.

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You can provide for yourself and live respectably with a salary of $60,000.  That's higher than the national average for an entire household, much less one person, and that's just what you would start out with.

 

It sounds to me like you are interested in a whole lot of stuff.  What year are you in college?  In order to get a PhD in something, you can't just like it.  You have to be passionate about it, almost to the point of obsession.  That's not to say that you can't have interests in other things, but it sounds like you haven't really narrowed down what it is you want to do or what your goal is, so you should do that first.  What are you really passionate about?  You may never be a provost or a dean, and even if you do, you usually would have to work at least 15 years as a professor first and have a distinguished record of research and service.  So think about what you would want to do if you did not ascend to those heights and if you remained on faculty/what you need to do in the years prior.  Do you want to split your time between practicing as a dentist and teaching dental school classes (or maybe public health?  We have DMD/DDS and MD folks teaching in schools of public health)?  Or do you want to just do research and teach science classes?

 

It kind of baffles me that you think you'll have a better work/life balance in dental academia.  I am getting my PhD at a medical center campus so I see dental and medical faculty all the time; they don't have any better a work/life balance than other professors, and in some ways it may be worse.  Many of them balance teaching, reseach AND practice so they're very busy.  If you wanted to be a dental academic, you'd likely have to get your DDS (4 years) and do a postdoctoral research fellowship to get enough research experience and publications to be on faculty (probably around 3-5 years).  So at best, you'll have done 7 years and be 29-30 years old.  Then you have to chase grants and get tenure.  Many graduate students have children in grad school; there's no ideal time to have a baby, but I'm guessing it would be more difficult in dental school than a PhD program.  I think if being a young parent is a priority then academia is probably not a good fit unless you were willing to juggle that in grad school.

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I don't know... I just spent all of today really soul searching. I considered careers in environmental engineering or biological engineering, but I concluded that it wasn't worth the delayed graduation and all the math. I'm not that good at math..if I wind up physically being unable to do it then I'm screwed. I'll never get through the program and if I do, I won't be able to make a good engineer. I'm analytical and creative, but I'm not a math wizz.

 

I was thinking I could do a 5 year DDS/MS program. That seems to be enough to break into dental faculty. Then depending on life events and interests, I might start climbing the ranks by going back to school, doing more research etc.

 

I'm scared of commitment. I don't know if what I feel is a breath of curiocity or a deep passion.

 

I guess I'll have to figure out out. Keep the opinions coming though. These stories really help.

Edited by dmb1785
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I was thinking I could do a 5 year DDS/MS program. That seems to be enough to break into dental faculty. Then depending on life events and interests, I might start climbing the ranks by going back to school, doing more research etc.

 

Not in dentistry, but generally to even "break into" being a faculty member at a research institution (as schools with big hospitals tend to be) it seems you have to have extensive research experience first: hence the extra 3-5 year postdoc described above. You still have time to make this decision. Think about what you really like doing, not some lofty end goal (dean) that, if it happens, won't occur for at least 40 years. Life has a way of working itself out if you're true to your gut.

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