response to a reader
A regular reader and commenter recently asked if the topic of a mudphudder’s PhD really matters toward the mudphudder’s residency and the long run in general. I apologize for the delayed response, but I’ve been getting slaughtered on the wards so I wanted to wait until I got some time off (now) to give you a thoughtful response.
Anyway, the short answer is, No. At least in my opinion. A lot of people assume that your field of research in graduate school does make a difference and there are even residency interviewers as well as more senior/important people who will argue with you that it does.
I am someone whose PhD topic did not obviously match with my residency field, without getting into too many specifics. There are also many mudphudders who do their PhDs in biochemistry, etc. So just because their chosen field of medicine doesn’t have to do with folded proteins, does that mean the PhD was a waste? Heck no. Let’s start with the very obvious fact that graduate school is meant to teach you how to become an independent investigator. That training is valuable to any field of medicine. As someone who has gone through graduate school–without quitting–you have demonstrated that you not only can survive but also thrive in the face of scientific/research adversity. Second, I would argue that you would be more of an asset to a field by bringing skills from a completely different background. Case in point, some of the best biologists I know have PhDs in physics. Some even were physics professors! Finally, you can always find a connection between things you learned in graduate school, if not your specific field of research, with what whatever field of medicine you want to go to.
In this regard, it’s really easy for mudphudders with translational research PhDs to apply into residences that are directly related to their research. However I sometimes wonder how many of these mudphudders actually go that route because it’s safe. Don’t get me wrong, most mudphudders I know seem to have a real love for what they’re doing but I really do wonder about that sometimes. I also wonder how many of these mudphudders didn’t let themselves explore other fields, just because their research matches so well with a field that they may have interest in.
Anyway, the short of it is that in my opinion, the topic of your phd research doesn’t make a huge difference on future career aspirations/ residency. The point of graduate school is to become a professional, independent researcher who can develop interesting questions and then answer them. If you can learn to do that, then your graduate school experience will be an asset to any field of medicine that you go into.