Brought to you by the students of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine
By Sam Kim
According to the American Association of Medical Colleges a total of 16,838 MD degrees were awarded in 2010. But these statistics are dwarfed by PhD figures reported by The Economist - approximately 64,000 PhD degrees have been awarded each year since the 1960s. Granted, our more research-oriented PhD colleagues encompass a greater number of subjects, but it does make one think the research community may be dwarfing the practice of clinical medicine. While perhaps not reflecting two completely different approaches to advanced education, the medical education community has attempted to help the research and clinical camps improve the crosstalk via combined degrees. (Read: MD, PhD; MD, MPH; MD,MS; MD, JD; MD,MS – more on this later)
Okay, but this is Mentis so let’s get real here and take a look at what the University of Cincinnati is doing. US News ranks the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati as 42nd in research, 67th in primary care, and (we say this proudly) 3rd in pediatrics as a specialty. Total reported medical students presently enrolled hovers at 641. Last year, Match Day boasted a total of 188 matches as Cincinnati contributed another rank of physicians to the 17,000 that will march from the flickering fluorescent illumination of University Hospital and our beloved Medical Science Building into the bright sunlight of the real world (except for the 26 new physicians who will stay at University Hospital and continue to enjoy our particular variety of artificial illumination)
But how are we doing on the combined degree front? I like to think of the combined advanced degree, whether it be an MD, MPH or an MD, PhD, as being a special distinction. Like, if General MacArthur was a soldier’s solider these combined degree folks are doctor’s doctors – or, an overachiever’s overachiever. But why would anyone want to pursue a combined degree? The University of Cincinnati offers a few combined degree programs: MD/PhD, MD/MBA, and MD/MS in Nutrition.
MD/PhD COMBINED PROGRAM
Our beloved MD/PhDs applicants (self-described by one colleague as “mud fuds”) are about 120 strong and vie for a scant six spots and the opportunity to finish not one, but two heavy-duty degrees in a mere 7-8 years. UC’s MD/PhD hopefuls apply through AMCAS and complete a Physician Scientist Training Program supplemental application; however, these applicants are reviewed separately from regular MD applications. MD/PhD applicants need not complete additional standardized testing for application like the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). However, for their trouble, the selected few receive a stipend and are fully-funded as far as their tuition is concerned:
“The current stipend level in 2008 is $20,500, $22,000 (post qualifying examination) and $24,000 per annum with receipt of extramural fellowships. The sources of funding include NIH training grants, college of medicine funds, graduate student assistantships and private donations to our endowment. The level of support coupled with the relatively low cost of living in Cincinnati allows our program to provide highly competitive stipends compared to other fully funded MD/PhD programs.” – UC PSTP Website FAQs
Thus, by extrapolation, the University proudly turned out maybe six MD/PhDs last year. Hmm – that seems a little slim considering the nation as a whole turned out 64,000 PhDs. Plus, why do you care? You’re already here; the boat’s left port and you can’t jump ship and change tracks. But what about those other combined degrees?
MD/MBA COMBINED PROGRAM
Let’s start by taking peek at the dark-horse combined degree here at the University of Cincinnati, the MD/MBA. This combined degree is unique in that applicants need not apply as an MD/MBA from the point of admission, but can do so at several points during their time at the University of Cincinnati. But why bother? Can’t you get one of those MBA-thingies online at the University of Phoenix by sneaking in some personal computer use whilst working later? As per the University of Cincinnati’s MD/MBA website, you might be interested because:
“The MD/MBA program is designed for highly qualified students who desire to complement their standard medical education with a greater understanding of the economics, finance, marketing and management of the health care system … Graduates of the program have expanded career options including management positions in major health care organizations. “– UC MD/MBA Program Website
MD/MBA applicants have a little more flexibility in when they apply, but there are a few hoops to jump through, and the road to those extra initials is not paved with daisies and rainbows. Applicants must take the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) and score at least in the 70th percentile. (70th percentile may sound easy, but if you’re like me and fully occupied by calculating the correct loading dose, I’m not quite sure when you’d study for yet another standardized exam).
Three separate “pathways” exist for the MD/MBA, but each is just a variation on splitting the pre-clinical years of medical school with time at UC’s College of Business before returning for clinical rotations. All-in-all, this combined degree will cost you another year (making the total five for you mathletes). There do not seem to be any restrictions on the number of seats available for this dual-degree program but hold your horses, there’s a catch. For those of you who are ready to jump on this chance, you gotta ask dad for the keys to the car before you pick up your prom date. The College of Medicine Promotion Board must approve any deviation from the standard MD program.
Oh, and careful, dent that car or bring it back with the gas tank less than full and the very same promotion board can yank those privileges and place you both on probation and/or dismissal from the MBA program for either academic or professionalism violations. And all this doesn’t come cheap – it is not funded like MD/PhD.
MD/MS IN NUTRITION PROGRAM
Enjoy cheeseburgers and cafeteria chicken tenders like this writer, then this may not be your cup of tea. But if the prospect of hummus and gluten-free alternatives make your toes tingle then there may be just the combined program for you. UC’s MD/MS’s website boasts the following strengths to such a combined degree:
”The Master of Science in Nutrition program provides medical students with: a comprehensive knowledge in the biochemical and physiological aspects of human nutrition; knowledge of methodologies used in nutrition research and nutrition intervention; and skills in research design, implementation, evaluation, and interpretation.” – UC MD/MS in Nutrition Website
As with the MD/MBA, this program tenders a small levy on your youth by taxing an extra year, but you get to sport ‘super-senior’ upperclassmen status here at UCCOM. The first three years are spent OG-style pounding out three years of medical school before the fourth year is spent immersed in pursuit of the MS conferred by the Department of Nutritional Sciences. Like the MD/MBA program, medical students may apply for the program any time before August 15th of their third year. Completion of the GRE is required with a recorded official score of at least 500.
Deciding to move in this direction may be a little easier on your pocketbook as two scholarship options are available: the University Graduate Scholarship and the Graduate Assistantship. The former will cover tuition while the latter requires full-time graduate student status and at least twenty hours of service a week, though a stipend is afforded for the added effort. In absence of either of those, the estimated additional tuition is about 13 grand. (But hey, that’s getting off cheap compared to a year of med school, right?)
Strictly speaking, the University of Cincinnati does NOT offer an MD/MPH program but an MPH can be pursued through UC’s Department of Public Health Sciences. After the MD/PhD program, the MPH is probably the most discussed secondary advanced degree for the future physician. And why not? In an era of changing healthcare policy and a move towards something more socialized and standardized, it could behoove a well-minded physician to train in the context of population health and global health.
Having only been established in 2008, the Department of Public Health Sciences (the College of Medicine’s newest branch) is still stretching its wings, but UC’s newest addition is proud to espouse the merits of the MPH:
“It is designed to prepare professionals for the "real world" of safeguarding and improving the public's health. Specifically, the MPH will provide you with skills to: understand and utilize the factors which influence local, national and global legislative and social policies; apply state-of-the-art analytical (both quantitative and qualitative) techniques needed for problem solving; develop multidisciplinary and collaborative strategies for solving health-related problems; approach health as a population-based concern as well as an individual one; develop and implement health programs in limited resource settings that are tailored to the specific needs of the community and in partnership with that community; travel or experience health from an international perspective; advocate for change in your community on a policy level; communicate more effectively with diverse populations; and, be positioned for leadership.“ – UC Department of Public Health Sciences Website
That mouthful seems lock-stock-and-two-smoking-barrels good in its completeness, and it seems at the very least you might gain a command of the oft-used but seldom-understood semicolon. Grammatical jokes aside, the program boasts “connections” with Proctor & Gamble as well as late afternoon and early evening classes. Caveat de emptor, the curriculum is not as clear-cut as the other programs:
“The University of Cincinnati MPH degree's curriculum consists of a minimum of sixty quarter hours of coursework. This consists of twenty-four quarter hours of core courses, twenty-four quarter hours of concentration courses, and twelve quarter hours of practicum and capstone” - UC Department of Public Health Sciences Website
I don’t know exactly what that translates to in dollars, but if it’s what you want to do you may choose to take a line out of your favorite credit card commercial and simply label it “priceless.” (I have never encountered that particular charge on my credit card statements – Citicard seems very clear about precisely how much money they want from me.)
If degrees were parties and you’re a fan of after-parties, all this jazz just might be your bag, baby. As for me, an exciting Friday involves Hulu and Deep India delivered. So I, for one, am only shooting for two letters after my name and good use for my over-priced Littman.
An insight into combined degrees at the University of Cincinnati
Copyright © 2011 Mentis
Figure 1: Top 10 2011 Match Results
Author’s Side Note: As an emergency medicine-hopeful myself, I was originally heartened by the seemingly high number who matched to EM and the prospect of matching to our own EM residency program. However, Dr. Pancioli – our illustrious emergency department chair – then informed me that last year’s match consisted of approximately 600 applicants for 12 positions (he further reported 90% or so of those 600 were AOA recipients). Epic sadness ensued as I perused my Fundamentals grades.