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Mr. Harrison, I commend your attempt to tackle this subject, but you’re missing the big picture.

I’ll assume that “your” answer to your own over-arching question is yes, dual-degree training should exist. And I agree with you. Although on a more informal plane, dual-degree training has existed for hundreds of years, and a decent physician or scientist worth his salt such as Vesalius, Galen or Louis Pasteur were all trained in multiple disciples, most of which were self-directed. Our very own William Worrall Mayo was trained as a pharmacist and then as a physician. They only studied subjects that interested them, and were not suffocated by a barrage of endless courses and standardized tests. These men were not tethered by one particular institution or by time. But, then again, this was a highly selected group of people. And they selected themselves…

Times have changed, and MSTP programs would like to think that the multi-disciplinary path is for anyone interested in science or medicine. It’s not. And that’s the reason why most MSTP graduates “become physicians, but very few become scientists”. Worst yet, I can’t imagine that every shine-eyed 21-year old applying to MSTP programs know what they’re getting into. I’ve interviewed at both small and large MSTP programs. The largest ones were giant social frat clubs of privilege, and in the smaller programs the students seemed generally depressed. However, in the end most of these students will still end up exclusively practicing medicine regardless of the nature of the program. This tells me that it’s hard to select a Galen, Vesalius or Pasteur based on some essays, MCAT scores, GPA, community service and summer lab experiences at the age of 21 or 22 in modern times. In fact, there is no formula.

Perhaps, the only way to find them (Galen, Vesalius or Pasteur) is to make the process as self-directed as possible, and place failure and success ultimately in their hands.

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