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                              M.D. vs. Pharm.D. vs. Ph.D (1)

                              Robert Hsu


Some of my website visitors want me to post an article on the various doctoral degrees that are available in the health science education programs in the U.S. The present article is a product of my attempt to look into what these degrees have in common and what makes them different from one another.

First of all, M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) and Pharm.D. (Doctor of Pharmacy)
are an undergraduate degree but Ph .D. (Doctor of Philosophy) is a doctoral degree conferred by a graduate school.

The undergraduate programs leading to an M.D. in a medical school or a Pharm.D. in a pharmacy school usually require the completion of the course work only without formal training in the health science research work . The Ph.D. program is basically a scientific research training program that usually requires the completion of both the course work and the original scientific research project.

A medical student may register for a combined M.D. and Ph.D. program and earns double doctoral degrees after completing an original research project. Likewise, a pharmacy student can work for Pharm.D. and Ph.D. at the same time and earns 2 doctoral degrees. The Ph.D. degree is offered only in the graduate school and admission to the Ph.D. program usually requires an undergraduate degree such as a B.S., M.D. or Pharm.D.

Both the M.D. and Pharm.D. programs provide formal training in clinical sciences with little or no research involvement whereas the Ph.D. program offers formal training in all aspects of original and creative laboratory research, which includes the development of critical reading and writing skills.

An M.D. usually means a physician, who is called "Doctor" by the patients and a Pharm.D. a pharmacist. Both are a professional degree that entitles the degree holders to licensure exams and become licensed practitioners.

Many MDs obtain research training in clinical and basic sciences in one way or another without pursuing a Ph.D. degree. They develop the ability for critically reading and writing scientific papers and become clinical or basic scientists publishing research papers in well established health science journals..

The downside to the current Pharm.D. program in the U.S. is the lack of research activity for the clinical pharmacy teaching staff. Besides. the PharmDs' formal training in basic and clinical sciences are at a lower level than the MDs'.

A pharmacy graduate may pursue a Ph.D. degree in either a medical or pharmacy school but the Ph.D. degree most relevent to pharmacotherapy and practice of pharmacy is the Ph.D. in pharmacology. It is fair and safe to say that only those who have a pharmacology Ph.D. have the optimum opportunity to have an extensive overview and comprehensive knowledge of medications and pharmacy practice if they practice as a pharmacist .

The PhDs in other pharmaceutical areas such as medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutics and so forth are a little too specialized when it comes to the practice of pharmacy.

The efficient daily practice of pharmacy in the U.S. mandates the pharmacist's ability to respond quickly and correctly to all questions directed to him or her. He or she must be extensively knowledgeable about the medications and must be capable of providing correct and quick answers to all questions presented.

A Ph.D. scholar and Pharm.D.( or R.Ph.Registered Pharmacist) practitioner represent the 2 sides of the pharmaceutical science, the former being responsible for new scientific findings and the latter being practicing the science. If you are both a scholar and practitioner, you have the whole pharmaceutical science in your hand. Quite a few PhDs are working as a full-time scientist in the pharmaceutical industry and also work as a part-time pharmacist. They are probably the most knowledgeable people as far as the medications and pharmacotherapy are concerned.

A single Ph.D., Pharm.D. or R.Ph. title will only provide a limited vision and experience in the whole spectrum of the pharmaceutical science.

Some of PhDs become interested in clinical sciences and end up with being appointed to a faculty position in a medical school doing the teaching and clinical research. Most of PhDs who have an academic career in a medical school usually do the teaching and basic science research.


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