Paul Kent, MD, PhD
"The MD/PhD degree opens up a wealth of opportunities," said Paul Kent, the first student (in 1990) to earn the dual degree from SUNY Upstate.
"There are opportunities in academic medicine that are not always available to pure MDs," said Kent, an associate professor of neurology at Upstate. "It's hard to do basic science with just the MD. You can do clinical trials, but it's difficult to do basic science research."
Kent said the MD/PhD degree requires patience (it typically requires seven years) and a passion for research.
"In order to be cutting-edge, you need to know new techniques, and research helps you in that," Kent said. "I like finding answers. You have to have that mindset - How does it work? How does it apply?"
Holders of the dual degree can focus more on basic research or on clinical applications. Or in situations like Kent's, they can shift their focus depending on circumstances.
Because of his recent work establishing an intraoperative monitoring program at Upstate, Kent is spending more time of late on the clinical side and less time on research.
The intraoperative monitoring program is a perfect avenue for Kent's MD training and PhD background. His knowledge of neurophysiology comes into play in developing an advance warning system for surgeons to avoid injuring critical motor, visual and auditory pathways during brain surgery.
"It's a relatively new clinical area, using real-time recording to map out those areas," Kent said. "Neurophysiology is the common denominator. I'm applying research methods I've learned, and I have a better understanding of how to apply them."
Becky Lewandowski started in the MD/PhD program at SUNY Upstate after earning a bachelor's degree from Colgate University and working as a researcher for the National Institutes of Health and at Harvard Medical School. She earned her PhD in 2008, and her MD in 2010.