Archive for the ‘Apply’ Category

What are your admissions chances?

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

If you’re in this years application pool, chances are that your interview schedule is becoming more and more clear.

An analysis of a subset of the 2007 AMCAS data showed that of the 1,698 MD-PhD applicants, slightly more than half (898, or 53%) received invitations to interview with at least one program (some programs did not participate in data collection).  Those invited to interview had better MCAT scores  33.9 (3.1 sdev) vs. 28.1 (6.0 sdev) and better grades (3.77 vs. 3.59).

So, once you have an interview, you may ask, what are your chances of receiving an offer?


Finding the Right MD/PhD Curriculum

Friday, January 9th, 2009

The MD/PhD program has a unique mission and goal in training physician-scientists.  It’s important to remember that an MSTP student is not simply a medical student who happens to be getting a PhD for extra-credit.  It’s important to consider how the programs you’re considering integrate the MD and the PhD program.  Traditional medical curriculum is not well designed to deliver a streamlined educational curriculum.  The culture of science and medicine are quite different, and the range of philosophies between programs varies quite significantly. At this point in the year, many students are beginning to receive offers from several programs.  Evaluating the specifics of the curriculum should be an important part of your decision making process.  Students need to recognize which programs accelerate the coursework process and which programs contain significant redundancies between the PhD and MD programs.

For example, the Colorado program explains quite eloquently how their mission is different than a regular MD [my emphasis]:

“During Phase I [first calendar year of the program], MSTP students take courses administered by all of the UC Denver basic science graduate training programs, fulfilling the core course requirements of these graduate programs, as well as those of the medical school. For example, in Phase I, students take the core graduate course required by all programs and some program-specific elective courses. The graduate core course is literature-based, hypothesis-driven, and focused on biological mechanisms. The students are required to present research papers in a critical manner, and thus, they begin to read the original scientific literature from the outset. Additionally, rather than testing students for their ability simply to memorize facts, students are tested for their ability to think critically and creatively. For example, students are often asked to interpret a set of experimental data, to propose a hypothesis based on their interpretation, and to design well-controlled experiment(s) that rigorously and directly test their proposed hypothesis.” (more…)

Top journals provide “career articles” for aspiring MD/PhDs

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Increasingly, the tabloids (i.e. Science, NEJM & Nature) are providing excellent editorial pieces on career choices.  After catching up on some reading this news years, I’d like to recommend a few articles for those pondering their career direction as a physician scientist.

In September, JAMA published a largely descriptive study on MD/PhD program graduates, their career intentions, and other survey questions.   They were interested in the relationship between career intentions at graduation and subsequent career performance, accomplishments, and evolution.  The results aren’t groundbreaking, but it sets the stage for long-term evaluation of the joint degree program as a way to compare it to the alternative paths to becoming a physician scientist.

>>> Read the JAMA article “MD/PhD Programs–A Call for an Accounting” (zip file floating around internet or JAMA original)


12 questions to for an MD/PhD interview

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Perhaps you’re nearly finishing your MD/PhD interviews.  Or perhaps you’re getting ready for a busy January and February visiting potential schools.  Either way, preparation is key. As my basketball coach once said, “Prior practice prevents poor performance.” So, here are some sample questions that you are likely to encounter on the interview trail.  Preparing for these questions with mock interviews with your friends, graduate students in the lab, or a career counselor will certainly help you prepare for the big interview.  Remember, it just takes one school.  Good luck.

1. Describe your research.
2. Why are you interested in a combined program, versus one or the other?
3. Describe your solution to the US Health care crisis.  Is Obama/McCain’s solution likely to work?
4. What can physician-scientists do to contribute to your solution for the US health care crisis?
5. Have you had any leadership positions? Please describe your experience.
6. Do you follow or learn more about cancer biology through texts or primary literature?
7. Please tell me about 2 articles in the past year that were most exciting to you.
8. Tell me your knowledge of the research I am currently involved in (rare: only if you chose the specific investigator). 
9. Role play: Act like I am a 5 year old child who has cancer and explain what is wrong with me.
Explain it as though I am the child’s parent. Alternate: explain to an adult patient they have a terminal disease.
10. What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment?
11. Why would you convince someone not to pursue medicine? Despite these reasons, why are you
pursuing medicine?
12. Why are you interested in our MD-PhD program, in particular? Alternatively, tell me everything you know about this program.

P.S. We are interested in comments from blog readers about other good questions that interviewees could benefit from. Comment posting requires registration (in order to prevent boat loads of spam–sorry).

Professional help for AMCAS essays?

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

The AMCAS essays a huge part of your MD PhD application, and ties together your application. As I researched the previous post, I came across a number of professional services that sought to help medical school applicants write their personal statement for a fee. As a high school student, I received some essay advice from a college counselor, but I was very unsatisfied with the service. The counselor she really didn’t like my essay; however, I made no changes, and got in to my first choice school.

A follow up to the previous post, I wanted how often MD/PhD applicants receive professional essay help–beyond their professors and science colleagues.

Is it effective to seek advice from professional essay/admissions counselors? Fee-for-service arrangements create an access issue: is this fair?  The extent of editing suggestions that some counselors offer border on co-authorship: is this ethical and should AMCAS require disclosures?

For example, a testimonial on suggests that these fee-for-service arrangements have a significant impact on the final wording of the essay:

My professional editor really improved my essay. She made corrections, deletions and included new wording and phrasing that helped me better express my career goals. Being able to communicate with my editor by email to ask further questions was very important. I really think that using your service was invaluable and it helped me achieve my dreams! I can’t believe I am actually an MD/PhD student now!”

- Accepted to the Rutgers University MD/PhD Program and University of Michigan Medical School.

We’re interested in your experiences and thoughts.

Other services:

Writing the AMCAS essays for MD PhDs

Friday, July 11th, 2008

If you’re a 2009 MD/PhD applicant, you’re probably well on your way to completing your AMCAS primary application.  Most students submit their applications between the beginning of July and the middle of August (at the very latest). The value of an early start cannot be understated–especially for Texas and east coast schools.

1. Review the objectives for each essay, seek clarification from individual programs, and review example essays.

I found a book on the MD Personal statement mostly unhelpful. I tried the book Medical School Essays That Made a Difference but it didn’t help much. It included many essays that clearly made a negative differences, as the essays authors were rejected by most schools they applied to; in short, these essays were no better than a random assortment of essays. I finally got the ball rolling when I gave up on external inspiration and took a more introspective approach.

2. Start with the Personal Statement
. Begin outlining your personal statement, determine how you are going to represent yourself and what angle you are taking. Writing about yourself can be difficult (it took me nearly a month to draft my personal statement), and establishing your narrative and voice can take several iterations–why do you really want to do this? The personal statement should stand on its own and clearly explain your interest in medical school (MD only).

3. Build on your personal statement with the Why MD PhD and research essays.
In addition to a personal statement, MD PhD applicants are required to write a short “Why MD PhD statement” and a 10,000 character research statement (~4 pages). The best thing you can do is have these two essays reviewed by your laboratory PI and the post-docs you work around.  While it may be frightening to open yourself up for criticism, they will be able to help you establish clarity more so than most of your peers and people outside the field. In the “Why MD/PhD essay” will be required to carefully bridge the dichotomy between degrees many times over throughout the application process. See the guide for more thoughts on this.

Excellent Resources