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Accepted into MD... but want to transfer to MD/PhD!

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runawayclock

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I got accepted into an MD only program in february, and since then, I've learned a lot of things that made me want to switch into MD/PhD and do some research instead.

Main reason is that I realize I really want to do more neuroscience research, and if I go the MD route, I will have been ~5 years out of research by the time I get into residency. Since post-docs are regarded more as independent researchers, I don't want to jump into that having had no significant research experience since undergrad! (Let's face it, you can't do much over a summer or an elective block...)

I spoke with the MD/PhD director at my school and he said there are several people in the PhD program who were internal candidates (switched either after 1st or 2nd year) and that I should apply.

But I was also hoping to get some words of wisdom from SDN, especially whether I would be competitive as an MD/PhD candidate. I didn't apply MD/PhD last year because I wasn't sure if I would be competitive and didn't want to ruin my chances at MD if I were to be rejected from the MD/PhD (idk, it made sense to me at the time...). Also, then I wasn't sure if I wanted to research, but now 3+ years of protected research time sounds realllly appealing.


36R/3.78
Research experience:

  • Biostatistics research project in collaboration with my university museum
  • NSERC funded summer research project - molecular bio
  • Undergraduate honours thesis - on genetics/neurobiology
  • Extra semester over the summer + following fall semester doing follow-up data collection (my prof wanted to expand the thesis for a paper... not published or anything, but my data will be used in a grad student's manuscript)
plus blah blah blah usual clinical stuff.

So all together it's about ~2 years' worth of research, but I have no pubs, no master's degree. :(

I'm also a Canadian, but my school said they have special funds to pay for international MD/PhD students (whew).

Sooooo if anyone could share any advice for improving my chances, (or also: what are my chances?) that would be muchly appreciated.
 

Choculitis

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I don't know about switching into MD/PhD, but have you thought about taking a year off from med school to do research or doing a 5 year MD? Eg I worked with a guy who did a year at the NIH between 2nd and 3rd year and is now in an academic radiology residency.
 

runawayclock

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I don't know about switching into MD/PhD, but have you thought about taking a year off from med school to do research or doing a 5 year MD? Eg I worked with a guy who did a year at the NIH between 2nd and 3rd year and is now in an academic radiology residency.

My school offers a "research" option as an elective too, but I'd really like to have something significant before I jump into a career in academia. The MD/PhD at my school has the added bonus of being able to complete a few junior clerkships during my PhD years, so I wouldn't lose steam (which I would definitely be afraid of if I were to take a year off from med school).

Plus, the funding would be a significant load off of my shoulders (I would only have to pay for 1 year of MD if I get to switch to MD/PhD.. i know, i know, you get even in the end because you make money faster, but I would rather have less to no debt, rather than pay off more debt quickly).
 

K31

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Yeah, go for it. The worst they can do is say no, and I think you've got a good shot with your stats and research experience. My program tends to accept 1-2 students per year from the med school class.
 

runawayclock

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Thanks K31! Somehow I feel better about an SDN member telling me I have a good shot than the program director telling me to apply.... :laugh: Maybe it's because people on here say aim for a 35T, 3.9 and apply to 40 schools.

I got a couple of "why not grad school?:confused:" questions during my MD only interviews, so hopefully that was a good sign....
 

Lil Mick

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I'd say you have a good shot--good stats, legit reason to switch. My school rarely allows people to switch, but several schools at which I interviewed saw it as pretty normal (1/4 of their program had done that)...
 

K31

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Thanks K31! Somehow I feel better about an SDN member telling me I have a good shot than the program director telling me to apply.... :laugh: Maybe it's because people on here say aim for a 35T, 3.9 and apply to 40 schools.

I wouldn't say that your stats are completely irrelevant at this point, but they are much less important since you are already accepted to the medical school. The main things the adcom will be looking at are your past research experience and letters, a compelling reason for wanting to join the program (ie career goals that would benefit from a dual degree), and your grades the first year of med school.
 

runawayclock

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I'm definitely the most worried about my 1st semester grades (as these will be the only ones reported before the decision is made), because my school has the Pass/Fail that isn't really Pass/Fail (Honors HP Pass LP Fail, where LP = pretty much fail).

Do you have any advice on the grades? I'm pretty comfortable with psych and genetics, but pretty rusty on biochem and anatomy, and they're the four things covered in 1st semester. I know everyone advises against pre-studying, but I want to get into the program and don't want to **** it up too bad.

I just know I really want to keep doing neuroscience (stuff leaning towards basic research like looking at memory and language function - i'm not super interested in just doing case studies or epidemiology stuff looking at patients from the last 10 years, which seems to be what a lot of doctors do?) but don't want to give up the whole people-touchy-feely-interaction thing either. Also, I realize I'm going to sound like an ass, but staying at a university sounds pretty appealing to me.

But I'm not sure how clear my "career goals" should be at this point, not having even started M1 yet. Are they just looking for someone who wants to do research and go into academic medicine, or do I need to have big clear cut goals set out by this point?
 

K31

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Nobody expects your career goals to be well-defined at this point in your career. They'll expect you to want to go into academics and do research, and you should be able to discuss some ways you could see yourself integrating research and clinical work.

I'm not really one to give advice about excelling during basic sciences--I was very average in my med school class. A lot of it is about dedicating time each day to keeping up with your studying; you don't want to be way behind with a test looming. The kind of people who are attracted to MD/PhD programs tend to have an easier time early in med school as they have a significant science background. The first block is IME about getting everyone to the same level, as some MD students are coming from completely non-science majors and haven't had beyond the required prereq science courses.
 
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