Another PhD to MD

Discussion in 'Nontraditional Students' started by Boogsie, Jul 24, 2006.

  1. Boogsie

    Boogsie New Member

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    Hi, this is my first post but I have been reading this forum for quite some time.

    I am currently a graduate student in the chem. I will defend my PhD thesis in fall of 2007 or the spring of 2008. I am applying for fall of 2008. My undergrad GPA is 3.3 (Biochem), and my science is about the same. My grad GPA is 3.5 (Chem). I'm taking the MCAT in August (because it's the last paper one). I just decided to apply to medical schools in late April and have been studying since then with Kaplan. I feel as though I will get somewhere in the low-30s (worst-case).

    I started volunteering at the hospital and in an AIDS clinic at the end of May (3 hrs/week each). I am going to Africa to do a premed/volunteer program for 3 weeks in the fall. I was told by some family members that are doctors that I have shown a commitment to research, but none to medicine, so I HAVE to do all these things (they are really fun so I love it). I have lined up a few shadowing opportunities (7 doctors to shadow in the next year) through my family.

    I am worried because this is all a very recent development. When I apply, all my activities will only be for about year. In addition, my GPA is pretty low. I'm retaking Physics 1 because I got a C and taking Physics 2 for the first time next year, but those won't significantly affect my GPA.

    My questions:
    What more can I do to beef up my application?
    If I get a 30-32, should I retake the MCAT?
    How many publications should I have? (The average for our lab is five (first-author).
    Should I apply to med-school that focuses more on research? Will that give me a better chance?

    Extras: AA, 24

    Thanks for reading this. I really would appreciate any input (positive and negative-please).
     
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  3. relentless11

    relentless11 Going broke and loving it
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    More undergrad classes to boost your undergrad GPA. You will find that most schools will put more weight on your undergrad GPA. Even then, you grad GPA is average among grad students, while your undergrad GPA is a tad below average. Its not bad, but it could be better. Are you applying to California schools? If so then you need to boost that GPA even more.

    Now for repeating a class you got a C in, as you stated it will not increase your GPA by much, due to AMCAS recording all course taken. You may be better off taking more advanced undergrad classes, and doing well on the MCAT. Getting an A the second time through isn't as impressive as getting an A the first time through. However if you are looking into DO schools, that changes everything.

    More is always better, but if you get a 30-32, I say apply anyway. You never know, but from what i've been told by our adcoms, and those on SDN, you want to aim for 34+ given your situation. (e.g., where you did better in grad school compared to undergrad). However since your undergrad GPA is still in the OK range, a 30-32 can still give you a shot.

    On a side note, its great that you are doing well on the practice exams, but I'd shoot for higher. I have found over the years that you are not really guaranteed to get the same or similar score you got on the practice exams.

    Well since you are in a PhD program, you will probably have at least one, so that should be sufficient. Quality over quantity in this case, especially considering you are applying as a normal MD applicant rather than MD/PhD.

    I think you should apply where ever you want to go, aslong as it is a non-trad friendly school. Good luck!:)
     
  4. Learfan

    Learfan Machine Gunner

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    Welcome to the club. I am also a chem PhD who left the area for medicine. Just finished the MS1 year.

    A very large part of your application will be the MCAT. Those numbers may be half of your application. Do everything possible to kill the exam. That was what opened the door for me. Try to apply both MD and DO since courses that are retaken replace old grades on the AACOMAS system but not on the AMCAS system. Volunteering in Africa sounds like a waste of money. You could get plenty of volunteer experience within the US. If you would like to discuss any other items PM me. Best of luck.

    PS: How is the job market for chem PhDs from your perspective? I could not get another job for anything.


     
  5. Boogsie

    Boogsie New Member

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    Thank you so much for your input.

    The problem is that I am also a TA and doing research, so I do not have to the time to take any other classes besides Physics I and II (which I have to take at night). I'm thinking about retaking the MCAT in April no matter what I get in August because I would have just completed Physics and my physical science section will probably increase.

    The reason I'm doing the volunteering in Africa is because I’m interested in International Health and Infectious Diseases. A friend of my family is a doctor at Harvard. She said that 90% of the medical students she has met have done some volunteer work in another country. She said it would show my commitment to medicine more, and I would have something interesting to write about in my personal statement.

    I am from NYC. I am looking at schools in big cities only-NY, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, DC, and Baltimore. I know that these schools are more competitive, but I really would like to be in a big city.

    The job market is pretty good. I have already had some job offers even though I’m two years away from graduating.

    Question:

    How do I find out which schools are non-traditional friendly???

    Thanks again!!
     
  6. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    Hi there,
    Do NOT take the MCAT in August "for practice". If you are not prepared, take the exam in April when you ARE prepared. You will likely tank your application should you end up with a poor score on this exam. Even if you pull that poor score up, you have a Ph.D and would be expected to perform very well on this exam. Do not take this exam if you are not ready.

    Non-traditional friendly schools: There are no medical schools in the United States that discriminate against applicatants based on age so I doubt that you are going to find the list that you seek.

    With your below average undergraduate GPA and your below average graduate GPA, you cannot afford to play with the MCAT exam. Prepare for this exam, take it once and do extremely well. Your graduate GPA actually does NOT enhance your undergraduate GPA as it is only 3.5.

    For reference: Average GPA of medical school matriculants is 3.6 and average MCAT score is 30.

    I get literally hundreds of applications across my desk that are absolutely outstanding and exceed the averages. If you want to enter medical school, you have do something to maximize your numbers and posting a poor score on the MCAT because you were too busy to optimally prepare is a very poor strategy.

    njbmd :)
     
  7. Quix

    Quix Herr Professor
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    Just be careful about your attitude after your defense - having worked on something for that long and at that level, it's very easy to become apathetic about everything else. I remember the day after I defended (Ph.D. in Health Care Ethics), I walked into organic chemistry and thought "&*#@$ it, do I really need this? Do I really need to go to medical school?" It took me about a week to get my sense of purpose back.

    njbmd: Incidentally, how *do* humanties Ph.D.'s fare in the process (since we generally don't have advanced degrees in the sciences)? Are we penalized as much for not excelling on the MCAT? Have you come across many in the applications you've seen?
     
  8. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    Hi there,
    Contrary to popular opinion, you DO NOT have to have an advanced degree in science to do well on the MCAT. I have seen plenty of applications from folks with bachelor's degrees in the humanities with excellent MCAT scores.

    The MCAT tests your ability to apply the knowledge from your pre-med courses (General Biology, General Chemistry, General Physics, Organic Chemistry) to the types of questions that are asked on this exam. None of these courses are above sophomore level.

    The MCAT tests very differently from the "regurgitant-type" exams of most undergraduate institutions and therefore, MCAT test takers need to be thorougly familiar with "application-type" questions. This can be done with loads of practice with answering these questions.

    Your pre-med coursework can provide the knowledge base but your exam practice and prep provides the skills to do well on this exam. Having a degree outside the sciences is not an excuse for not being prepared for this exam. There are plenty of people who do not have even bachelors degrees in the sciences who do very well on MCAT.

    njbmd :)
     
  9. desertdr

    desertdr Senior Member

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    Boogsie:

    Starting MSI in three weeks (at my #1 choice!) so hopefully my experience this past year may help in your application process.

    My background:

    I defended my Phd in O-Chem in June '05 (6 publications) and work as an intellectual property manager for a science company while applying to med school. In my AMCAS: a 3.8 undergrad gpa in chem and business (private liberal arts college), 3.5 grad gpa, above average MCATs (mid 30s), 3 years hospice, 1 year rural FP shadowing, DIII athlete, marathoner, various jobs and a personal statement describing my path to medicine. I applied to 10 schools, invited to interview at 5, went to 4 interviews, and accepted at 3 waitlisted at 1.

    The reason I told you all of the above is because in the interviews that I attended, 80% focused on my personal statement and extra curriculars while only 1 interviewer mentioned my Phd (she was a Phd immunologist...once she found out I had a doctorate she quickly gave me a tour of her lab and the background of her research :laugh: ...I was accepted at this school!). All of the interviewers asked me general questions about my motivation and path to medicine. They were more interested in learning about me that the application couldn't describe. Caveat: all my interviews were "stress free, get to know me better" as opposed to the stress interviews that challenge your knowledge on ethics, health policy, current events, etc.

    In my opinion, the most important things to consider are the numbers. My GPA/MCAT got me into the "acceptable pile" while the Phd, publications, and ECs further moved my application to the "invite for an interview" pile. At the interview, it was all about coming across as a mature compassionate individual who the interviewers saw as a "fit" for the school. I'm a firm believer that an awesome MCAT (>40) leaves one more room for error at an interview (or the application process in general!) whereas someone with average numbers for that school needs a "stronger" interview or above average ECs to get the acceptance.

    So, what do you need to do to increase your chances:

    1. CRUSH the MCATs ...like everyone has said, take the test when you are ready. Both scores will show up on your AMCAS if you take the fall and spring exams and some schools will average the two, others take the highest, etc. Remember, GPA and MCATs open doors that a Phd cannot make up.

    2. Raise your GPA by getting As in your physics classes. A 3.3 Science is subpar and needs to be balanced by high MCATs (see #1) or compelling personal statement (trip to Africa?) or outstanding ECs (Rhodes Scholar etc)

    3. Publications help but in my experience, only at research heavy schools. However, research heavy schools also tend to be numbers greedy so although you have 5-6 publications....you can see the dilemma here right?

    4. Be convincing in your argument that you are fit for medicine and not chemistry. The first opportunity to do this is in your personal statement. The second is during the interview/secondary applications.

    5. Related to #4, get as much clinical experience you can and although yours will only be 1 year, if it was a significant experience, feel free to use it in your PS and/or essays.

    I hope my experiences this last application cycle helps you in some way. Best of luck on the last year of your Phd program and on your path to medicine :luck:
     
  10. Joel Fleischman

    Joel Fleischman Senior Member

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    Hey --
    I am an MS III and had an almost identical application to yours. My PhD was in cell physiology, so I think that may have helped a bit… something the MD’s on the admissions committee could perhaps understand more.
    Got a 30 on the MCAT … I would not worry about GPA too much. I did get questions regarding how “heavy” was my class load in graduate school i.e. was I doing like one seminar class and then in the lab the rest of the day…. This was not the case. I had to do a full course load my graduate years 1 and 2. IF this is the case for you point it out in your essay.
    Also do NOT make your essay about how you are going to be a great researcher… you already have the PhD …no need to get an MD if that is the case …
    You should briefly describe how your research has shown you the application of theory and then spend the rest of the time discussing about how much you want to take care of people.

    Do not retake the MCAT… make sure you can get >=30 on it.
    Do not retake the class… you are now a PhD type person and if you retake it and do not get an A+++ in it that may also be the kiss of death. ..no matter what the subject is.
    Remember 50% of the people have a below average GPA. The major thing people on the committee first want is someone who will not fail out. Show them that…
    After that, they want a bunch of “neat” people who will contribute to, and make a class, and medicine more interesting. Show them that as well… in that respect, the PhD in chemistry is a good selling point
    ...only my $0.02
     
  11. RxnMan

    RxnMan Who, me? A doctor?
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    I had very nearly the same experience. My master's project was medically-related, and one my interviewers (a toxicologist) noticed this and said, "Have you thought about a MD/PhD? You would really fit in at XYZ lab, you should talk to DR. ABC,..." and so on. Two days after I got the acceptance, that interviewer emailed me, congratulated me, and said "Have you thought about a MD/PhD? You would really fit in at XYZ lab, you should talk to DR. ABC,..." :laugh:
    I'd agree with all of this except for the MCAT. I did well (top 3%), but all my interviewers wanted to talk about was my grades and my ECs. I think it's more of a 'you have to be this high to ride this ride' sort of measure.
     
  12. Boogsie

    Boogsie New Member

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    Thank you all for your help.

    I have been studying since I decided to go to med school. I have been using Kaplan and taking LOTS of practice exams. I’ve put a great deal of time into studying, and I have been letting my research slide a little. I have talked to my advisor about it and he doesn’t seem to mind, but I cannot really tell for sure. The reason I really want to take the test in August is because it is the last paper. I definitely feel I will get a higher score on a paper test. However, if I don't do well, I will have no choice but to take it again. Tests on the computer are harder for me than paper.

    I know that a PhD won't give me any real extra edge when I'm applying. That is why I'm trying to do all these extra things to make my app stronger. I really just don’t have the time to take anymore undergraduate classes. I wish I could, but then I wouldn’t be a full-time graduate student (which is how I earn my income).

    I'm just so confused about what really matters because I have friends who got 28/29 on the MCAT and have 3.6/3.3 GPA and got into really good med schools (when applying from undergrad). I'm just trying to strengthen my application as much as possible. I am planning to apply to a large number of schools just to ensure that I increase my chances of getting in somewhere.

    Thanks!!!
     
  13. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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    Another chem PhD to MD here. I just want to weigh in and say that you might be surprised how little capital a 40+ MCAT score gives you if the rest of your app isn't up to par. I can't tell you how many schools bragged to me about the applicants with 4.0 GPAs and 40+ MCATs that they rejected.
    I split the difference and did both. One of my volunteer/clinical activities was to serve as the project manager and a co-investigator on a clinical trial. I wrote in my PS about how I wanted to continue to do clinical research and teach after med school. I think that if you do want to do research, you should say so. There are many schools that are interested in training physician scientists. But that being said, you definitely do need to justify why the MD is necessary for your research if you already have the PhD.
     
  14. njbmd

    njbmd Guest
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    Hi there,
    If your friends have already gotten in, they are not in the same competition that you are going to face. Applications to medical school have risen every year and so have the undergraduate GPAs and MCAT scores. Looking at the number of applicants that my institutions have received, we are on record pace this year too.

    With this in mind, you have to aim pretty high and get things competitive on your application. It's tough out there and getting tougher every year. Plot a strategy to get what you need to get yourself more competitive and get the job done.

    Right now, you are on the lower end GPA-wise for both undergraduate and graduate applicants. With that in mind, you need to make sure that the rest of your application is above average specifically MCAT score and extracurricular activities.

    What happened for your friends in past years might not cut it for you in the present or even future years. You have plenty of time to take your time and get your application competitive.

    njbmd :)
     

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