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Another Potential Dropout in need of advice

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ConcernedMDPhD

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There's not much info out there so I'm also here asking questions about the procedure of withdrawing from the MD/PhD program. I have come to the realization that I am a lot more clinically oriented and have decided to leave the PhD at the end of my first year of graduate school. I am not looking forward to the conversation with the program director or my PI but the alternative would likely result in me being a complete failure and seriously unhappy. I have heard that they STRONGLY insist on students continuing on.

My questions are more practical ones. Since I am mid-semester could the graduate school require me to payback tuition for the semester if I leave now? The graduate and medical school calenders are not aligned so there are deadlines for registering for clinical rotations I would like to meet but am concerned about alerting my advisor if I have to spend 2 more months in lab. For those of you who are informed how did you go about transitioning since the MD/PhD office is no longer your liaison for your transition to medical school.

I am also concerned about funding for the coming medical semester. I am coming up on the FAFSA deadlines really quickly and cannot apply without alerting the whole program of my intention to leave.

My biggest concern is when to alert my PI, the MD/PhD director and the graduate DGS? I dont want to end up with $12 000 worth of debt for graduate classes or enduring 2 months in lab with a very unhappy and difficult PI who is aware that I may have wasted his time and money (albeit unintentionally).

Any advice about this process is welcome. Thanks
 

Ombret

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The answers to these questions will depend a lot of the specific program you are in. The MSTP funded programs do not require payback if you drop the PhD (or MD). In the fancy program that I attended, people did drop PhD with some regularity (~1/year) and I never heard of anyone being hassled about it. Everyone seemed to agree that attrition was just part of the professional discernment process.

It seems to me that your most important contact would be the assistant dean for academics (whatever that person is called at your school) followed by the med school financial aid office. These people are "not so much losing an MD/PhD student as they are gaining an MD student," to paraphrase the old wedding toast, so they still have a fiduciary interest in you.

I would alert your PI, MD/PhD office, graduate program and med school ASAP as the transition will not get any easier to plan as time goes on. They will all probably be more sympathetic than you expect. These things happen.
 

ConcernedMDPhD

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Thank you for the response. I think you are right about informing all concerned ASAP. I just didn't want to bail in the middle of classes but I guess there's no great time for this type of thing.
 

sakata8242

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If you're thinking about returning to your third year this spring then I agree you'll be doing a lot of things last minute.

Do you still have time to get a third year schedule squared away? This may be the most difficult thing to take care of as it can be a challenge to fit you into rotations after the fact.

FAFSA deadlines are looming; get your parents' and your personal taxes filed and get the application done.

I would start by notifying the MSTP office/administrator and your director. Don't delay. Chances are they may help you determine if returning this spring is feasible, and if it is, they may help you with the transition.

I would worry less about what your director and PI think about you. It's your life and you have to decide what's best for you. Of course they may be upset or disappointed but they will get over it. IIRC the NIH expects a 10-15% attrition rate for MSTP fellows. For your program administrators, it should be part of doing business for them.
 

ConcernedMDPhD

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The class starting 3rd year has already registered so I'm not sure if I will be able to fit into rotations this Spring. I have talked to the academic affairs office for the medical school and would need to set up a series of meetings to discuss transitioning into rotations. I was informed that I may have to wait out some time while all the details get sorted out. I did complete a 6 wk rotation before starting graduate school so hopefully that gives me some leeway in terms of catching up with the current 3rd year class.

Do graduate classes go on your transcript for residency applications or is it just medical courses? If so i may have to think about finishing the semester rather than withdrawing.
 

Chicharita

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If you can't return to 3rd year clerkships, you may want to consider getting a masters... at least have something to show for your time and classes. If it would delay your return to clinicals, forget about it.
 

someram3000

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To the OP, how did this work out for you? Was your PI understanding of the situation? What about re-integrating into the clinical years? Any advice would be useful for others in a situation similar to your own. Thank you.
 

ConcernedMDPhD

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My PI was definitely not happy but was in agreement that if my long term goals had changed then it was best to discontinue the program. It was a nightmare of weeks when I was meeting with most top people in the program and explaining the change. I discontinued mid semester so that I could line up clinical rotations that were still open. I had to pay for the rest of the grad school semester since I had discontinued the program before it was completed. I was able to line up a clinic schedule that is not terrible. Loans for the last two years.

As was suggested by a previous poster the Medical school was incredibly understanding and supportive.
At this point I think I made the right decision. I do wish I had the insight I have now when I was applying, it's quite a hassle to make the switch. I am interested/ nervous to see how this affects residency applications.

I really appreciate the advice I got from other students in our program and this forum
 

ConcernedMDPhD

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I was concerned about repaying the first two years of med school in one shot. Paying for half a semester of grad school was far less terrifying.
 

solitude

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Thanks for following up, and I hope everything works out fine for you. As an example of an MD/PhD dropout who made it: http://www.hhmi.org/research/investigators/ginsburg_bio.html


nice guy. There are a few others I've met at various points who have made it big. Names not coming to me now, and they don't advertise it in the same way. That said, be aware that for every one of these, there are 100 others who dropped out and never again published another basic science paper (as there are MSTP graduates who did the same).
 
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