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Clinical volunteering or research?

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abcjmz

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Hello everyone,
I am a Junior in undergrad now wanting to apply for med school in the 2014 cycle. My overall GPA (counting PSEO credits) is 3.81 and my BCPM GPA is 3.72. I have yet to take the MCAT, but would like to as soon as school gets out, in May. I have been studying for that gradually throughout the year.

I have about 100 hours of hospital volunteering over the past 2 summers, and have shadowed physicians in the ER at that hospital for 20-30 hours so far. I have also volunteered about 35 hours in the ER at our university hospital during the past 2 school years. This year I am a Student Associate in the Chemistry department (basically a TA for Gen. Chem. lab). It has been a really fun experience being able to teach students and help with their lab work.

So here is my question. I have not done any research so far. I helped out in a lab (making stock solutions, cleaning) for about a week at the beginning of last year and I hated it. Being that it is now my junior year and I have my hands full with the teaching, a moderate course load (16 hours) and studying for the MCAT, should I pursue Summer Undergraduate Research Programs for this summer to get research experience? Or will the clinical volunteering and shadowing be enough.

My options are:

A) Apply to summer research programs (moving to wherever) and/or try to get a summer job in a lab at a university near home.

B) Keep volunteering and shadowing physicians at the hospital near home (I could get a great letter of reference here).

Also, I am planning to apply to all 6 med schools in-state (Ohio), in addition to those in surrounding states. My first choice is Ohio State, but it doesn't matter what their ranking is.

Any thoughts would really be appreciated! Thank you.
 

abcjmz

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Anybody have any thoughts?
 

DrEnderW

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I may be biased because I am a huge proponent of research, but I think you should look into summer research programs. As long as you have baseline shadowing, clinical exp, and volunteering you'll be fine. Research can not only provide you with a great learning opportunity and open new doors, but it can significantly boost an otherwise solid application. Who knows, you might even really enjoy it. Regardless of your interest, I think understanding the scientific process and the labor behind biomedical discoveries is a nice insight for future physicians to gain.

As you probably know, many schools have a significant portion of their accepted students claiming research experiences. Although this is in the future, I am a big proponent of undergrad research because it can provide you with the experience, skills, and connections to land great research gigs in med school. Many residency programs and specialties essentially require research and your CV will be drastically improved with the addition of pubs, presentations, posters, etc.

GL
 

dcamkl1

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Your clinical volunteering is on the low side. Additionally, it is good to have a long-term clinical experience (not over a couple of summers) since it shows commitment. I would definitely continue volunteering over the school year. Also, do not feel that you have to volunteer at a hospital, you can look for other opportunities at nursing homes, hospice facilities, free clinics, etc. Make sure your volunteer position allows significant patient interaction and your duties are closely related to the care of the patient (ex: hospital gift shop does not count as clinical).

As for research, most here would recommend that you have some research experience. I do not think it will be easy for you to get a job at a lab just for the summer. PI's probably will not hire someone to work and train for a couple months in the summer and just leave. I would apply to a summer research program, since those programs are structured for short-term undergraduate research experiences. Ideally, it would be nice to have a long-term research experience so that you can develop your skills and projects into meaningful results -- poster presentation, conferences, and publications (which is rare, btw). But, a summer research experience is fine, especially if you are not wanting to do MD/PhD.

So, definitely continue volunteering ASAP and apply to the summer research programs (do take in mind that these can be very competitive). You can stop volunteering during your summer research.
 

abcjmz

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I may be biased because I am a huge proponent of research, but I think you should look into summer research programs. As long as you have baseline shadowing, clinical exp, and volunteering you'll be fine. Research can not only provide you with a great learning opportunity and open new doors, but it can significantly boost an otherwise solid application. Who knows, you might even really enjoy it. Regardless of your interest, I think understanding the scientific process and the labor behind biomedical discoveries is a nice insight for future physicians to gain.

As you probably know, many schools have a significant portion of their accepted students claiming research experiences. Although this is in the future, I am a big proponent of undergrad research because it can provide you with the experience, skills, and connections to land great research gigs in med school. Many residency programs and specialties essentially require research and your CV will be drastically improved with the addition of pubs, presentations, posters, etc.

GL

Would I still be able to list a summer research experience on my med school app if I was participating in it during the application cycle?
 

DrEnderW

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Would I still be able to list a summer research experience on my med school app if I was participating in it during the application cycle?

I did.

I did a research gap year while applying to school and had a section on AMCAS and AACOMAS discussing what my role was, detailed the project, and stated I was working towards additional pubs. That way, I knew it would be acknowledged and discussed.
 

abcjmz

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I did.

I did a research gap year while applying to school and had a section on AMCAS and AACOMAS discussing what my role was, detailed the project, and stated I was working towards additional pubs. That way, I knew it would be acknowledged and discussed.

So did you start an undergraduate research experience, then just keep working at it throughout the next academic year?
 

DrEnderW

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So did you start an undergraduate research experience, then just keep working at it throughout the next academic year?

I had 2 lab experiences in undergrad that ended at the end of senior year. I started a different and new research position at a hospital during my gap year that I foreshadowed in my app/ explained what I had done and knew so far.
 

abcjmz

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I had 2 lab experiences in undergrad that ended at the end of senior year. I started a different and new research position at a hospital during my gap year that I foreshadowed in my app/ explained what I had done and knew so far.

Did you apply after your junior year and not make it, or were you planning to take a gap year?
 

DrEnderW

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Did you apply after your junior year and not make it, or were you planning to take a gap year?

Planned gap year. I played a college sport and didn't want to sacrifice time away for interviews/ studying for the MCAT in-season.
 
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