Do females have an easier time getting into MD/PhD programs than males?

Alaxandra

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On the FAQ of a lot of MD/PhD programs I see stuff like this written: Women and underrepresented minorities are encouraged to apply and their application will be looked at favorably.

So, do women have a higher chance of getting into MD/PhD programs?
 

Neuronix

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I'm not aware of any data. Qualified URMs are VERY underrepresented in MD/PhD programs. But women are slightly underrepresented (~40% nationally). We do know that women are more likely to drop out. So being a female may help slightly, but it's not a big deal, and you still need a great MD/PhD story and desire.
 

StIGMA

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Neuronix is correct- it is really about either being qualified or not being qualified. It is more important to make this career appealing/amenable to women than to lower standards for a specific group (which does not happen). We should encourage qualified URM MD applicants into the MD/PhD pathway while maintaining standards- it is a demanding training pathway that requires special people to succeed. It takes more from you than it gives, so recruiting smart people into a career that makes you work incessantly, earn less money, and prolong training by many years is difficult. It has been said on this board before- a certain idealism about research/medicine is necessary to make it through all the negatives, and most people are too grounded in reality to make a commitment to this pathway.


Female/URM applications may get a more thorough look-through at programs that have had a few gender-skewed classes. For the programs, all they can do is send out interviews/acceptances and hope that they get a diverse class. The process is a crapshoot for the programs too.


If you get an acceptance to an MD/PhD program, it is not due to some quota needing to be filled. You beat out the next applicant- whether that person is male or female. And there is a glut of qualified applicants (but not necessarily URM applicants). If you get an acceptance, you are qualified, deserving, and capable- without exception.
 
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solitude

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I disagree with above. There are more qualified applicants than there are spots. My program and many others spend money travelling to conferences to recruit these groups, brag about their underrepresented matriculants, write in their NIH renewals about their plans to increase underrepresented enrollment, etc. If you are female or URM - all other things being equal in your application - you are more likely to get one of those spots. I have seen the list of GPAs and MCATs for all the matriculants in our program...suffice it to say that a female/URM is more likely to get a spot even if all other things aren't equal. I am not necessarily condemning this practice, but I do think we need to face up to the reality of the situation.
 

StIGMA

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Do you think the higher drop out rate for females that Neuronix mentioned is related to females being underqualified (if they are in some cases admitted with lower qualifications) or for other reasons, such as the length of the program & related stresses? I firmly believe it is not due to admitting subpar candidates, although I could be wrong.

(Also, I mentioned that there are excess qualified applicants [implying men & women] but not URM applicants.)

One thing I have noticed at my program is that the average age of matriculation for female students is lower than for male students. I wonder if this affects qualifications at all- I know many guys (and zero women) who took years after college to accumulate additional research experience, which also allows time for dedicated MCAT studying that is doable albeit stressful during a 3 or 4 years in college.
 
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plumazul

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I'm not aware of any data. Qualified URMs are VERY underrepresented in MD/PhD programs. But women are slightly underrepresented (~40% nationally). We do know that women are more likely to drop out. So being a female may help slightly, but it's not a big deal, and you still need a great MD/PhD story and desire.
I wish this were true. But it appears the percentage has been falling for the past 5 years or so. In 2012, it was the lowest number since all the way back in 2001. The same is true for URMs as the numbers have been "stagnant" (AAMC) at best. So for all the effort the OP may have noticed on institution websites, nothing is changing.

I disagree with above. There are more qualified applicants than there are spots. My program and many others spend money travelling to conferences to recruit these groups, brag about their underrepresented matriculants, write in their NIH renewals about their plans to increase underrepresented enrollment, etc. If you are female or URM - all other things being equal in your application - you are more likely to get one of those spots. I have seen the list of GPAs and MCATs for all the matriculants in our program...suffice it to say that a female/URM is more likely to get a spot even if all other things aren't equal. I am not necessarily condemning this practice, but I do think we need to face up to the reality of the situation.
I think these things vary greatly by institution. Some are doing a great job recruiting URMs and women, many are not.
 

solitude

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Do you think the higher drop out rate for females that Neuronix mentioned is related to females being underqualified (if they are in some cases admitted with lower qualifications) or for other reasons, such as the length of the program & related stresses? I firmly believe it is not due to admitting subpar candidates, although I could be wrong.

(Also, I mentioned that there are excess qualified applicants [implying men & women] but not URM applicants.)

One thing I have noticed at my program is that the average age of matriculation for female students is lower than for male students. I wonder if this affects qualifications at all- I know many guys (and zero women) who took years after college to accumulate additional research experience, which also allows time for dedicated MCAT studying that is doable albeit stressful during a 3 or 4 years in college.

No, I definitely don't think that the women or URMs that are being admitted are underqualified. Unfortunately, MSTP spots are so competitive that many very qualified people are turned away. I agree--more women tend to drop out because the length of training is not conducive to motherhood. This likely discourages women who do choose to take a few years off from heading down the MSTP path.
 

solitude

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I think these things vary greatly by institution. Some are doing a great job recruiting URMs and women, many are not.

Each program is trying, but there aren't enough of these applicants to go around, so they end up going to the more "desirable" programs. Then these programs get lauded for doing a great job recruiting URMs and women. This bolsters these programs funding and reputation. The rich get richer.
 

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Not necessarily, my program offers great mentorship and outcomes despite being non-MSTP, perhaps, we might be amongst the most desirable non-MSTP (and hopefully MSTP in a couple of years). We have a considerably higher percentages of women (>50%) and URMs (>20%) than national MD/PhD standards. The one thing that I believe is most helpful is to show that you are able to effectively "nurture" the MD/PhD careers of those groups. In our program, almost 1/6 of our students have children (all but one of students with children, have more than one kid; ~ 40% of MS-3+ have children). Some geographical areas are less expensive, thus, helping to support a young family.

Regarding specific question by the OP, I don't think that women have an easier chance of getting into MD/PhD programs. Gender isn't considered and, currently, URM status is only a factor, within a factor, within a factor, that leads to get an invitation for interview. Once interviewed, gender and URM status don't have any additional value, passion for science and demonstrated commitment to a MD/PhD career are the driving forces for an admittance into our MD/PhD program.
 
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Neuronix

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There's a lot of great discussion, and I'm going to overlap a little with the above though I agree with most of what's been said.

I agree that women are not starting and/or finishing MD/PhD programs due to family/childbearing concerns. The physician-scientist lifestyle is currently worsening due to decreasing funding and increased clinical demands brought on by declining clinical reimbursements and physician shortages. So it would be no surprise to me that the number of women MD/PhD candidates is declining. Even when times were good, my woman MD/PhD adviser as an undergrad used to say "I don't have kids, and I don't understand how an MD/PhD woman could ever have children!" For more discussion of this issue see: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/women-say-stopping-tenure-clock-isnt-enough.988170/

As for URMs, I will make this controversial argument. The money, i.e. free med school, is a significant factor in why many people choose to do MD/PhD programs. It is normal to be unsure about the MD/PhD pathway, particularly as an undergrad, but the money certainly helps sweeten that pot. Very qualified URMs are often offered full scholarships by medical schools. So they are often trying to choose between a full medical school scholarship and the MD/PhD program. It's harder to recruit against that, unless the applicant is certain they want to do MD/PhD. The top MD/PhD programs are going to have less difficulty recruiting these applicants. The remainder of MD/PhD programs (unless they happen to be in a very URM friendly location...) are then left making the difficult decision of admitting much weaker applicants out of a depleted pool, or just going with a less diverse program.
 

Maebea

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One factor that contributes to women dropping out of MD-PhD training is the prevalence of cluless males colleagues who are unaware of the impact of their biases have on women. To be sure, there are larger cultural norms that work against women in professional careers, but the biases held by supposedly enlightened peers and supervisors can subtley erode a woman's resolve. It is challenging enough to go up against cultural expectations, but when you realize that your colleagues are (unconciously) biased against your success, you are more likely to decide to give up the fight. Women in my program consistently identify the attitudes of their peers as being the biggest challenge to the success of women in science. The men identify child rearing as being the biggest challenge to women's success. (Interestingly, child rearing is not in the top 5 for men; #1 on their list is compensation.)