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Do I have a shot at an MSTP spot?

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by NRAI2001, Apr 18, 2004.

  1. NRAI2001

    NRAI2001 3K Member
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    I have a gpa of 3.55 from uc berkeley double majoring in public health and neurobiology (MCB). I have done a year of research in neurosurgery at ucsf (no publications) and I have done a year and a half of research in public health (a few second author pubs). I have been a TA for upper div physio class and worked in a hospital and worked in Africa for half a summer. I have not taken the mcat yet, but I am usually pretty good at standardized tests so I am guessing that I can get into the mid to high 30s. I really screwed around my freshmen and sophmore years, at the end of my sophmore year I had a 2.7 gpa, but I got close straight A's from there on out and I brought it up to a 3.55.

    My question is do i have a realistic shot at any MD/PHD spots? Please don't be afraid to be harsh.
     
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  3. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd
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    I'm unsure. Your application sounds much stronger in clinical research and epidemiology, which is not what most MD/PhD programs are geared for. They want you to do basic science research, so they want to see that you've already done a significant amount. Was your neurosurg research basic science or clinical science in nature?

    Your GPA is a bit low, but it's not going to sink you combined with a high MCAT score. I'm just worried about your research and I seek the comments of others who may know more about applying with alot of clinical research on the application.
     
  4. tofurious

    tofurious Senior Member
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    I don't think it's absolutely necessary that you need to have published in Science to get into a good MSTP program. What you need to demonstrate (which I think you have, depending on what your letters from UCSF and SPH say) is that you are dedicated to research, would like a career in basic/clinically oriented non-epi research, and show critical thinking skills. The line between basic and clinical research is getting so blurred (clinical material in basic research, gene discovery/regulation in clinical research), it will be a matter of time before only a few labs left will be doing PURE basic research (RNA structure) and a few PURE clinical research (epi). If you are able to bring your GPA up from 2.7 to 3.5, you've probably done quite well in your junior and senior years. I would definitely mention this obstacle you have overcome in your personal statement to BRING ATTENTION to the fact that you have done quite well in upper level courses. Some people are afraid to talk about shortcomings early on and these glaring spots only become more obvious when you don't talk about them.

    Do well on MCAT, and you will have an easy time getting into a quality MSTP program. (And it's refreshing to see someone who is humble enough to ask about his/her chances with a strong background)
     
  5. doctorvenkman

    doctorvenkman Member
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    I think you definitely have a good chance to get into some programs. You have done research, and that's what programs are looking for. In the end, I think a lot has to do with how you present yourself as well--make a good argument why you want to be an MD/PhD. Most people make this argument by simply stating that they've done research in X and they want to continue in X. You'll have to be a bit more quick on your feet than that, but it shouldn't be too difficult. Full disclosure: I write as an applicant(I applied this cycle) with a similar background, and I was a competitive applicant.
     
  6. Newquagmire

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    This isn't really related to the OP's question, but seeing the above made me wonder what the ramifications of a downward trend in GPA is during college, besides the obvious 'it makes you look like a slacker' response.
     
  7. tofurious

    tofurious Senior Member
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    An upward trend is always better than a downward trend. Of course, you can artificially raise or lower your GPA by the difficulty of your courseload. It will be obvious if you take nutritional science, astrobiology, and environmental sciences to raise your science GPA. It will be similarly understandable if you take advanced biochemistry and your GPA suffers a little. The overall GPA and MCAT get your foot into the door, and how you carry yourself - including explaining why something happened to you and why you will be a better candidate than or as strong a candidate as someone who has always done well GPA-wise - will get the rest of you in.
     
  8. Newquagmire

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    Nobody ever asked about my downward trend, that's all =)
     
  9. Bander

    Bander Junior Member
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    My background is in epidemiology, and I've been fortunate to have a warm reception at a couple of MSTP programs (stating openly that my PhD interest is in epi as well). I guess my question would be how you hope to integrate neurobiology and epi, what experiences illustrate how you will go about synthesizing basic science, public health, and clinical medicine, and where you plan to build your career. If you don't plan to synthesize the two in your career (i.e., you'll continue in basic science only), think about how you can fit your public health training into the story of your experiences - so that it doesn't look like you were dabbling, but building skills that will support your lab research (an ability to view projects from the microscopic to the population level, for example).

    BTW, I hear rumors that schools are being encouraged more and more to foster these types of non-traditional MD/PhD foci (medical anthropology, epi, etc) - some schools are a bit quicker on the uptake than others. If you're interested in public health, I would focus on schools that have already accepted students with these non-basic science aims and that had good experiences. I'm glad to talk more about public health and MSTP if you're interested, but I'm not clear wherein your interests lie.
     
  10. StewieGriffin

    StewieGriffin Junior Member
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    This is not really an answer to the OP's question, but I had kinda the same concerns.

    I have been pondering applying to some MD/PhD programs and this thread leaves me wondering if I should even try. I know i am not a strong candidate, but I do know that I really enjoy doing research, esp in the neurosciences and that I would like to be involved in research as a physician in academia, perhaps.
    I have about a 3.5 gpa, scored in the lower 30's on the mcat, and was involved in about 1.5 yrs of research (pharmacology 1 summer, cog neuroscience 1 yr, neuropsych 1 yr) Also, I didn't get a chance to get really immersed into the neuroscience research as much as I wanted to and the neuropsych stuff was too psych-like for me. No pubs.
    Also, i really don't know my specific research interests in neuroscience yet, although leaning toward cognitive aspects (neuroimaging stuff) as of now. So I guess my final question is the same as the OP's. Do i have a realistic shot? or would it be a waste of time/energy? Thanks, yall
     
  11. cmz

    cmz Pathology Wannabe
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    It would seem as if you had a decent shot at least. Go for it. I'm sure you'll get some good interviews... after that, you just have to make them really really like you :) I think, unless you're a complete badass and wrote 4 books, that everyone has about the same chance on the interview trail.

    Personally, I don't know what all the hoopla is about when it comes to these ridiculous MCAT scores. I've seen first hand that perhaps having amongst the highest GPA/MCAT scores really amount to diddly squat.
     
  12. chirurgeon

    Physician Faculty 10+ Year Member

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    NRAI2001 & StewieGriffin - I don't think you have anything to lose in applying to MSTPs. Just be ready to throw out a broad net and consider MSTP programs in locales that are a bit off the beaten path. There are a number of excellent MSTPs in cities away from the coasts - in particular, I have heard great things about the University of Iowa, UAB, and UT-Southwestern. I agree with all of the comments listed above - programs are really looking for people with a strong commitment to research with the experience to know the stresses and challenges of the research career. They are also looking for people who have the wherewithal to commit to a 7-9 year program since attrition is naturally an issue. Good luck!
     
  13. NRAI2001

    NRAI2001 3K Member
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    Cool, thanks a lot.
     
  14. tofurious

    tofurious Senior Member
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    Just keeping with full disclosure, you DO have something to lose when you apply to MSTP. For most schools, you either apply to MD or MSTP. If you are a mediocre candidate, you have a high chance of ending up on the waitlist rather than rejection list. That means that you will not be considered for the medical school at that site until you either withdraw or get rejected (once the MSTP slots fill). Since most schools have rolling admission, your chance of being considered seriously in Feb/Mar is relatively slim. So I would recommend those of you not sure about your candidacy in a MSTP program to consider not applying EXCLUSIVELY to MSTP programs and apply for some MD-only programs as well.
     
  15. GBFKicks

    GBFKicks Senior Member
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    Bander, you know of people getting a PhD in anthropology in MSTP programs? Which schools have you heard of that do this?
     
  16. dreamaloud

    dreamaloud Member
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    Bander,

    I too am curious about the non-bench mstp that you mentioned.....
     
  17. jhrugger

    jhrugger Senior Member
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  18. ImmunoANT

    ImmunoANT Senior Member
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    yeah, is he the one whose PhD thesis is on western medicine and acupuncture?
     
  19. Kuchomucho

    Kuchomucho New Member

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    There's also a PhDII at UCSD who's currently in Public Health but started out anthro. He'll be going abroad (Thailand I think..) to do his thesis. Apparently, the school's pretty flexible about stuff like that!
     
  20. Bander

    Bander Junior Member
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    Sorry, guys, I was out of town but didn't mean to leave you hanging.

    Well, Emory, for one, is very good about embracing people with non-traditional backgrounds (which is where I'll be going for MSTP, focusing on epi). Hopkins, too, though I think less so - you have to have a very strong background there to compete with the other qualified hard science folks in front of a MSTP committee of primarily hard science folks.

    In my experience, wherein I told every school I was applying to of my interests in public health, those schools that had had a good experience with a previous trailblazer were eager to speak with me. I spoke with a couple of MSTP programs after being jilted into the MD category (and these are schools that had said they were open to epi, anthro, etc) that had had a poor experience with someone and were not eager to go down that road again for awhile.

    If you can find a school that already has someone thriving in these departments, chances are you will have some success with non-traditional interests. Another option that I'm not sure I recommend is doing what another student did at one of these 'unfriendly' schools - if you have any interest in the hard sciences as well, play up that angle and you may be able to look around more once you're in. I played it straight up with my schools, though, and am glad that I've ended up somewhere I know my interests will be supported.
     
  21. Bander

    Bander Junior Member
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    U-Minnesota was open to my application as well, and has a great public health school. Not sure about anthro...
     

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