Jul 15, 2009
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Hey,

Just wondering if a letter from a PI with a PhD, but not an MD, will carry weight for residency apps? A bit late, as I'm doing an HHMI year with a PhD scientist (fairly prominent up-and-coming lab), but just wondering. My chance of getting published is decent, though I might not be first author on the paper.

Thanks

SRK Jerk
 

RxnMan

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From everything I've been told and everything I've read about the year-off programs and how they figure into ERAS, no PD wants a letter from a PhD. A MD/PhD, sure, but not a PhD-only.

If you apply to a research residency (i.e., ABIM Research Pathway), then maybe you could use a PhD letter, provided it was backed up by 3 letters from MDs in the appropriate specialty. You're not applying for a research position; PD's want to hear from other physicians about how good you are with patients.

For full disclosure - I am a MS3 and I'm part of the CRTP 2010 group
 
OP
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From everything I've been told and everything I've read about the year-off programs and how they figure into ERAS, no PD wants a letter from a PhD. A MD/PhD, sure, but not a PhD-only.

If you apply to a research residency (i.e., ABIM Research Pathway), then maybe you could use a PhD letter, provided it was backed up by 3 letters from MDs in the appropriate specialty. You're not applying for a research position; PD's want to hear from other physicians about how good you are with patients.

For full disclosure - I am a MS3 and I'm part of the CRTP 2010 group

Thanks for the response.
The thing about that is, though, that in basic research you'll have no contact with patients. How could a basic science researching MD/PhD really speak to my strengths more than a basic science PhD? Either will only be seeing my work ethic/creativity in lab.

I plan on getting a letter from the attending I had for medicine in 3rd yr, in addition to letters from people in my field (all MD or MD/PhD). I just thought a letter from someone I spent like 1 year full time + 1.5 years part time working with might be relevant if not required.
 
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Also, if relevant, the residencies I am considering are "research-oriented" (i.e. rad onc or IM).
 

Brunette1981

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I disagree. I think the letter from your PI is perfectly valid for residency apps if you worked with the person for a year, particularly if you are applying for research-oriented fields.

Academic places will care a great deal about your research ability and skills. And it is a significant part of your education.

I am graduating with an MD/PhD this year and my research letter is from a PhD-only. We ALL provide research letters. And most of us do research in PhD-headed labs anyway since those are most labs period...
 

RxnMan

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I disagree. I think the letter from your PI is perfectly valid for residency apps if you worked with the person for a year, particularly if you are applying for research-oriented fields...
You say you disagree, but then you just restated my proviso. :rolleyes:

Will a research letter help? Sure. But if you only have the PhD letter, you aren't going anywhere. If you have a limited amount of letters you can send (say 3), and you have 4 letters: 3 from attendings in the relevant specialty and another from a PhD, which should you choose?

Do research oriented residencies care about research? Sure. But will having strong letters from your PI be as effective as a strong letter from an attending physician when you're applying to a clinical program? I worked in other fields (for years) outside of medicine, and no PD will give a d--- about how good of an engineer I was because they don't care about that skill set. i.e., I'm not applying to residency to be an engineer.

...I plan on getting a letter from the attending I had for medicine in 3rd yr, in addition to letters from people in my field (all MD or MD/PhD). I just thought a letter from someone I spent like 1 year full time + 1.5 years part time working with might be relevant if not required.
If you've got a full set otherwise, then no worries. My point is just that a PhD letter won't add significantly by itself.

But don't take my word for it - set up a meeting with the PD in your specialty and see what they say.
 

aProgDirector

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From everything I've been told and everything I've read about the year-off programs and how they figure into ERAS, no PD wants a letter from a PhD. A MD/PhD, sure, but not a PhD-only.
Will a research letter help? Sure. But if you only have the PhD letter, you aren't going anywhere. If you have a limited amount of letters you can send (say 3), and you have 4 letters: 3 from attendings in the relevant specialty and another from a PhD, which should you choose?

Do research oriented residencies care about research? Sure. But will having strong letters from your PI be as effective as a strong letter from an attending physician when you're applying to a clinical program? I worked in other fields (for years) outside of medicine, and no PD will give a d--- about how good of an engineer I was because they don't care about that skill set. i.e., I'm not applying to residency to be an engineer.

If you've got a full set otherwise, then no worries. My point is just that a PhD letter won't add significantly by itself.
I'm going to disagree with this for the most part.

When you include a "research" letter, it really doesn't matter whether the PI is MD only, PhD only, or both. The letter will discuss your research skills and not your clinical skills. Really, it's just the stature of the researcher that matters. And simply getting an HHMI scholarship is a feat in itself and will impress greatly. So, no, it does not matter that your PI has a PhD. And getting an HHMI will make your application shine. So all is good.

Now, whether including a research letter in itself is a good idea or not is another question. In your case, it's manditory. If you do an HHMI / Doris Duke / any other entire year devoted to research, your application will look strange if there isn't a letter about that. But, in any case, I think a research letter is fine. ERAS lets you submit four letters -- 1 will be your research letter, 1 will be your "chair" letter (if such exists in your field/school), and 2 will be clinical letters (1 from a SubI if you do one). Having 3 clinical letters instead of 4 is perfectly fine. I would not submit more than one research letter, though. Just your PI, or the person you worked most closely with.
 

HomerSD

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Unless you're applying to community programs or very clinically oriented academic programs, a research letter from a HHMI year/rotation can be very helpful. Most academic programs are interested in applicants who show a genuine interest in research, particularly those interested in an academic career. A residency classmate used a HHMI letter for both residency and fellowship and matched at a very prestigious program. His residency evals were average and I suspect it was his research letter that clinched the fellowship spot for him--and it was for work done over four years ago.
 
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Thanks, everyone. Your feedback has been very helpful (damn, sorry I sound like a form letter, but I mean it)
 

Pinkertinkle

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Hmm i wonder how much an HHMI fellowship really helps...
 

lapooh

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On a similar note, I am wondering how much a research letter will help/hurt me. I am an IMG who graduated 1.5 years back and have been doing bench research for the last 8 months. I believe my most uptodate letter is going to be from my PI ( a PhD btw), and my app will look weird and incomplete without it. I do have a clinical US letter from a rotation I did 2 yrs back, which I am going to use as well.

For the academic/ slash university programs, I am definitely plan on submitting my PI's letter. My question is , what about the not-interested-in-research community programs I am going to apply to. Do you think a research letter will help/hurt my chances there?
 

RxnMan

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I'm going to disagree with this for the most part...
I stand corrected. The mentoring I had received up to this point had said differently. Thank you aPD for your correction, and I for one will change my letter strategy when I apply.