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Gap Years and the Successful MD/PhD applicant

VaultArmitage

import pandas as pd
Feb 5, 2020
82
56
56
The Great Midwest Mountains
  1. Pre-Medical
As the title implies I'm looking for advice concerning successful MD/PhD applicants and taking a gap year. I've scoured SDN and found some threads specific to other students but I'm looking for more general advice. So far my understanding is a gap year for someone interested in MSTP programs needs to be heavily research based, and if you have a decent amount of research from your undergrad then they may be unnecessary and further delay whats already a very long path. I know some schools seem to favor them like OHSU (Their site says "Most of our successful applicants complete research in their undergraduate program with 1-2 years of lab work afterward") but are their schools that don't care as much?

I've been working in a lab since freshmen (including during the summer) year (Approx 1480 hours by the time I apply) and another lab since this summer (approx 500 hours by the time I apply). So when I apply at the end of my junior year I'll have around 2000 hours. I then plan to do a full-time summer project followed by labs both fall and winter of my senior year. This will add another 1000ish hours for a grand total of 3000 hours of research in my undergrad. I was able to present one of my projects at a national bioinformatics conference, helped obtain a NIH grant, and should have a first author pub at the end of the summer. I can't speak to future productivity, but I hope to publish more!

My question is two-fold. In my case is a gap year advised? And if I should be okay without one, what are some schools that don't emphasis gap years as much as OHSU?

Thanks! I apologize for the long question but it's difficult to find help with MSTP admissions...

EDIT: This isn't meant to be WAMC or asking for a list, I know that much more goes into applications than just research but I'm mainly focused on the research side of my app right now because I know for MSTP that's what is most important.
 
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Lucca

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Oct 22, 2013
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  1. MD/PhD Student
It is generally true that successful MD/PhD applicants take 1-2 gap years doing research, it's not just the case at OHSU. Probably around 50/50 when it comes to taking gap years or not, maybe 60/40 leaning on the side of taking dedicated research time before applying.

That said, gap years are not "required" and how much one benefits from them depends on context. For example, in your case, if you applied with 3,000 hours of research with various presentations and potentially a publication then you will have essentially the same level of research experience an applicant like myself did at the end of my second research gap year. So in terms of time put in and productivity you could set aside time to do more, if you wanted to, or for other reasons, but from an application standpoint with your current level of experience I would say you would be ready to apply.

Basically, taking gap years is not intrinsically valuable, but they are excellent ways to get a high level of research experience that may have not been possible or been very difficult to do during undergrad and its that experience, productivity, and letters from your research that make a difference.
 
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VaultArmitage

import pandas as pd
Feb 5, 2020
82
56
56
The Great Midwest Mountains
  1. Pre-Medical
It is generally true that successful MD/PhD applicants take 1-2 gap years doing research, it's not just the case at OHSU. Probably around 50/50 when it comes to taking gap years or not, maybe 60/40 leaning on the side of taking dedicated research time before applying.

That said, gap years are not "required" and how much one benefits from them depends on context. For example, in your case, if you applied with 3,000 hours of research with various presentations and potentially a publication then you will have essentially the same level of research experience an applicant like myself did at the end of my second research gap year. So in terms of time put in and productivity you could set aside time to do more, if you wanted to, or for other reasons, but from an application standpoint with your current level of experience I would say you would be ready to apply.

Basically, taking gap years is not intrinsically valuable, but they are excellent ways to get a high level of research experience that may have not been possible or been very difficult to do during undergrad and its that experience, productivity, and letters from your research that make a difference.


Thanks @Lucca! a 50/50 split makes much sense, I would imagine that regardless of a gap year, most applicants have a large number of research of hours and a gap year is more beneficial for those who may have started research later in their undergrad career. I was under the impression that to go to a top tier MSTP you needed at least one gap year.
 
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Lucca

Will Walk Rope for Sandwich
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7+ Year Member
Oct 22, 2013
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19,712
526
City of the Future
  1. MD/PhD Student
Thanks @Lucca! a 50/50 split makes much sense, I would imagine that regardless of a gap year, most applicants have a large number of research of hours and a gap year is more beneficial for those who may have started research later in their undergrad career. I was under the impression that to go to a top tier MSTP you needed at least one gap year.

not necessarily, but it's much easier in general IMO to have a meaningful, productive experience doing research full-time during a gap year than part-time during undergrad.
 
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peachblacktea96

New Member
Jan 6, 2020
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  1. MD/PhD Student
Thanks @Lucca! a 50/50 split makes much sense, I would imagine that regardless of a gap year, most applicants have a large number of research of hours and a gap year is more beneficial for those who may have started research later in their undergrad career. I was under the impression that to go to a top tier MSTP you needed at least one gap year.
Just throwing some numbers in, I'm matriculating at a well-regarded MSTP and only ~20% of our class is coming straight from undergrad. The other 80% took 1-2 years off. I think in your case, if your projected hours/ pubs pan out as expected, then you will be a solid applicant when you apply and you can probably get away with no gap years.
 
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Fencer

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Oct 11, 2007
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For an applicant who is applying while still enrolled in college, having 1500 hrs of research is competitive... here and/or elsewhere. The key is whether an applicant has matured enough in their critical thinking as a physician-scientist applicant or not. We are looking to train scientists not technicians...
 
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kevinbrainy

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Jul 6, 2020
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Agree... (Also because authorship should not be given to technicians...) I think it takes time to develop a physician-scientist thinking, depends also on what type of science you conduct (basic science different from clinical research)
 
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