Medical Going from PhD to MD, but clinical experience is lacking. Should I apply this year or wait a year?

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GoSpursGo

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Hello,

I am an engineering PhD student trying to apply to MD programs in the upcoming cycle 2021-2022. In terms of stats and pre-reqs I think I'm in a good place (3.75 undergrad GPA, 4.00 grad GPA, 521 MCAT). Research experience also in good shape thanks to the PhD (aiming to defend next spring/summer, several pubs/presentations and more on the way).

What I'm really struggling to find is clinical experience. I decided medical school was the path for me in January 2020 after a lot of reflection, and interviewing physicians. I was planning on gaining more clinical experience to assure myself and adcoms that I was serious about this career pivot but the pandemic hit.

Clinical Experience:
I've been able to get some in-home hospice volunteering (30 hrs), lots of contact tracing (+150 hrs but it seems like that may not count as clinical?), and have done informational interviews with physicians on a bi-weekly basis. I was hoping to find a scribing position for 1/day week as I can't really sacrifice more than that or else risk delaying my PhD defense but many of these scribing companies require the 2/day week commitment.

Nonclinical Experience:
I also have non-clinical volunteering from before Jan 2020 and after with some pandemic-relevant positions (sewing masks, volunteering at vaccination clinic - 150+ hrs).

Shadowing:
Shadowing doesn't really seem to be an option - all the physicians I've interviewed work at hospitals, centers that aren't allowing it. Maybe it'll open up between now and June and I can get 50+ hours but that's very dependent on local regulations. I've done virtual shadowing too but again seems unlikely adcoms will count it.

Starting to wonder if I should push back my application to the following cycle given my lack of clinical experience. Everything else in my app is in a good place but I don't know how I'll look compared to other applicants especially those who were able to get clinical experience pre-pandemic.

Any advice appreciated!
The good news is that your stats are strong. That is absolutely the hardest piece to fix, and not having a problem there puts you in a good position. You also are going to be very unique given your engineering PhD background. Nothing is a guarantee, but I suspect if you apply broadly, you are more likely than not to get an acceptance just because you're going to stand out from the cookie-cutter pre-meds applying.

That said, if you were to delay by a year, your app would unquestionably be even stronger. If you spend a year getting clinical experience, your chances of acceptance would probably be pretty close to 100%, and you would be competitive at all schools.

So you're in a good spot. If you want to roll the dice this year I think that would be fine, and if you wait a year you will be in an even stronger position.
 
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TheBoneDoctah

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Awesome chance of acceptance with a year to boost your clinical experiences, non clinical volunteering helping people less fortunate, and getting some volunteer hours. Take the time. Don’t rush this.
 

TheBoneDoctah

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Thank you all for your insight and advice. Just to confirm (I apologize I think this is a repeat question on the forums but just want to get confirmation) - contact tracing would not count as clinical given that I am not physically interacting with a patient (close enough to smell)? I call all close contacts of a positive test case to do a symptom check, walk them through the quarantine process, and see if our county can help with any resources (food etc.) that're needed.
I would say no.
 

Mr.Smile12

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Re: contact tracing. That's an interesting one. I wouldn't call it clinical because you're really doing a lot of epidemiological work under the public health realm. You may work with physicians but you won't really get a sense of the doctor-patient relationship.

In contrast, virtual crisis counselors (phone or text) could be considered clinical since you need specific training from a health professional and are directly engaging with people in need. You are not supervised by a physician usually (which may be an issue for some people who classify "clinical" experiences), but you are making an impact on someone's life in a way contact tracers don't.

In my opinion, I would put contact tracing under community service/volunteering, even if you get paid for doing it.
 
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