Medical Having done Research at another Institution - Does it Look Bad?

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lord999

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This is probably over-thinking it, but I was wondering how medical schools view you having done research at a school that isn't their own home institution? E.g. if you did a selective research fellowship at HMS / Stanford / JHU / etc. , would similar caliber schools outside of that school assume you would turn down their school if you were in the (fortunate) position to be selecting among multiple offers, and hence be more likely to turn you down?

If this scenario is a possibility, what is the best way to navigate secondaries so as to seem as neutral as possible / convey that you truly want to go to their school in the app? The school I did a research fellowship (away from my home institution) is not my top choice, so I don't want other schools I'm applying to to assume that if I got into that place, then I would 100% go.

Thanks!
It depends, if you actually said something like that in an interview, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy from my end and I would think that you were a bit too calculating to take a risk on you for harboring those thoughts. However, I'll also say that there's real bad blood between Whitehead (Harvard) and Bio-X (Stanford) right now such that I could see that scenario play out if you happen to have been in certain labs.

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You're overthinking it. Most medical school screeners and interviewers have (or should have) a good idea about academic life and medical training that involves bouncing around one to another institution. There is some low-level of rivalry but in my experience it's between research rivals in the same niche field. It's good in a way, but most of the time they know each other really well and have exchanged faculty and trainees over the years. The only people who I think impart institutional rivalries are administrators who are more concerned about rankings and not so much about the nuances of research collegiality. I'm certain that goes the same way among residency programs and medical schools.

It happens all the time with MSTP and MD/PhD interviews. They all talk to each other and meet each other at least annually (students, faculty, administrators). They're in friendly competition but they know they will look at you as a future research/clinical hire down the line. The best candidates get offers from multiple MSTP programs who have to navigate your question. In the end, it's the best fit for you right now, and now is not forever.
 
As a follow-up question, in a secondary would it be risky / unwise to list names of certain professors you would be working with (especially in schools that ask "why us" or research-focused essays)? It seems like a double-edged sword, in that you want to show you've thoroughly researched the school and its opportunities, but at the same time don't want to run the risk of having a reader run into a name they're not as fond of.

Also, if you've talked to particular students from that school about specific aspects, is it fine to just say "I've spoken to a previous M2 and have learned X, Y about this school'?

Thanks!

My general recommendation is to find a book called "Getting What You Came For" and reading the first two chapters. Yes, it's fine, but there's a bit of complicated etiquette about it that would take too long to list all the nuances where the book does get in-depth about that (and I have found it to be sound advice personally and what I recommend others when dealing with this). In terms of "not-fond", that's actually something that you'll have to piece out.

I'm a bit more pessimistic than most as I've had to play mediator to some of the more petty disputes (not just because of professional rivalry) between faculty on scientific review committees and editing journals. Scientists express the gamut of humanity, and their successes are completely independent of their character. From running the adult day-care center one too many times as administrator, my general advice is if you do manage to piss off some faculty member by just name dropping, that relationship was probably not meant to be, because it'll come out eventually, and since you have to have a long-term relationship, you want to know these things up front. This is very different advice than I tell people when they go for R01 or R32's, where you write of your relationships like resumes, completely tailored if necessary to even slight hints of conflict, because what actually gets funded isn't necessarily the most innovative projects, but the least controversial among the reviewers (as in, if you provoke a strong enough negative reaction from a reviewer, I've seen that doom more good, innovative, but high-risk projects than quotidian yet another X proposals). And proposals are usually one-off affairs, no continuing relationship necessary.

Sorry for the mixed message, but it is as you suspect. It's a matter of your character and values on how you view those manners as risks.
 
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