help for incoming MSTP student

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15+ Year Member
Sep 18, 2003
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Hello everyone -

I will be starting my 1st year of MSTP this coming fall, and I am now at the point of having to decide which school to attend. I know it's early to think about residencies, and everyone tells me my interests may change... but I'd just like to have a little feedback.

I am choosing primarily between University of Rochester and Cornell. My current plans are for a PhD in neuroscience (studying fMRI & autism), and a residency in peds neurology. Without going into too much detail, these are the factors that I am currently weighing:

Cornell boasts numbers that are very tempting: 100% match of graduating MSTPs to 1st choice residency for the past several years. But in terms of my research, there's a huge autism group at UR. There are great PIs at both universities for advisors, there are financial benefits to UR, and cultural/lifestyle benefits to Cornell.

My family members are concerned about my interest in UR, saying that Cornell's match statistic and med school ranking indicate that I would be much more respected/desired after completing my program at Cornell. So USMLE scores aside... what would you advise? Any help would be very much appreciated!

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You might want to consider that peds neuro is not THAT competitive (probably due to the low pay of pediatric neurologists despite a seemingly high demand for them in many areas), and chances are you will not pursue what you do for your thesis research as a career. It's probably best to decide based on the quality of each school's PhD training in your general area (peds neuro) regardless of what specific topic you think you will be doing, and how you fit into each program.

Cornell definitely is a better school on paper, but the editor-in-chief of Neurology is at Rochester.
Wow, that's a great choice to have.
I think the choice boils down to lifestyle: hip, urban, and expensive Manhattan vs swingin' Rochester. Mostly personal factors come into play here: if you're young, single, no family, I'd probably say that Cornell would be pretty fun. Ditto if you are from an urban area to begin with. If you want a bit smaller city atmosphere, less hassle, cheaper cost of living, Rochester ain't bad. Well, I guess there's the weather though . . .
Cornell obviously has the "name recognition" thing, as well as an affiliation with Columbia nowadays.
Rochester however, is a great program. And as good as it is, I think it's still underrated. Don't get carried away with match stats; good students from good programs will get good residencies, and like the other poster noted, Peds Neuro ain't exactly a high-competition field.
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Thank you for your replies. One last question: does the residency match issue change much if I say I might go developmental psychiatry? Thanks again!
Make sure you ask this on the psych board. As far as I know most things in psych are noncompetitive except at top programs.
hey vixey-

i certanily understand your dilemma: it boils down the fact taht there is very little [none?] research in the field of your interest at cornell/rockefellerU or sloan-kettering. it may be of some interest that cornell just installed a huge new magnet and will be recruiting more people in the fMRI/neuropsych field - but the fact is that rochester has more established people.

i went to university of rochester for college - and know the medical school very well. incidently, i also applied md/phd under the assumption that i would be doing a phd in neuroscience - residency in neurology or psych. like most of my classmates, and most people throughout the country - i have changed my mind about my interests after having been exposed to the array of possiblities out there [i probably going to do my thesis in a hepC virology lab at rockefeller]. i would have never believed that when i was applying.

though you might well always maintain a strong interest in the subject you mentioned - you also want to attend a place that is strong across the board and will not close any doors. outside the area you mentioned, i can't think of another area that cornell/rockefeller/sloan kettering cancer instit does not excel in [oh yeah - we don't do engineering here; BME/ChemE].

you may want to e-mail a second year [last name:liston - you can find his contact info on the website]. he did his ugrad research in the same area you are interested in [if you search pubmed, he has a paper in Science about child psychological development] and still maintains those interests. he has worked with the neurology/psych/neurosurg dept to put together an 'autism interest group' that gets great speakers/gets peopel in touch with researchers etc... i don't know where he will do his thesis work, but you should ask him about that.

finally - though i enjoyed my college experience, rochester vs nyc is a world of a difference - and i needed it after 4 years there.

see you in a couple weeks.