CaipirinhaQuinho

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I know it is way too early to talk about this but...

would you go to harvard's hst over another md/phd program (and which one)?

What caliber of mstp would it take to lure you away from the big H?

AND would your decision change if you were offered full funding for the hst?
 

SeventhSon

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yeah as an engineer i'm salivating over that program too. if i got into any of the MSTP progs i applied to, it would probably take full or almost full funding plus a promising possibility of transferring into the MD/PhD there... but who knows, I've only been to 2 of 9 interviews so far, and i dont even have an HST invite yet :(
 

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i would recommend taking HST over many, if not most of the MD PHD programs if you have the financial resources. Essenitally you could do a PhD if you really wanted, but the HST program renders it as such that it'll be unnecessary to do a PhD in order to get into an academic position later on.

Although, in the past i've heard many people cancelling HST interviews simply because they got into really good MDPhD programs. Bear in mind though that the whole PhD thing might wear you out later on. So it's never a sure thing. But once you made the decison don't look back and wonder "what if", cause that really hurts.
 
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dillanger

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I'm not sure if I agree with that...

The HST program at Harvard is certainly ridiculously good, especially with the option of pursuing coursework at MIT with an emphasis on more physical sciences. However, there are a LOT of great MD/PhD programs out there. Sure Harvard is the top of the top, but does academic reputation really mean all that much if you end up going to UPenn or WashU or Hopkins or any of these other great schools? Is it really worth paying $200,000+ to go to Harvard when you could go to another great school for free. Even if you are financially well off there are some sacrifices that would have to be made to pay for that...

Certainly I would say that there is a cutoff and there are a number of MD/PhD programs that I would turn down for the HST at Harvard. But there are at least 8-10 or so MSTP programs that I would also pick over Harvard HST only.

Also I do think there is a difference between a PhD and doing research in a 5th year. I'm sure that you could probably get the same personal research training out of both if you work a little harder in the HST program. But in terms of jobs later down the road, having a PhD does actually make a difference. Politics is becoming a big part of academic research institutions these days (unfortunately) and having a PhD certainly puts you one leg up on someone who does not...I've had at least 2 interviewers mention that to me over the last couple of weeks and it really seemed to ring true
 

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civic57 said:
I know it is way too early to talk about this but...

would you go to harvard's hst over another md/phd program (and which one)?

What caliber of mstp would it take to lure you away from the big H?

AND would your decision change if you were offered full funding for the hst?
It will depend on which md/phd program I am comparing to. If I had a full funding for hst, I certainly would attend.
 

Napoleon4000

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To follow your logic dillanger, that is about politics, well then the answer should be clear, HST-MD. I mean it's Harvard after all. But to agree with you, getting PhD training will be different, I mean you are granted "all the rights and privilege" of a PhD and an MD. This one is not so easy. Harvard MD, or MD/PhD from another school. Mind you if its a top tier school like Cornell, UMich etc, etc, then the answer is both degrees. However, if one has other ambitions, in addition to medicine and research, then Harvard MD is the best choice. This, though requires alot more introspection.
 

huknows00

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Haha Civic it's funny how our conversation at the airport can spur such a lively discussion. I've been thinking about it since, and here are my thoughts:

You basically have to take a guess where on the spectrum of basic research -> full clinician that you will lie 10+ years down the road. If you decide that basic research may not be your ultimate goal, that you will probably fall somewhere in the middle or to the right of that spectrum, then HST will be the best option.

Sure you'd have to pay for it, but with financial aid you probably won't accumulate loans over 100K even if you don't get one cent from your folks. And that can be paid off fairly quickly if you're a future radiation oncologist.

Then again, to pay 100K to get the H on your diploma over another top MSTP program seems really silly.
 

CaipirinhaQuinho

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huknows00 said:
Haha Civic it's funny how our conversation at the airport can spur such a lively discussion. I've been thinking about it since, and here are my thoughts:

You basically have to take a guess where on the spectrum of basic research -> full clinician that you will lie 10+ years down the road. If you decide that basic research may not be your ultimate goal, that you will probably fall somewhere in the middle or to the right of that spectrum, then HST will be the best option.

Sure you'd have to pay for it, but with financial aid you probably won't accumulate loans over 100K even if you don't get one cent from your folks. And that can be paid off fairly quickly if you're a future radiation oncologist.

Then again, to pay 100K to get the H on your diploma over another top MSTP program seems really silly.
Haha, yea I've been thinking about it since we talked. It's good to get everyone's input. good luck with everything and let me know where you end up.
 

solitude

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Yeah I think it depends on what exactly you want to do with your degree(s). A lot of people who get the MD/PhD end up with an appointment in a clinical department, without a basic science lab, but they still do a lot of research that is hard to define as strictly clinical or strictly basic science (i.e. translational but clinical-oriented). In many cases the research they do doesn't really require the PhD at all. So if one sees oneself doing this type of research, then Harvard MD would probably be the way to go. In fact, I would argue that any MD would be the way to go, because why waste 4 years in a basic science lab if one is not going to need it?

On the other hand, if one's ultimate goal is to have his/her own lab, then I think one should do the MD/PhD no matter what. Sure there are MD's that have their own labs, but as people have mentioned they need to do postdocs, convince people that they can go basic science, etc. And it's just my personal opinion, but I would consider and believe that an MD/PhD from a well-respected school is more qualified to run a lab then an HST-MD from Harvard. Once you crack into the top 10 or 15 schools, the name doesn't mean as much as the quality of physician-scientist, in my book.
 

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One thing that you all aren't mentioning is that in the long run nobody is really going to care where you went to med school. Just as nobody cares where you did your undergrad when you apply to residency, nobody will care where you went to med school when you apply to fellowship and beyond. It's all based on the last step. When you go to apply for residency, as long as you went to a top med school (i.e. any MSTP) and did research there (i.e. a PhD or meaningful research), you will get into a top residency, especially true for those residencies that base most of the physician-scientists (IM, peds, path).

Therefore, go where you'll get the best training and be the most comfortable. These two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, but they don't go hand-in-hand ether. If big names make you comfortable or you love the big H for reasons outside the big name, so be it. If you'd really be happy settling for getting an MD-only when you have MSTP acceptances, I would really question your reasons for getting the MD/PhD...
 

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Yeah true... where you went to school matters less and less as your career matures. Just look at all those nobel prize winners who went to state schools.

One piece of advice I heard recently that I think is particularly insightful is that, at this point of our lives, if you're qualified enough to interview at good places and go to a good MSTP, then it's all about yourself and not what other people think anymore. Whatever it is about you that will make you successful is probably already in you, and where you train doesn't matter as much as how you fit into a place and how happy you'll be there.

I think HST is a so attractive because it is like med school heaven for engineers. If other schools had curricula like that I probably would love those too.
 

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civic57 said:
AND would your decision change if you were offered full funding for the hst?
HMS does not give out any merit based scholarships. Anyone know if the rules for HST are different?
 

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Neuronix and the other guy below,

You are probably incorrect:

Chief editor of NEJM: harvard
Deputy Director of NIH: harvard
several institute directors of NIH: harvard
senator/surgeon: harvard

I could go on:
Faculty in top positions here at UCLA: harvard, cornell, stanford

Not to burst your bubble but it does play a factor. Having a harvard MD probably will matter in the long run if you aspire to become director, chief, what ever. Less people will argue about your background. Just my $0.02. It again depends on what one wants to do with their degree. But I do agree witht he comment about having your own lab. My advice is to talk to other people at many levels, and different positions to see if what is really true.
 
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Correlation or causation. Harvard can obviously take their pick of students each year. I think people who want big shot positions like those tend to gravitate towards places like with names like Harvard. I think if any of those people went to another school, they would have still have been very successful. Realistically, it's a minor part of your C.V. It will get looked at, "Oh, he went to Harvard, that's nice..." but certainly not "Wow, he went to Harvard, that's all I need to see."
 

huknows00

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Napoleon4000 said:
Neuronix and the other guy below,

You are probably incorrect:

Chief editor of NEJM: harvard
Deputy Director of NIH: harvard
several institute directors of NIH: harvard
senator/surgeon: harvard

I could go on:
Faculty in top positions here at UCLA: harvard, cornell, stanford

Not to burst your bubble but it does play a factor. Having a harvard MD probably will matter in the long run if you aspire to become director, chief, what ever. Less people will argue about your background. Just my $0.02. It again depends on what one wants to do with their degree. But I do agree witht he comment about having your own lab. My advice is to talk to other people at many levels, and different positions to see if what is really true.
LMAO, dude following your logic getting an MD from the University of Algier is going to help you more in the long run.

Director of the NIH: University of Algier
Thousands of other people you would consider "successful": from schools other than Harvard, Cornell and Stanford

Don't worry about bursting bubbles. I think Neuronix is at what you would consider a "top five" institution, and so far I know I will be going to one too. No one is debating whether the prestige of a school matter, we're just talking about the validity of choosing HST over MSTP here.
 

solitude

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Correlation or causation. Harvard can obviously take their pick of students each year. I think people who want big shot positions like those tend to gravitate towards places like with names like Harvard. I think if any of those people went to another school, they would have still have been very successful. Realistically, it's a minor part of your C.V. It will get looked at, "Oh, he went to Harvard, that's nice..." but certainly not "Wow, he went to Harvard, that's all I need to see."

Very well put.
 

Napoleon4000

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Look,

I'm not saying anything else other than observations. But yes, look where he did his residency, John' Hopkins. Look where he was director prior to coming to NIH: JHU. Yes it matters how good you are, but so does where your degree is from.

Dr. Zerhouni was born in Nedroma, Algeria and came to the United States at age 24, having earned his medical degree at the University of Algiers School of Medicine in 1975. After completing his residency in diagnostic radiology at Johns Hopkins in 1978 as chief resident, he served as assistant professor in 1979 and associate professor in 1985. Between 1981 and 1985 he was in the department of radiology at Eastern Virginia Medical School and its affiliated DePaul Hospital. In 1988, Dr. Zerhouni returned to Johns Hopkins where he was appointed director of the MRI division, and then was appointed full professor in 1992 becoming the chairman of the radiology department in January 1996.

Since 2000, he has been a member of the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine. He served on the National Cancer Institute's Board of Scientific Advisors from 1998-2002. In 1988, he was a consultant to the World Health Organization, and in 1985 he was a consultant to the White House under President Ronald Reagan.

Not only does it matter where you get your degree, but where you get your training. I mean, Zerhouni could've stayed in Algiers but I'm sure he never would've become director of NIH. This is not a war, I'm merely saying that yes it's true what you say but also true what I say. It's a combination of both:

If you went to a school, then you apply for a residency where training is known to be good. I mean people where brand name of jeans for God's sake. This is a moot point. My point is made just by the fact that most people here didn't apply to SUNY Downstate for their MD/PhD training. As I look around, most of us are going to a "brand name" school to get both the training and the "seal of approval." And as I look at NIH funding, News and World, etc, my peers, my mentors, they all say the same thing:
get solid training at a brand name school...get funding...of course you have to have the tenacity and skill, but having a brand name doesn't hurt.

My final advice to the post is really think about what he/she wants to do career wise, and to make a decision based on this. MD/PhD's have a marginally higher chance of attaining funding (which we will all do at one point or another), but having a MD from harvard, and the skill etc, will also get you funding. Below is a list of sorts:

Nobel Laureates:
Richard Axel: Columbia, Hopkins (MD)
Linda B Buck: UW, Columbia (postdoc)
Sydney Brener: S. Africa, Oxford and Cambridge (postdoc)
H. Robert Horvitz: Harvard, MIT
John E Sulston: Cambridge, Salk
Lee Hartwell: CalTech, MIT, UW
Paul Greengard: Hopkins, NIH, Rockerfeller
Eric Kandel: NYU, Harvard, Columbia
Gunter Blobel: Rockerfeller (postdoc)
Luis Ignarro: Columbia, UCLA
Ferid Murad: Case Western
Stan Prusiner: UPENN, UCSF
Edward Lewis: CalTech
Alfred Gilman: Yale
Martin Rodbell: JHU
Phillip Sharp: MIT


NIH Directors:
Zerhouni: Algiers, JHU
Varmus: Harvard, NIH, Sloan-Kettering
Historically NIH Directors:
NYU, UPenn, UVA, Univ. Texas SouthWs, Columbia, Harvard, Michigan,
Duke, Clevelend Cliniic, JHU

Institute Directors:
Texas, MD Anderson, Harvard, Upenn, UChicago,

I could go on, Presidents of Universities, Company CEOs...the list is massive, but the bottom line is of course the same. There are exceptions but for the most part what I said above is what I see. Again, this is all dependent on what one wants to do with their degree. Yes research and medicine but what else????

Anyway, food for thought. And yes I know the other side of the argument which you propose. And yes I do see your point of view that it doesn't really matter. But there is alot of evidence to the contrary. Thanks for your time!
 

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Oh and if its a funding issue, then that's important too.

I mean if the MD/PhD and HST are from Harvard, then the issue is a fiscal one. If its about training I maintain my argument that MD is the way to go especially HST-MD. The whole school is research oriented. If we are talking about MD/PhD from another school, and one has an acceptance from HMS the issue is not an easy one.
 

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On second thought, I now think that if the poster person got into harvard HST and got into any school other than Hopkins MD/PhD that it would be no contest. Got to the HST. Even if you incurr debt, you will be able to pay it off and you will essentially make an investment to study at the best place in the world. Sorry for being so forward. There is reality here which maybe no one wants to admit, but it is real. End paying for your medical education is an investment. So when you get your harvard MD it will be just that, and probably worth a lot more in terms of the connections you will make, the people you will be exposed to (students and faculty) and the doors that will open. :oops:
 

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As a current HST MD/PhD, I am not sure if I would have rejected other MSTP offers (ie WashU) over HST MD. I was thinking about it too when I was waiting for their response. It is an amazing program with great faculty and resources. Since I just started, I cannot tell from personal experience how much the program actually create great leaders vs. choosing people who will. Based on what I've experienced with my classemates, the latter is very significant.

If you are pretty confident in your current research experience (eg a few MAJOR publications under your belt), I guess you won't need need a PhD. Even with that, you might certainly need to do a post doc in the future.

I've never heard of fully-funded HST, but you can cut your debt in half by research assistanceships. I believe most of my classmates have found labs willing to pay them.

Any other questions please feel free to PM me, I'll be as objective as possible ;)
 

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I haven't gotten an interview at Harvard yet (NP/MSTP), but I would like to make a few comments.

I think it is insane for anyone who is interested in research to pick Harvard HST only over MD/PhD from practically any top-40 school, much less places like JHU, Penn, UCSF. I would choose NYU, Mt. Sinai, or Albert Einstein MSTP over Harvard HST any day.

Isn't HST largely a physical sciences model-method approach to medicine? That doesn't really teach you how to do research, does it? A PhD does do that, and what's more, it's a whole other degree and credential. I'm betting that if you want to do research and are HST you would have to put in a couple more years on the side doing research anyway. And consider the cost! Is the big H on your resume (and no PhD) really worth $200k+?

Furthermore, I'm not even sure that HST is all that great for training clinicians. I would think that NP would be better. HST coupled with MSTP is powerful, but by itself, it 1) doesn't train you as a researcher; 2) may not train you as well as a clinician as NP or some other medical school would; 3) is not particularly useful for administration (really, who cares whether you did NP or HST if you want to go into government/politics; an MBA or JD are far more useful).

If you want to do politics or administration, then you don't really need a PhD, and I agree that Harvard would be a big plus. But otherwise, I think it's just a minor plus within medicine.

Now if you care so much about prestige, you should reconsider your real goals in life. Prestige can only carry you so far, and can't give you any real happiness.
 

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In response to Napoleon: I'm not sure what we're arguing about. I do not doubt the fact that going to Harvard/MIT would offer you unparalleled resources and allow you to be inspired by world class faculty and students... blah blah and all the stuff I put on my essay. I didn't mean to rile you up, just wanted to get more experienced ppl's opinions on in what circumstances whould you choose HST over MSTP. And I AM SURE there are circumstances where one is better than the other. btw cool icon, transformers are awsome, especially the early ones :thumbup: .

In response to above: I think what makes a good doctor is experience, not where you take your preclinical classes. HST's rigorous science based curriculum doesn't preclude the students from doing the same rotations or residencies as any other med student. It's just a preference of how you'd to learn medicine and how you like to think about problems.
 

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Huknows00, thanks. I've liked transformers since I was a kid. And I've never let got of optimus, he's still my role model. Anyway, I agree with all the comments here. There are many great places to get your training. I often talk out of my but so I apologize if I offended anyone. :oops:

And I agree to what is really your best method of learning. Coupled with financial incentives one should make the best decision based for them. Take good care! :)
 
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I couldn't foresee myself turning down an MSTP acceptance for HST. In fact, there are several lower-ranked MSTPs I'd choose over Harvard MSTP (NP or HST). I've done research at Harvard, and it's certainly a world-class institution, but I don't think it's unparalleled in what it has to offer, and I don't think it's the best place for everyone. The name on my diploma is not going to ensure my happiness, productivity, or success in the meantime.
 

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mercaptovizadeh said:
I
And consider the cost! Is the big H on your resume (and no PhD) really worth $200k+?
Actually ~50% of that

mercaptovizadeh said:
Furthermore, 2) may not train you as well as a clinician as NP or some other medical school would;
Blasphemy! :eek: But really, the only difference is that we get a more traditional, scientificly rigorous training the first two years. The last two years-the clinical rotations-are exactly the same, and from what I've heard those are what actually matter the most for becoming a clinician.

Even thought the program itself does not teaches you how to do research, ~40% of our lectures are actually (awsome) research presentations. They are not really a big part of the tests, its just a FYI-type of thing. So, even though it has not made me a "better" scientist, it has helped shape my interests a little differently.
 

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Neuronix said:
After cost of living?
I think so, 50% less total debt. THe RA-ships pay a lot, way more than regular graduate school.
 

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My response would be to go to the place most geared toward your goals. HST and any MSTP (including Harvard's) are very different programs. I personally enjoyed having (at UCSF) a PBL component and learning in a case-based way during the first two years of medical school. The word from 3rd year clerkship directors was that students were extremely well-prepared for the clinical clerkships, compared with previous students under the older, more traditional curriculum (which was more basic science-heavy).

Unless there is some compelling reason you wish to attend HST (i.e. you love the curriculum, Boston, someone in Boston, etc), I would say that if you are truly interested in the goal of both running a basic research lab and seeing patients, MD/PhD is the way to go. There are so many advantages (qualification, financial, future funding prospects, experience) to this pathway and at any of the top institutions you will be sacrificing virtually nothing in terms of training, clinical medicine, availability of good research, etc.

Just for fun, I could also point out that the current U.S. Surgeon General, CDC director, and NIMH director are all from UCSF. Clearly, this sort of selective listing has nothing to do with the decision of HST versus MSTP. :)

Good luck to everyone applying this year!
 

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In my hst class of 30, there are only 4 people I know of who did not apply MD/PhD. Almost all of us "md-only" kids gave up very competitive MSTP slots elsewhere. So why did we do it?
I bet a lot of us were lured by the big H and this program that was unique amongst medical schools, and the caliber of the individual we be working with (truly top notch). There are people like myself who realized in the end of the whole process that my motivations for applying to the MD/PhD programs were not the right ones (prestige...bad rationale, financial...even worse rationale). HST turned out to be the perfect non-MSTP alternative for me in that I can pursue research without the extra PhD burden. However, if you know that you want to be a basic science researcher in the biomedical field, you should do a MD/PhD, as HST it is not different enough that it negates the training one receives as a graduate student. You receive far more training as a PhD in science.
Finally, most of you are still applying and haven't started medical school, so you may have very little idea about what medical school is really like (not the story every admission office spins). Let me just say, it is not easy doing "just MD." If you are applying MD/PhD, there is no doubt that you are among the top of you class in undergrad, but just remember that graduate school is a lot tougher, and it does wear you down after awhile (especially HST). I can't even think about applying and doing 4 more year of schooling at this point, so stamina becomes an issue as well.
I have the greatest respect for MD/PhD students, because once you start medical school, you'll realize how much tougher they got it and you got to show respect. Alas, I realized that respect wasn’t all that important to me, and thus it was onto hst :)

Best luck to you all.
 

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Pandora's Box said:
In my hst class of 30, there are only 4 people I know of who did not apply MD/PhD. Almost all of us "md-only" kids gave up very competitive MSTP slots elsewhere. So why did we do it?
I bet a lot of us were lured by the big H and this program that was unique amongst medical schools, and the caliber of the individual we be working with (truly top notch). There are people like myself who realized in the end of the whole process that my motivations for applying to the MD/PhD programs were not the right ones (prestige...bad rationale, financial...even worse rationale). HST turned out to be the perfect non-MSTP alternative for me in that I can pursue research without the extra PhD burden. However, if you know that you want to be a basic science researcher in the biomedical field, you should do a MD/PhD, as HST it is not different enough that it negates the training one receives as a graduate student. You receive far more training as a PhD in science.
Finally, most of you are still applying and haven't started medical school, so you may have very little idea about what medical school is really like (not the story every admission office spins). Let me just say, it is not easy doing "just MD." If you are applying MD/PhD, there is no doubt that you are among the top of you class in undergrad, but just remember that graduate school is a lot tougher, and it does wear you down after awhile (especially HST). I can't even think about applying and doing 4 more year of schooling at this point, so stamina becomes an issue as well.
I have the greatest respect for MD/PhD students, because once you start medical school, you'll realize how much tougher they got it and you got to show respect. Alas, I realized that respect wasn’t all that important to me, and thus it was onto hst :)
Best luck to you all.
Great post! :thumbup:
 

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I was completely turned off by the HST curriculum. Juggling Longitudinal classes that hard is ridiculous, there wer eproblem sets every day, and I don't see how having such a huge amount of rigidly structured time (40 hours of scheduled class or lab/class) could be productive at that magnitude... in my case, I think 20 hours of class per week at the most is ideal. THat panel interview was the only one I've had in this process that I would say went "horrible" and I hardly cared.
 

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Pandora's Box said:
In my hst class of 30, there are only 4 people I know of who did not apply MD/PhD. Almost all of us "md-only" kids gave up very competitive MSTP slots elsewhere. So why did we do it?
I bet a lot of us were lured by the big H and this program that was unique amongst medical schools, and the caliber of the individual we be working with (truly top notch). There are people like myself who realized in the end of the whole process that my motivations for applying to the MD/PhD programs were not the right ones (prestige...bad rationale, financial...even worse rationale). HST turned out to be the perfect non-MSTP alternative for me in that I can pursue research without the extra PhD burden. However, if you know that you want to be a basic science researcher in the biomedical field, you should do a MD/PhD, as HST it is not different enough that it negates the training one receives as a graduate student. You receive far more training as a PhD in science.
Finally, most of you are still applying and haven't started medical school, so you may have very little idea about what medical school is really like (not the story every admission office spins). Let me just say, it is not easy doing "just MD." If you are applying MD/PhD, there is no doubt that you are among the top of you class in undergrad, but just remember that graduate school is a lot tougher, and it does wear you down after awhile (especially HST). I can't even think about applying and doing 4 more year of schooling at this point, so stamina becomes an issue as well.
I have the greatest respect for MD/PhD students, because once you start medical school, you'll realize how much tougher they got it and you got to show respect. Alas, I realized that respect wasn’t all that important to me, and thus it was onto hst :)

Best luck to you all.
I think this is probably the most objective and insightful crack at this age old question that plagues many mudphud hopefuls every year. Thank you!

I apologize for bringing this old topic up again, but I really need some help in making a choice. I'm really grateful to be accepted at some of my top choice MSTP programs, but last week I received the HST nod and waitlist for MSTP funding, which threw my decision process into a expected chaos. After elminating some choices based on research, med school, and location, I'm left with a decision between Columbia MSTP and Harvard HST.

I'm interested in neuro so Columbia is awsome, but I am also engineering oriented so HST is one-of-a-kind. After serious thinking, I am not certain that I want to have a BASIC research career for the rest of my life, like working with electrophysiology or animal models and such. I'm am curious about fundamental problems, but I can forsee that interest grow into boredom when the research is tedious and unfruitful for a long time. On the other hand, I can forsee myself being actively involved in translational or applied research and collaborating with basic researchers to bring discovery from bench to bed side. Does that make me a better candidate for the HST program? What exactly are the goals of the HST program, it seems like you'd get a more clinically oriented training with the NP and better scientific training with MSTP, why work your ass off and be in debt to do HST then?

One comforting that that may swing me toward HST is the open possibility of still pursuing a PhD. What exactly are the funding mechanisms for that? My impression is that second cycle funding starts paying for MS II? then I've heard ppl mention that HST students who choose to do a PhD without MSTP funding can usually get their PhD AND the last two years of med school funded from althernative sources? Can a current HST students please explain?

Please be brutally honest in evaluating my reasonings... I want to make a decision and not regret it later. Thanks in advance...
 
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Vader

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huknows00 said:
I think this is probably the most objective and insightful crack at this age old question that plaugues many mudphud hopefuls every year. Thank you!

I apologize to bring this old topic up again, but I really need some help in making a choice. I'm really grateful to be accepted at some of my top choice MSTP programs, but last week I received the HST nod and waitlist for MSTP funding, which threw my decision process into a expected chaos. After elminating some choices based on research, med school, and location, I'm left with a decision between Columbia MSTP and Harvard HST.

I'm interested in neuro so Columbia is awsome, but I am also engineering oriented so HST is one-of-a-kind. After serious thinking, I am not certain that I want to have a BASIC research career for the rest of my life, like working with electrophysiology or animal models and such. I'm am curious about fundamental problems, but I can forsee that interest grow into boredom when the research is tedious and unfruitful for a long time. On the other hand, I can forsee myself being actively involved in translational or applied research and collaborating with basic researchers to bring discovery from bench to bed side. Does that make me a better candidate for the HST program? What exactly are the goals of the HST program, it seems like you'd get a more clinically oriented training with the NP and better scientific training with MSTP, why work your ass off and be in debt to do HST then?

One comforting that that may swing me toward HST is the open possibility of still pursuing a PhD. What exactly are the funding mechanisms for that? My impression is that second cycle funding starts paying for MS II? then I've heard ppl mention that HST students who choose to do a PhD without MSTP funding can usually get their PhD AND the last two years of med school funded from althernative sources? Can a current HST students please explain?

Please be brutally honest in evaluating my reasonings... I want to make a decision and not regret it later. Thanks in advance...
Yes... give yourself to the dark side... ;)
 

beetlerum

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Blue Planet

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Vader said:
My response would be to go to the place most geared toward your goals. HST and any MSTP (including Harvard's) are very different programs. I personally enjoyed having (at UCSF) a PBL component and learning in a case-based way during the first two years of medical school. The word from 3rd year clerkship directors was that students were extremely well-prepared for the clinical clerkships, compared with previous students under the older, more traditional curriculum (which was more basic science-heavy).

Unless there is some compelling reason you wish to attend HST (i.e. you love the curriculum, Boston, someone in Boston, etc), I would say that if you are truly interested in the goal of both running a basic research lab and seeing patients, MD/PhD is the way to go. There are so many advantages (qualification, financial, future funding prospects, experience) to this pathway and at any of the top institutions you will be sacrificing virtually nothing in terms of training, clinical medicine, availability of good research, etc.

Just for fun, I could also point out that the current U.S. Surgeon General, CDC director, and NIMH director are all from UCSF. Clearly, this sort of selective listing has nothing to do with the decision of HST versus MSTP. :)

Good luck to everyone applying this year!

Actually, the director of the CDC is from Case Western, not from UCSF.
 

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Blue Planet said:
Actually, the director of the CDC is from Case Western, not from UCSF.
For medical school, you are right. For internship, residency, fellowship and faculty appointment--those were UCSF. ;)
 

kobester

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Pandora's Box said:
In my hst class of 30, there are only 4 people I know of who did not apply MD/PhD. Almost all of us "md-only" kids gave up very competitive MSTP slots elsewhere. So why did we do it?
I bet a lot of us were lured by the big H and this program that was unique amongst medical schools, and the caliber of the individual we be working with (truly top notch). There are people like myself who realized in the end of the whole process that my motivations for applying to the MD/PhD programs were not the right ones (prestige...bad rationale, financial...even worse rationale). HST turned out to be the perfect non-MSTP alternative for me in that I can pursue research without the extra PhD burden. However, if you know that you want to be a basic science researcher in the biomedical field, you should do a MD/PhD, as HST it is not different enough that it negates the training one receives as a graduate student. You receive far more training as a PhD in science.
Finally, most of you are still applying and haven't started medical school, so you may have very little idea about what medical school is really like (not the story every admission office spins). Let me just say, it is not easy doing "just MD." If you are applying MD/PhD, there is no doubt that you are among the top of you class in undergrad, but just remember that graduate school is a lot tougher, and it does wear you down after awhile (especially HST). I can't even think about applying and doing 4 more year of schooling at this point, so stamina becomes an issue as well.
I have the greatest respect for MD/PhD students, because once you start medical school, you'll realize how much tougher they got it and you got to show respect. Alas, I realized that respect wasn’t all that important to me, and thus it was onto hst :)

Best luck to you all.

A great post.

I'm just finishing an MSTP, and I have the utmost respect for the big H. It is clearly an amazing place both for its top clinical training and its top research. In a league of its own.

But some people who are deciding on this just don't get it. There are multiple HST vs MSTP threads. A PhD is about basic science training. It's learning by years of experience in a lab. There are Harvard caliber mentors at just about any top MSTP program anywhere. Maybe not the sheer volume of them that exist at Harvard, but they are around. And if you're not spending the time in the lab doing the basic research of a PhD, then how much do they mean anyways?

If you want a basic research career, all that will matter is how you publish. There are failed Harvard trained academics all over the country. If you can't publish, you can't get grants, no matter where you went to school. And nobody will care where whether you did HST or MSTP. But the MSTP naturally trains you better in basic science because you've put forth the time to learn to function independently as a scientist.

I don't know what to say if your end goal is to be surgeon general or the editor of NEJM. As far as I'm concerned, those aren't positions based on acceling as a basic scientist. If you want to be the type of person who strives for publications in Nature, or even to cure cancer, its a no brainer- MSTP.

It all depends on your career goals. I think that both HST and MSTP are worthy paths to take, but completely different.
 

sdaagx

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To reopen this, I'm deciding between Hopkins MSTP w/ funding vs. HST w/o funding, w/ the option of applying second cycle. Can anyone of the experienced lay out the pluses and minuses?
 

biotsrama

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To reopen this, I'm deciding between Hopkins MSTP w/ funding vs. HST w/o funding, w/ the option of applying second cycle. Can anyone of the experienced lay out the pluses and minuses?
I may be in a similar situation actually. I got Hopkins MSTP funding, and today I found out I got into HST, but I haven't heard from the Harvard MD-PhD program at all. Were you waitlisted for MD-PhD funding, and if so, how did you find out?
 

sdaagx

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Well, the people who were accepted with funding to MSTP got phone calls last week (see the harvard mstp SDN thread), so it is either a waitlist or a rejection. The waitlist, as I remember hearing, hardly moves, so there is little chance.
 

biotsrama

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Yeah, I saw the thing with the phone calls. Still, there's some chance with the waitlist, so I'm not giving up hope yet. Last year 1-2 accepted to Harvard's MD-PhD went elsewhere (I happened to stay with one of them when I interviewed at UCSF). Regardless, we have good options to choose from--"you can't go wrong."
 

sdaagx

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interestingly enough, my host at UCSF also rejected HST MSTP last year (he's a first year at UCSF now) initials are EHR, for the sake of privacy.
 

sdaagx

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send me a PM if you're interested in chatting about the decision directly.
 

biotsrama

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:) Hehe, yeah, he's the one

Haven't thought much about it at this point, but I think I'm leaning more towards MSTP than HST. For MSTP it'll come down to a choice between Hopkins and UCSF, although I'm also attending the WashU revisit (although lower chance of going there), and have yet to hear back from UPenn, although that may also be a little lower ranked for me than UCSF or Hopkins. What are your thoughts about the whole decision process?
 

sdaagx

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For me it's pretty much Hopkins vs. HST, though I too am leaning towards accepting the MSTP. I was really impressed by Hopkins' program overall, moreso than UCSF (and certainly Stanford and UCLA/CalTech), so I'm going with it. I might go for a few of these revisits, but I think Hopkins is at the top right now.
 

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For me it's pretty much Hopkins vs. HST, though I too am leaning towards accepting the MSTP. I was really impressed by Hopkins' program overall, moreso than UCSF (and certainly Stanford and UCLA/CalTech), so I'm going with it. I might go for a few of these revisits, but I think Hopkins is at the top right now.
hahaha... man, these responses are killing me.

I remember back in the day when I was interviewing I was going through this very thing- Would I take MSTP over HST??? I really thought about this... before my Harvard interview. Harvard is superawesome, and everything else pales in comparison.

Haha... Now, 7 years later, I see how stupid I sounded. If you want to do research in your future career, take the MSTP and the funding.

In truth, there are other institutions out there that are every bit as good as the "big H". When it comes to research in any one particular field, there are many institutions that are BETTER than Harvard. That's just reality. Not to mention other factors.... Such as Harvard's reputation for competition rather than collaboration amongst its faculty, Location, cost, etc..
 

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I think Harvard will always be "Big H" until one has gone and experienced it for oneself.
Exactly. I agree with you and gbwillner. My good friend in the program turned down Harvard's MD/PhD to come here. Reason? Penn was stronger in his area of research (structural biology) than Harvard. He got a really bad vibe from the grad school at Harvard in his area. They basically told him he'd have to apply separately for grad school and that it certainly wouldn't be guaranteed there'd be a spot in what he wanted to do.

He also didn't like the experience when he interviewed. Part of this is they kept him around for an extra day because he HAD TO interview with this one guy who couldn't meet with him on the interview days.

Though back to the topic at hand, my opinion is still that if you would really choose HST or CCLCM over MSTP, you weren't interested enough in MSTP to begin with. There's a big difference between a little extra research and a PhD.
 

mercaptovizadeh

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I think when you are dealing with something as absurd as turning down JHU or UCSF MSTP for Harvard HST (or even NP?) only, you clearly have someone whose overriding concern is prestige. There is just no rational justification for someone interested in research to choose an unfunded Harvard MD over a fully-funded MD/PhD at ANY top 30-40 school, much less places like JHU or UCSF. Career goals point to the latter; financial considerations point to the latter. The only reasonable justification I could see for this choice would be strong location considerations (family or spouse in Boston) but if such considerations were so strong, one would think the choice would come down to BU or Tufts MD/PhD vs. Harvard HST.

The one plus of the Harvard HST vs. MD/PhD thing is that it acts as a vortex that drags away the less-interested-in-MD/PhD people and opens up waitlist slots at excellent MD/PhD programs for people who are actually interested in the double degree.
 
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