Letters of Rec

matlas

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I know letters of rec are very important, but I was wondering if there is a difference between the way they are handled in MD/PhD programs vs MD programs. For MSTP, how much weight do LORs from professors carry relative to LORs from PIs? Is it much less than for regular MD apps? Sorry, I'm sure this has been asked before but wasn't able to find a thread.
 

CrossCurrent

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LOR from PI arehugely important (obviously)- they're the best reflection of how proficient you are in the lab and your level of scientific thinking. LOR from professors more or less show how you think about science/other disciplines, are general character evaluations (PI letters are too, just in a different context) and at times a rehashing of your resume.
But all in all things really depend on the content of the actual letter. I've had things brought up in interviews about a LOR from a professor not in the sciences about a class assignment (multiple times)- so they count but PI letters are much more influential.
 

AGG

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I 100% agree with what CrossCurrent has said, as letters from a PI are seen as much more important for an MD-PhD application than are letters from a professor (though quality non-PI and non-science letters can also be very helpful and important).

One other thing to remember is that LORs for an MD-PhD applicant are also written differently than those for an MD applicant because the letter writer must speak to the applicant's potential as a scientist as well as his/her potential as a clinician. In that regard, it is very important to help guide the content of your letters by speaking with your letter writers beforehand to ensure that both sides are sufficiently addressed.
 
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Maebea

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So, in that case, do non-PI letters carry less weight for MD-PhD relative to those same letters for MD applicants?

Yes. To be honest, I do not read all the letters I receive. I go straight to the PI letters and read them closely. In 90% of the cases, these letters tell me all I need to know, and if I my opinion is favorable, I just skim the other letters to make sure there is nothing toxic there. For the 10% that leave me on the fence, I read the other letters closely. If they are outstanding, the application goes forward; if not, it is put in the "Do Not Interview" stack.

An exception to this practice is the premed committee letter from certain schools. Some schools (but not all) provide letters that can be helpful. I will pay attention to those letters, but they do not carry as much weight as the PI letters.
 
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