MD/PhD Guidance—the best way to begin in college and throughout? (High-Schooler)

Nov 24, 2020
6
0
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  1. Pre-Medical
  2. Medical Student
  3. MD/PhD Student
Hello Everyone!

Currently I am a high school senior preparing to enter college as a Biomedical Engineer major. As far as starting off in college, I wish to know some ways to best prepare for the MCAT and some collegiate extracurriculars that are suitable for my benefit in engaged learning and for medical school applications. I understand that the BME major is “rigorous” and “time-consuming”, as undergrads have warned me, but will this course load take away from my time to gain expansive clinical hours and volunteering? I hope to someday be a physician-scientist with research oriented in genetic medicine (specifically cancer genetics), and, as a lost high schooler, I wish to know of any experiences that can be shared or any advice that can be given as I prepare for this valuable journey ahead of me. : )

For now:
- I’m enrolled in a “HEAL” Clinical Shadowing program/course (thankfully it was free) to gain some experience.
- Unfortunately, I’ve yet to conduct any form of research or publish any papers (should I ask a postdoc over summer??)
- I hope to get accepted into Duke U. (but that’s a “reach” school) or Tulane U., U. of Miami, West Virginia U. (in-state), Rutgers U., Boston U., Vanderbilt U., UChicago (also a “reach”), U. of Southern California, and/or Case Western Reserve U.
- I’ve yet to take an SAT (closures keep taking the opportunity away) and my GPA is 3.82 unweighted and 4.61 weighted (AP, Dual Credit, Honors)
- courses now include: Environmental, Biology, Calculus, Physics, Government, Comp. Sci., and Literature (all AP, all A’s [perhaps a little to much])
- most HS extracurricular plans were terminated after COVID-19 : (

Any advice regarding the preceding would be very much appreciated!!
 
Apr 4, 2019
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  2. Psychology Student
Tbh, you could probably afford to relax a little and enjoy graduating high school and entering college before starting to worry about med school lmaoo. I'm sure many others have said this, but your interests WILL change in college, and you may find yourself not wanting to pursue medicine anymore, so I feel it's still a little early for you to start planning every detail out. In terms of your major, is BME something you love and possibly something you see a career in should you turn away from med? Because if not, you should choose something else, especially because its's a rigorous time consuming major. Do you really want to be putting in 40-50 hours a week into something you hate? In terms of extracurriculars, scribing is always a good idea. It's really fun and a great way to know if you'd actually enjoy being a physician or not.
 
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Med Ed

5+ Year Member
Sep 13, 2015
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Hello Everyone!

Currently I am a high school senior preparing to enter college as a Biomedical Engineer major. As far as starting off in college, I wish to know some ways to best prepare for the MCAT and some collegiate extracurriculars that are suitable for my benefit in engaged learning and for medical school applications. I understand that the BME major is “rigorous” and “time-consuming”, as undergrads have warned me, but will this course load take away from my time to gain expansive clinical hours and volunteering? I hope to someday be a physician-scientist with research oriented in genetic medicine (specifically cancer genetics), and, as a lost high schooler, I wish to know of any experiences that can be shared or any advice that can be given as I prepare for this valuable journey ahead of me. : )

For now:
- I’m enrolled in a “HEAL” Clinical Shadowing program/course (thankfully it was free) to gain some experience.
- Unfortunately, I’ve yet to conduct any form of research or publish any papers (should I ask a postdoc over summer??)
- I hope to get accepted into Duke U. (but that’s a “reach” school) or Tulane U., U. of Miami, West Virginia U. (in-state), Rutgers U., Boston U., Vanderbilt U., UChicago (also a “reach”), U. of Southern California, and/or Case Western Reserve U.
- I’ve yet to take an SAT (closures keep taking the opportunity away) and my GPA is 3.82 unweighted and 4.61 weighted (AP, Dual Credit, Honors)
- courses now include: Environmental, Biology, Calculus, Physics, Government, Comp. Sci., and Literature (all AP, all A’s [perhaps a little to much])
- most HS extracurricular plans were terminated after COVID-19 : (

Any advice regarding the preceding would be very much appreciated!!

Why BME?
 
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Nov 24, 2020
6
0
Status
  1. Pre-Medical
  2. Medical Student
  3. MD/PhD Student
Because I feel that I’m a logical thinker, I feel that BME, although more rigorous, would make the medical content more “intuitive” rather than memory based. If I were to solely major in biology or chemistry (more so biology), a lot of the criteria is memory based and can be difficult to retain. In essence, because BME is integrated with a foundation of physics and calculus (which seem like core prerequisites), I believe the path would be easier in the long-run.
(Okay I really don’t know anymore, I’m just lost high-schooler looking for guidance through pre-med : / )
 
Nov 24, 2020
6
0
Status
  1. Pre-Medical
  2. Medical Student
  3. MD/PhD Student
Tbh, you could probably afford to relax a little and enjoy graduating high school and entering college before starting to worry about med school lmaoo. I'm sure many others have said this, but your interests WILL change in college, and you may find yourself not wanting to pursue medicine anymore, so I feel it's still a little early for you to start planning every detail out. In terms of your major, is BME something you love and possibly something you see a career in should you turn away from med? Because if not, you should choose something else, especially because its's a rigorous time consuming major. Do you really want to be putting in 40-50 hours a week into something you hate? In terms of extracurriculars, scribing is always a good idea. It's really fun and a great way to know if you'd actually enjoy being a physician or not.
I am like CERTAIN that the medical journey is something I wish to pursue; honestly, the field of medical research seems quite rewarding as it requires a constantly curious mind (I’m that all over). Also, about your advice—“your interests WILL change in college”—I believe that this is absolutely true, but in my case, I also believe the exploration of new content would better “define” my aspirations rather than “refine” them
 

LizzyM

the evil queen of numbers
15+ Year Member
Mar 7, 2005
24,801
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  1. Academic Administration
Maximize your GPA. If you can do that as a BME great but if not, think about a major that will help you keep a GPA that never falls below 3.6, Keep in mind that many students have a Nike swoop in terms of GPA by year with sophomore year being the poorest. Don't lose heart if your GPA goes down but work to bring it up again and finish strong.

Keep your record clean. Don't lie, cheat or steal. Don't loan your laptop or your lab notes to others if there is any possibility that they will copy your work and pass it off as their own. You could be branded as a cheater even if you didn't do anything wrong! Also steer clear of drugs, including "legal" marijuana and don't get caught engaging in underage drinking and be mindful of the school rules regarding alcohol at school events and on school property. It might not prevent you from getting into med school but getting "written up" for breaking school rules has to be reported in your medical school application and who needs that headache?

Don't over extend yourself freshman year but find something fun and productive to do in your free time and find a way to help people in the community as a volunteer. It doesn't have to be a clinical volunteer position with patients -- just find a way to help others, even if it only averages 1-2 hours per week. If you keep at it over several school years, it will add up.

Plan on becoming involved with research during second year at the latest. If you are interested in genetics, a lab doing work in genetics would be a good fit or anywhere you can acquire research skills. If your goal is a PhD program, talk with an advisor about how to best prepare for such an application. You'll also be applying for MD so you'll need to be taking courses required for medical school, shadowing physicians, and geting some exposure to patients, too.

Do keep in mind that it is possible to be a physician involved in research without a PhD. Some schools get medical students involved in research and even require original research and a thesis to graduate with the MD. Physicians in post-graduate training can acquire additional research skills during residency and fellowship training. It is a long road but watching your grades, keeping your record clean and getting involved in activiies you enjoy will set you on the right path regardless of where your journey takes you.
 
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Nov 24, 2020
6
0
Status
  1. Pre-Medical
  2. Medical Student
  3. MD/PhD Student
Thanks for the great insight and advice!! I’m definitely not a substance abuser, nor a party-er, but more so a “nerd” who's known to devote significant time to a textbook. I also plan to conduct research by the second semester of freshman year or through a summer program (I’m attempting this for the upcoming summer but don’t know if COVID will allow it). I really just want to prepare to be a more “competitive” applicant for a dual-degree MD-PhD program (PSTP’s I think there called). But anyways, thanks for all the wonderful advice!! <3
 

Orims

7+ Year Member
Feb 12, 2013
266
501
Status
  1. Pre-Medical
Because I feel that I’m a logical thinker, I feel that BME, although more rigorous, would make the medical content more “intuitive” rather than memory based. If I were to solely major in biology or chemistry (more so biology), a lot of the criteria is memory based and can be difficult to retain. In essence, because BME is integrated with a foundation of physics and calculus (which seem like core prerequisites), I believe the path would be easier in the long-run.
(Okay I really don’t know anymore, I’m just lost high-schooler looking for guidance through pre-med : / )

Biology and chemistry also require logical thinking. Yes, both Bio and Chem have a foundation that requires LOTS of memorization (and so does medicine, 1st and 2nd year , depending on the med school's curriculum, are LOTS of memorization), however junior/senior and graduate level classes, and research, require LOTS of critical thinking. Be warned, the MCAT will also be LOTS of memorization.

Also, take into account that BME tends to be a relatively new major that differs greatly from school to school. From talking to a couple friends who did BME in undergrad, and now are PhD students, they have all given average to below average reviews about being a BME major. While they enjoyed it, they said that a lot of the classes they needed to take as part of the "engineering" aspect of the major were not ultimately that useful in their research setting. Classes such as advance calculus, calculus based physics (as opposed to algebra based physics most chem and bio majors take), CS (I actually think everyone in STEM should take a CS class), and other engineering classes (electrical, mechanical), were ultimately GPA killers and induced more stress than they were worth. Of course, if you ultimately do research related to biophysics, bio mechanics, genomics (if your BME program emphasizes CS classes), or any sort of computational biology, then BME can be a good choice. Take into account that these research routes can also be done by some one with a bio/chem/biochem/mol bio major. Ultimately, your choice of major will affect your GPA more than anything else in your application. If you really love BME and the program that is offered by the school you ultimately enroll in, then by all means choose that major!

Finally, and this is something I recommend to undergrads who are interested in doing research, take some time in the beginning to adjust to college, make friends, and get your studying habits ironed out. After that, start reaching out to professors about undergraduate research opportunities in their lab. The earlier you start being involved in research the better. If you find a lab you enjoy right away, then great! If not, it is perfectly fine to find another lab in which you enjoy the research and the people in lab. Staying in a lab for a long time will help you develop a project you can have an actual contribution in as opposed to being a pipette minion for a graduate student or postdoc. This will also help you obtain a great letter of recommendation, of which you will need quite a few for med school applications, that will support you as a junior scientist. As someone who has helped review graduate student applications for our program, reviewers look out for candidates that have few devoted and longitudinal research experiences as opposed to those that jumped from lab to lab every year or semester.

Hope this helps a bit!
 
Nov 24, 2020
6
0
Status
  1. Pre-Medical
  2. Medical Student
  3. MD/PhD Student
Biology and chemistry also require logical thinking. Yes, both Bio and Chem have a foundation that requires LOTS of memorization (and so does medicine, 1st and 2nd year , depending on the med school's curriculum, are LOTS of memorization), however junior/senior and graduate level classes, and research, require LOTS of critical thinking. Be warned, the MCAT will also be LOTS of memorization.

Also, take into account that BME tends to be a relatively new major that differs greatly from school to school. From talking to a couple friends who did BME in undergrad, and now are PhD students, they have all given average to below average reviews about being a BME major. While they enjoyed it, they said that a lot of the classes they needed to take as part of the "engineering" aspect of the major were not ultimately that useful in their research setting. Classes such as advance calculus, calculus based physics (as opposed to algebra based physics most chem and bio majors take), CS (I actually think everyone in STEM should take a CS class), and other engineering classes (electrical, mechanical), were ultimately GPA killers and induced more stress than they were worth. Of course, if you ultimately do research related to biophysics, bio mechanics, genomics (if your BME program emphasizes CS classes), or any sort of computational biology, then BME can be a good choice. Take into account that these research routes can also be done by some one with a bio/chem/biochem/mol bio major. Ultimately, your choice of major will affect your GPA more than anything else in your application. If you really love BME and the program that is offered by the school you ultimately enroll in, then by all means choose that major!

Finally, and this is something I recommend to undergrads who are interested in doing research, take some time in the beginning to adjust to college, make friends, and get your studying habits ironed out. After that, start reaching out to professors about undergraduate research opportunities in their lab. The earlier you start being involved in research the better. If you find a lab you enjoy right away, then great! If not, it is perfectly fine to find another lab in which you enjoy the research and the people in lab. Staying in a lab for a long time will help you develop a project you can have an actual contribution in as opposed to being a pipette minion for a graduate student or postdoc. This will also help you obtain a great letter of recommendation, of which you will need quite a few for med school applications, that will support you as a junior scientist. As someone who has helped review graduate student applications for our program, reviewers look out for candidates that have few devoted and longitudinal research experiences as opposed to those that jumped from lab to lab every year or semester.

Hope this helps a bit!
Wow!! Thanks for all of that! I’ve also understood the curriculum of BME and have decided to “concentrate” my studies toward the tissue engineering aspect of it all rather than the “mechanical, electrical” part of it. Even if I do have to take such a course, I believe it will benefit me. Your comment about research and “being a pipette minion” was helpful and funny lol! Thanks a lot it definitely helped out!!
 

Orims

7+ Year Member
Feb 12, 2013
266
501
Status
  1. Pre-Medical
Wow!! Thanks for all of that! I’ve also understood the curriculum of BME and have decided to “concentrate” my studies toward the tissue engineering aspect of it all rather than the “mechanical, electrical” part of it. Even if I do have to take such a course, I believe it will benefit me. Your comment about research and “being a pipette minion” was helpful and funny lol! Thanks a lot it definitely helped out!!
Happy to help. Also, if that's you on your profile image, I would recommend switching to something else. It is not unheard of for people to be doxed online.
 
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Med Ed

5+ Year Member
Sep 13, 2015
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Because I feel that I’m a logical thinker, I feel that BME, although more rigorous, would make the medical content more “intuitive” rather than memory based. If I were to solely major in biology or chemistry (more so biology), a lot of the criteria is memory based and can be difficult to retain. In essence, because BME is integrated with a foundation of physics and calculus (which seem like core prerequisites), I believe the path would be easier in the long-run.
(Okay I really don’t know anymore, I’m just lost high-schooler looking for guidance through pre-med : / )

As the illustrious @LizzyM noted, your primary goal as a premed is to maximize your GPA. Engineering courses have a strong pull in the opposite direction. The history of medical school admissions is (metaphorically) littered with the bodies of applicants who thought it would be a good idea to undertake the more rigorous course of study in undergrad. You can imagine how they feel when all the "dumb" biology majors with 3.8's head off to medical school each fall.

My anecdotal experience with engineering majors in medical school is that many (most?) of them struggle. They're very smart, but they have a difficult time contending with the inherent ambiguity of biological systems and the general messiness of human behavior. Medical education is also very centered around multiple choice exams, which are quite different than what engineers are accustomed to. Some figure it out, for others it's a persistent challenge. The MCAT will indicate which camp you are in.
 
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LizzyM

the evil queen of numbers
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Thanks for the great insight and advice!! I’m definitely not a substance abuser, nor a party-er, but more so a “nerd” who's known to devote significant time to a textbook. I also plan to conduct research by the second semester of freshman year or through a summer program (I’m attempting this for the upcoming summer but don’t know if COVID will allow it). I really just want to prepare to be a more “competitive” applicant for a dual-degree MD-PhD program (PSTP’s I think there called). But anyways, thanks for all the wonderful advice!! <3

This is good but don't be a loner or so stuck in your textbooks that you don't have a way to let off steam and connect with other people. Medicine is a team endeavor and it helps to have experiences as part of a team and to have frineds to connect with and for mutual support.

I've heard of MD/PhD programs called MSTP -- Medical Scientist Training Program. I think that PSTP is similar but recruits medical students whereas MSTP applicants are pre-meds applying to medical school.
 
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Goro

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My anecdotal experience with engineering majors in medical school is that many (most?) of them struggle. They're very smart, but they have a difficult time contending with the inherent ambiguity of biological systems and the general messiness of human behavior. Medical education is also very centered around multiple choice exams, which are very different than what engineers are accustomed to. Some figure it out, for others it's a persistent challenge. The MCAT will indicate which camp you are in.
Can confirm this observation at my school as well. I remember one fellow who struggled and every time I chatted with him about this, he kept repeating, "but as an engineer, I was trained to think this way..."

He finally shut up when a clinician colleague told him "Your days as an engineer ended when you put on that white coat."
 
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