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MrLivingston

Hi all,

I am a 4th year economics major at a large state university (ranked ~ 50 on usnwr), and after being told my whole life that I need to go to law school, I have decided over the last year or so that medical research is really where I belong. Can you imagine a family that would be upset to hear that? :laugh: (meet mine)

Stats:
-High School GPA: ~4.0 (weighted with APs and Honors)
-SATs: 1340
-University GPA: 3.85
-Good extra curricular: Section editor of student newspaper, misc others
-Good job experience (though not relevant to medicine): Two full-semester internships at large firms
-Medical withdrawal (4 classes) freshman year, and a number of other W's (this is the largest blemish on my record by far, but I think not terrible when put in context/explained)
-No GRE or other test scores
-No really strong rec. letters (working on this)

So here is my question: Is a postbacc really the route for me to break into medical research? Obviously the emphasis of these programs is on medical/professional school placement, but I see almost nothing about PhD or MD/PhD placement. I am chiefly interested in research, which I understand I could accomplish with an MD, but I would really prefer to do an MD/PhD (dreaming?) or standalone PhD.

As far as the pbpm programs I'm interested in, I am looking at Johns Hopkins and a few others, but for a number of reasons I would really prefer Columbia. Any thouhgts on:

-Postbacc programs for research-focused students (in general)

-Chances of admission to Columbia pbpm
^Should I take GRE?

-Chances of transition from pbpm to a MD/PhD (possibly MSTP funded)
^Specifically Columbia?

I know some of these questions are pretty specific to MD/PhD and may belong in that thread, but I thought I'd start here. Thanks so much! (PS - Sorry about length)
 
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NewmansOwn

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Columbia postbac isn't all that choosy; you can get admitted there, no problem.

Your chances of getting into Columbia P&S MSTP without a science degree or having actually done any medical research? -17%. That's right. Your chances are so non-existent as to, in fact, be negative.
 

DrMidlife

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MrLivingston

Thanks for the helpful (if discouraging) advice. I was thinking Columbia for the very reason you stated (not so choosy) and that it would immediately expose me to research opportunities at a MSTP school. Would a very strong science GPA/MCAT and two to three years of substantial research/lab time really not put me on a near equal footing with other MD/PhD candidates?

Also, the Mt. Sinai program looks interesting, but would it add 2+ years to an already long journey? Or would the coursework, described below, substitute for/count against the required two years grad work in an MD/PhD program?
"First-year PM track students take courses along with first-year PhD and MD/PhD students in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, as well as courses in biostatistics and methods focusing on basic techniques essential to contemporary biomedical research. After successful completion of these introductory courses, students complete advanced courses in the area of their research interest."
Either way, I'd definitely consider this route if it would maximize my chances of admission to an MD/PhD program.

Thanks again
 
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DrMidlife

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To get an MSTP acceptance, you're competing at a level that can only really be beaten by astronauts, imho, possibly Navy Seals, although I think organic chem and grant writing might make some of them cry. So if it takes you a bunch of years to start an MD/PhD program, maybe that's how it's supposed to be. MSTP means you get out of med school with no debt, by the way, and the country is investing well over a million bucks in your education with a very high expectation that this investment will pay off during your career.

I think you're getting ahead of yourself, regardless. You haven't taken any premed science coursework yet, and you might find it's not to your liking or that you can't pull A's...this is common. You probably haven't done any clinical or hospital volunteering, where you get exposed to the smells and administration and (hopefully) the business of medicine, which you might find repellent, but it's mandatory to get clinical exposure as a premed. It's not clear that you've worked in a lab or shadowed a lab scientist. All of the above are the next things you should do.

Best of luck to you.
 
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MrLivingston

You're right - definitely getting ahead of myself. I'm beginning hospital volunteer work in January and will also seek out a volunteer lab position, but I obviously don't know enough to start planning everything yet. I just wanted to know what kind of limits I could expect coming from a non-science background, and I will optimistically read this as: "few if you're willing to put in the time/effort" (ignoring the -17% chance given by Newman).

And I always wanted to be an astronaut as a child - I think I'll keep that analogy in mind when I need motivation.

I really do appreciate the input as it has grounded me/been generally helpful.

Thanks again
 

robflanker

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I would read Newman's -17% for what it is; and not the 'few' statement you reworded it to be

You have no hope in hell getting into MTSP without any meaningful science in the past.

It's like me wanting to get the lead on broadway having never done any singing or dancing lessons. But hey, do what you need to
 
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MrLivingston

Hi robflanker,

Would that be true after 2 years pbpm and a 2 year grad program (for example the Mt. Sinai program DrMidlife suggested)? This is what I meant by time+effort, though if a MSTP program is still beyond reach after these, then maybe -17% is right.

I am going to start poking around the MD/PhD forums to see if anyone was successful (or even attempted) applying to these programs after doing a non-science undergrad. I appreciate the input
 

NewmansOwn

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There's a woman who did the Bryn Mawr program a few years before me who is now an MD/PhD candidate at Yale, I believe. However, she already had an MS in electrical engineering before Bryn Mawr, so I imagine that was a big boost for her basic science cred. She is also a URM, which gives one a leg up in any sort of medical school admissions.

I'm afraid I can't remember her name, but if you contact the Bryn Mawr postbac program's admissions office and ask for her email address, I'll bet they'd give it to you.

Hi robflanker,

Would that be true after 2 years pbpm and a 2 year grad program (for example the Mt. Sinai program DrMidlife suggested)? This is what I meant by time+effort, though if a MSTP program is still beyond reach after these, then maybe -17% is right.

I am going to start poking around the MD/PhD forums to see if anyone was successful (or even attempted) applying to these programs after doing a non-science undergrad. I appreciate the input
 

DrMidlife

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Look, this "science cred" thing is going too far here. If you have candidate X with a bio degree, candidate X does not have "science cred." If X gets published in a peer-reviewed biosci journal, then X has science cred.

Livingston, change your focus from how long things are going to take to what is going to:
a. get you exposed to medicine
b. get you exposed to medical research
and then think about:
c. getting eligible and competitive for a medical research education

I don't think you understand what "2 year pbpm" means, or how it compares to a generic bio degree, or what alternatives there might be. One alternative might be doing a 2nd bachelors in bio or something more interesting (micro/immuno/physio/biochem/genetics/etc), which might take 2 years or more, and set you up to have research opportunities during or after your degree. Another alternative might be doing a one year structured postbac that gets the prereqs done, which I would argue is the "science cred" equivalent of a bio degree, after which you can look into researchy grad work.

I also think you should stop using the postbac forum on SDN as a source of career investigation and planning, because we don't really do researchy-MSTP here. I know my info because my housemate for years started MSTP at age 32 at Stanford about 8 years ago. And now I'm out of info. Go find a medical researcher and start asking him/her questions.

Best of luck to you.
 
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MrLivingston

Best advice yet. Thanks again everyone for the insight