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Oxford Master's before Medical School

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sunshining72

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So I recently received some good news about having been accept to Oxford for a master's in social policy, but the only thing holding me back is the cost, which I estimate to be around $40k in loans when I already have loans from undergrad. Some background about me is that I currently attend an ivy school with a 3.8-3.9 GPA (have not taken MCAT yet) with 1 pub, 1 honors thesis, and significant volunteer/clinical/teaching experience. I don't necessarily need this master's to boost my GPA (not that it would count anyways) nor to bolster my academic credentials or have some more time to complete pre-med requirements. However, I desperately want to go because it fits so, so well with how I wish to practice medicine in the future. I am taking two gap years, but my other options of becoming a research assistant just seem so lackluster in comparison.

I want to be a doctor, but my time in the clinic has shown me that we should have a responsibility over our patients not just when they come in for treatment but also consider the reasons why they got sick in the first place and what other difficulties they are dealing with in their lives outside of sickness. I care about medical treatment, but beyond that, I am fiercely passionate about issues related to social determinants of health, which is why I want to be a doctor who also works in health policy. Yes, I can probably learn about policy on my own time or get an internship. But beyond getting an education at a world-class institution, I will be exposed to a completely new medical system in the UK as well as have the opportunity to work with the top scholars in social policy to start building a professional network in the policy arena (although probably less useful since they're in the UK; maybe more useful if I want to practice in global health). I think this experience will be invaluable to my future career working as a physician/social scientist who dreams of transforming the way we current deliver and practice medicine in America in order to deliver high-quality and affordable healthcare to all. For some reason, I think a master's degree at Oxford will help me get started on this dream, although there are probably other, less exciting, and less easy ways to do so to get started in tackling health policy.

I realize a lot of the claims of Oxford being a transformative education is a figment of my own imagination. Which is why I turning to a knowledgeable body of other pre-meds to help me decide whether I should take this offer or not. I've outlined a brief of my pros and cons below to get started:

Pros:
-Oxford education...(which might be overrated?)
-...in social policy (which I can easily apply to the field of medicine)
-more research skills and potential to publish in a high-impact journal
-extra life experience and personal growth in a different country
-exposure to the NHS
-build professional and social network
-more time to build my story and how I want to contribute to medicine
-waiting to hear back on Fulbright which will potentially cover the costs for all this (then it'll be a no brainer but fingers desperately crossed)

Cons:
-COST!! I come from a very modest background and parents cannot afford such tuition. UG debt + MSc debt + MD debt = personal bankruptcy
-ADCOMS might question a non-science master's and question my commitment to medicine
-Oxford is overrated; there are other ways of learning aforementioned research skills that does not involve $$$$$

Honestly please please help I'm so conflicted. I feel bad enough towards to parents to have to delay med school for two years (they're immigrants so they don't understand this process) since they were counting on my doctor salary to take care of them. Thanks in advance!!
 

Kumorebi

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Med school is getting more competitive every year. You also miss out on potential salary down the road by spending time to do this Master's. Even with a stellar GPA, acceptance to medical school isn't a guarantee. I would personally try to go straight to medical school and get a MPH instead of going to Oxford.

Then again, if this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you are confident that you will get into medical school after, go for it. Don't forget, however, that you may forget some of your core science material while away and will probably have a harder time taking the MCAT.
 
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sunshining72

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Med school is getting more competitive every year. You also miss out on potential salary down the road by spending time to do this Master's. Even with a stellar GPA, acceptance to medical school isn't a guarantee. I would personally try to go straight to medical school and get a MPH instead of going to Oxford.

Then again, if this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you are confident that you will get into medical school after, go for it. Don't forget, however, that you may forget some of your core science material while away and will probably have a harder time taking the MCAT.


Thank you so much for your input! The point about the MCAT is so valid - I'll probably be taking it at the end of the summer :)
 

Kumorebi

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Thank you so much for your input! The point about the MCAT is so valid - I'll probably be taking it at the end of the summer :)
If you do decide to pursue the Master's, don't forget that for most schools your score will expire in 3 years. 2 years Master's I assume, could sneak in the score if you are attending the Master's program this fall (graduate 2022, apply 2022-2023 cycle). If you are attending next year, it will expire by your medical school application cycle (2023-2024).
 

LizzyM

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You would get all of the same, and a credential that is universally acknowledged, with a Master of Public Health degree. There are a ton of schools that offer the MD and MPH together over 5, or in some cases, 4 years (Tulane and Tufts both offer 4 year MD/MPH degrees). There are also opportunities to obtain this credential during or after residency or fellowship. The argument for waiting would be that policy changes between now and when you actually practice will matter and knowing the landscape and making connections closer to the time you engage as an attending might be beneficial.

You'll also get more out of your education in health policy if you already have some fund of medical knowledge. When talking about policies for screening, for example, it is helpful to know something about the disease being screened for and the acceptability of available

Finally, if you are interested in policy and planning to practice in the US, a program that is more focused on US healthcare and US civics might be more useful to you than the same education with a British focus.
 
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OP, first of all, congratulations!!! That's a really great accomplishment! In regards to your question: I don't think opportunity cost is a consideration for you since you are going to take two gap years regardless. I also wouldn't worry about the MCAT if you're going to take it in the summer; it will be valid at most, if not all schools. Furthermore, if you are taking the comparative social policy course, I know that the whole point of the course is to look at policy in several different OECD countries so I think it would be applicable for US contexts as well rather than just British focused.

I think there really is something to be said about the fact that this program is at Oxford specifically. Keep in mind that the majority of Oxford graduate students are international (I think something like 60%) and they are some of the most brilliant people from around the world. In my opinion, this is a boon and if you take advantage of it, is an opportunity for incredible growth and really unique perspectives. Also consider the fact that there is a specific focus within the course for health inequalities. I think one of the biggest plusses is the faculty and the fact that you would be able to do research with and be mentored by world leaders in this field. It may be worth your while to look through the social sciences division's page and see if there is a group or project that you REALLY want to work with.

All that said, whether it is worth an extra 40k in loans is something only you can answer. Idk how much you already have out in loans but you're right that it could be a significant addition. I'd say if you got the Fulbright then it is definitely worth it, especially if you are taking two gap years regardless.

Something else you should consider is the feasibility of applying and interviewing during the course. Idk if you are doing the MSc or the MPhil but if its the MPhil and the course is 2 years, it may be difficult and ultimately quite expensive to organize travel for interviews. However, I have a few friends who are also doing a degree in the same department at Oxford and were applying to US schools and they told me that schools were generally pretty accommodating about scheduling interviews all around the same time (i.e. during Oxford's winter break so they didn't miss much class) so that they only made one or two trips to the US and knocked out all the interviews at once. So just another factor to keep in mind.

Also, why would this master's not count toward your GPA?

You would get all of the same, and a credential that is universally acknowledged, with a Master of Public Health degree.

How would a Master's from Oxford not be universally acknowledged though?
 
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LizzyM

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A master's done abroad does not count toward GPA through AMCAS.

A masters (MS or MSc) initials after your name is not as recognizable for what it is as an MPH. If someone gets further than your name and degree(s) to your curriculum vita (CV), then they may say, "oh, Oxford", but a MPH from Harvard, Yale or Columbia is going to get a similar reaction if someone digs that deep.
 
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A master's done abroad does not count toward GPA through AMCAS.

A masters (MS or MSc) initials after your name is not as recognizable for what it is as an MPH. If someone gets further than your name and degree(s) to your curriculum vita (CV), then they may say, "oh, Oxford", but a MPH from Harvard, Yale or Columbia is going to get a similar reaction if someone digs that deep.
Do you still have to provide transcripts though?
 

Jeremy Bearimy

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Do you still have to provide transcripts though?
No. I have my MPH in global health from a Imperial College London and I didn't have to provide my transcript for AMCAS, though I may have to for the school I eventually matriculate at.

Also, what @LizzyM said is true, international grades don't add anything to your GPA. Many universities abroad do not use GPA, and attempting to convert the scores to American grades wouldn't make much sense. For that reason, I think the benefit of an international degree is really difficult to measure. While it may not have improved my GPA at all, I still think it provided me a lot to talk about in my personal statement, secondaries, and interviews, and was invaluable to me as part of my personal journey towards medicine.
 
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PeteytheFish

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I created an SDN account just to respond to your post.

I applied to medical school in this cycle and have multiple acceptances. I also have a master's degree from Oxford in a subject that is wildly unrelated to medicine.

My two cents: Go to Oxford.

Here's the thing about an Oxford master's degree. First of all, it is unlike any educational experience you have had thus far. What you study is entirely led by you. If you want to investigate social policy as it pertains to the US, that's absolutely possible, and there will no doubt be people at the university who can guide you. Most of an Oxford master's is research-based; graduate students don't really attend class per se. It is also far more rigorous than anything you have done (I say this having done my undergraduate at an Ivy as well). An Oxford education really IS as transformative and excellent as they say, and that is in part because so much is expected of the students.

Beyond the academic piece, the experience of studying at Oxford is wonderful. Because of how the university is set up, in all likelihood your friends will be people from all over the world. They will be studying incredible things that you have never even thought of (one of my friends did his DPhil in the history of witchcraft and is now a professor of the same). You will have access to every resource you could possibly need, including some of the best professors in the world. And you will do it in a cool place.

Now, medical schools aren't going to give two hoots about your Oxford master's degree. Neither AMCAS nor AACOMAS will even accept your transcript. The schools won't ask for it either. I was never asked about my degree in any of my interviews. It is not likely to help your application in any way EXCEPT giving you more life experience and exposure to other people and cultures.

I would be so sad for you if you turned this opportunity down.I'm not using what I studied at Oxford AT ALL and am definitely still paying down those student loans, but it was one of the best experiences of my life.
 
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