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PhD before an MD ? Jobs for MD/PHDs?

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by NinaC2006, Sep 7, 2006.

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  1. RxnMan

    RxnMan Who, me? A doctor? Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    This post needs to have a warning saying: "I am a total square" all over it.

    Try to lighten up. Most of my post was in jest.
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  3. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Lifetime Donor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    Thanks for the excellent advice. :thumbup:
  4. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Lifetime Donor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    Pseudo, the point I'm trying to make here is that you don't *have* any experience yet, and it's silly for us to argue about this right now. After you do your rotations, maybe you'll change your mind, maybe not. In the meantime, truce. :cool:

    Oh, don't mind me. I'm just bitter that I'll be spending this Sunday getting up at the crack of dawn to pre-round on some patients from another team that I know nothing about, then going on rounds for several hours afterward. I really hate rounding, which seems to be the main purpose and pastime of most inpatient rotations. Also, one of my favorite patients from my previous rotation literally dropped dead unexpectedly earlier this week right after being sent home from the hospital. She was here for several weeks, and I had gotten kind of close to her and her family. In a nutshell, I don't know how much more third year fun I can possibly take right now. :hungover:
  5. pseudoknot

    pseudoknot Lifetime Donor 10+ Year Member

    I'm sorry if I am not communicating this well. I'm not talking about my experience on the wards, which as you say does not yet exist. I'm talking about my experience in talking to people in real life versus reading posts on SDN.

    All I'm saying is that I get a different picture of third year from people I know in real life than from posts on SDN. I don't want to be unreasonable about this (although it's true that I can be too argumentative) but I really think this is relevant because this thread started with someone asking about other people's experience. I'm just saying to take SDN with a grain of salt.

    And I don't think you need to be talking about "truces." I have no problem with any of your posts and I think this whole thread has been a great discussion with a lot of interesting points made. I could have done without the ad hominems from gstrub and RxnMan, but whatever.

  6. RxnMan

    RxnMan Who, me? A doctor? Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member


    Let me get this straight:

    1) I provide an accurate picture of my MS3 year in review
    2) Though truthful, my experience somehow isn't recieved as such
    3) When I try to re-explain with some humor, I'm accused of making insults? :confused:

    Some advice for any soon-to-be 3rd year: the sooner you grow a thick skin and a way to cope or a sense of humor, the happier you'll be.

    Oh, and this is what "a square" means.
  7. gstrub

    gstrub Member 10+ Year Member

    Dec 5, 2002
    Deleted because I am a moron.
    Last edited: May 14, 2009
  8. pseudoknot

    pseudoknot Lifetime Donor 10+ Year Member

    I'm two years into medical school (just like you), and (unlike you) I've already finished a PhD.

    I was not offering any insight into being an M3, but simply making an observation about what people report on SDN compared to what others say offline. I'm sorry that not everyone here can understand the difference.
  9. Jorje286

    Jorje286 Member 10+ Year Member

    Jul 19, 2004
    Sorry to nitpick, but there's a lot of basic research done on humans, especially in neuroscience through fMRI scanning (and other scanning methods).
  10. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd SDN Advisor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    Mar 14, 2002
    the beach
    This tends to happen. People in real life tend not to be as frank and complete when they're not hiding behind anonymity, or at least relative anonymity. Many have a sense that if you don't have positive things to say, don't say anything at all. Others don't want to be labelled that negative person.

    Still some think their own problems are their own and that others lower than them can't understand and will have to find out for themselves. Quite honestly, the more junior students typically are naive and disbelieving of critical feedback. These are the things that seem to keep most more senior students from posting on SDN. You get tired of arguing with people sometimes who really have no clue about the reality they haven't experienced yet. Unfortunately the gained wisdom then goes to waste.

    Of course many students are afraid that things might get back to them. This seems more prevalent IRL, though it's a fear on here as well. I dunno if the axe will ever fall on my neck. I have been told by admissions to stop being so negative, but it's only because I wasn't being syrupy sweet on my medical school to the point of lying as some other students were who I challenged. Who knows if I'm on someone's ****list somewhere.

    But anyways, I think SDN is a reflection of reality for a substantial percentage of students. Everything from my quarter-life crises to sluox's residency uncertainty to Vader's Neurology fanatacism to JHopRevisit's first year enthusiasm. It's all normal reactions that you may not see in the real world, but to me seem to be out there. I don't think SDNers, at least in this forum, are particularly more cynical. If anything, I think they are much more optimistic than my classmates in private company. They're just reflections on a subset of opinions. To try to paint some users or SDNers in general as being far off in left field somewhere is silly IMO.

    And yeah, third year can be trying. It's a bit of a rollercoaster. The clinical rotations forum I do think is biased more towards the bad times than the good times. But don't be mistaken, there are still plenty of bad timess. Some teams are great, others suck. I found out when rotating that the IM program I was rotating with that is known for being "cush" really isn't, but they have their residents/interns lie at interviews and propogate the myth to get quality interns who are heading into more competitive specialties. I spent a month writing detailed notes on that service and got complemented frequently for their clarity and thoroughness only to head over to another hospital where the med students weren't allowed to put notes in charts. I was told I was too casual and should use more formal language, tone and posture. All the while my ex-gf was sleeping with new guys in our shared apartment. Of course I got kicked off that team a few days later because the absolutely butchered and miserable residents spent all their time running from one code to another and I sort of walked around having no idea what to do.

    Some specialties you might click with, some you don't. I thought I'd like Neurology till I went on Peds Neuro (I elected to spend a lot of time here. Oops!) and had to look all my dying or once healthy and now permanently disabled patients in the eyes. Grading seems like a total enigma. I'm still pissed I got a lousy eval in FP cause I spent too much time chatting with my patients, especially the ones that came back while I was still on rotation. What ever happened to patient contact specialties exactly? Oh wait, medical students interfere with 7 minutes per patient. Or my eval in Psychiatry when I was being evaluated on my ability to examine a patient who was floridly psychotic, mostly mumbled, threatened to kill me a few times, and one minute into the interview rolled his wheelchair away. Oh yeah, that was the rotation where I had the most MD/PhD attendings, but they were in such a hurry to get back to lab they paid no attention to me and let the residents compeletely run the service.

    So anyway, this thread is getting ridiculous. Make love, not war, cause god knows we aren't getting any anyways!
    Last edited: May 11, 2009
  11. pseudoknot

    pseudoknot Lifetime Donor 10+ Year Member

    I think those were a lot of great points from Neuronix. I'm sorry that this thread got derailed or that anyone thought I was questioning their experience, as that was never my intention. I think that I agree with 98% of what Q and RxnMan have said as well, and I really think they agree with what I was trying to say originally.

    Medical and graduate training are all very difficult at various times, and this engenders strong feelings. This is part of why I suggested the OP think carefully before continuing this madness!
  12. gstrub

    gstrub Member 10+ Year Member

    Dec 5, 2002

    To clear things up, my dumb ass thought pseudo was someone else. There is no "insert foot into mouth" icon, so you'll just have to imagine it.
    Sorry again,
  13. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Jun 4, 2001
    Additional clarification: Vader is in no way trying to argue that neurology is the absolutely best field available. In fact there is no need to argue this, as everybody already knows it is true. ;)

    Thank goodness for the great posters we have on SDN--otherwise I'd have everyone doing neurology! ;)
  14. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Lifetime Donor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    In the spirit of being fair....These past couple of weeks have been especially trying, and I think pseudo's posts kind of hit a nerve with me because of that. So I'm publically apologizing for jumping all over him.

    There are just lots of things going on, not all of which are school-related. I'm on what is supposed to be an "easy" rotation, but it's turning out to be 12 hour days with this particular attending, even more on call days. Today I had a patient's son throw me out of his mom's room when he found out that I was a med student, even though I had been talking to his mom for like 45 minutes with no problem before he showed up. That doesn't happen to me very often, but it's not a nice feeling. :hungover:

    So far three of my patients have died. One I didn't know very well, but the other two I did. A big part of the problem is that the patients you grow close to are the ones you see every day for weeks and weeks. You get to know them, their families, their friends. You follow their medical course, monitor their labs, check on how they're doing every day, make sure they're getting what they need. They get to be like your friends. Hell, you spend way more time with them than you do with most of your friends. But these long-timers are also the sickest patients, and it hurts worse when you lose them, especially when it's sudden and without warning. One patient I have been following for the past month was doing better, and then bam, back to the ICU. Going from the regular floor to the ICU is never a good thing....

    But there *are* some good things. I think one of the best things I've ever done in my whole life was scrubbing in for my first surgery. At one point, the surgeon asked me to hold the patient's small intestine out of the way. I could see all the arteries pulsing, big ones and small ones. And then, as I was holding these loops of intestine, they were peristalsing in my hands. It was absolutely incredible. I don't think I'll ever forget that. This patient has been back in the hospital a few times since then, and I stopped by to say hi each time. We just hit it off from the very beginning, and there aren't too many relationships with a stranger that are more intimate than literally holding their guts. To me, these relationships are what make it worth getting up at the crack of dawn every morning to go round.

    But I still really hate rounding all day with the team. :laugh:
  15. smq123

    smq123 Roy Lichtenstein SDN Advisor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    Jan 9, 2006
    I agree with Neuronix on this one, pseudo.

    Usually, when people ask me in real life how rotations are going, I tend to try to find the "one-liner" that doesn't make me look too whiny, too negative, or too pessimistic. It's usually because I don't want to get into a long drawn-out conversation about what bothered me at the hospital that day, etc.

    SDN, though, I can kick back, organize my thoughts, and explain what happened, why it bothered me, etc. Sure, there's a tendency to exaggerate on SDN, just like there's a tendency to minimize the negatives in real life. So the truth, as usual, tends to lie somewhere in between.

    I would also say to take what your friends are saying with a grain of salt as well, though.


    I know what you mean, Q. When I did SICU for a month, it was relatively easy work-wise (12 hours a day, no weekends, no call), but watching some of those patients slowly die was painful. The worst were the ones who tacked up pictures of their small kids. :( It's...tough.

    Hang in there. :)
  16. RxnMan

    RxnMan Who, me? A doctor? Moderator Emeritus 7+ Year Member

    A couple weeks ago I got up at o'dark thirty to do neuro checks in the PICU. Two pts were in a MVA, one got better (probably didn't need to be there past day one), the other, his brother, never had a GCS greater than 4. He had pictures all over his walls too, and his dad was there every day.

    In the next room over, a third kid had a SAH + retinal hemmorhages. :mad:

    On other, happier topics, some people treat anonymous forums as a ticket to say whatever they want. I use it as a way to tell people the truth as best I see it, and I have no motivation to say anything else. Almost nobody wants to hear what a med student has to say IRL. I go on here to help others who follow behind me, in the hopes they learn from my many mistakes.
  17. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Lifetime Donor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    Thanks. I've had some good days on this rotation too. Today, as a matter of fact, was fabulous, probably the best day I've had on this entire rotation. But unfortunately, more days on this rotation have been s***ty than have been fabulous, and the only reason I even had this particular fabulous day was that I got permission to skip out on my regular team for the day to do something else that really interested me.

    Me too. It also helps to have a place to vent a little and build some camaraderie. What I mean is, it is helpful to get some outside perspective that A) you aren't the only one in the trench; B) other people who have been there already (like smq) can encourage you; and C) you have a chance to really think about what's bothering you rather than spontaneously saying something that you may well regret later. I've been on rotations with fellow students (and residents) that badmouth each other, the residents, even the attending. It's just never good to go there with people who know who you're actually talking about. The worst was an attending who told me and the resident that one of the other med students on the team wasn't doing their job. That made me feel incredibly uncomfortable, even though I hadn't done anything inappropriate except being there to hear it.
  18. Andrologist


    Nov 16, 2010
    I am in final year of PhD and want to go to Med school to get MD. Can some one please tell me how hard it is and what are the requirements?
  19. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Lifetime Donor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    Go to the FAQs sticky at the top of this forum and read the one I posted with links for PhD-to-MD hopefuls (post #6). It should answer all of your questions plus a lot of others you have yet to think of. :)
  20. Genecks

    Genecks 2+ Year Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    *uses revive spell*

    I have a couple of questions for those who first earned their Ph.Ds and then went onto medical school.

    First about me, the audience member:

    15 credit hours left to complete my B.S. in Neuroscience. I'm a 24-year-old male. I'm not too fond of working with people (maybe because my social science background in human psychology makes me distrustful of human nature), but I do love applied medical technology and the potential it holds. I can work with people; I don't find it economical in terms of helping neurobiological knowledge progress. I have had CNA training. Also, I'm a transhumanist (big aspect). I'm currently interested in tissue/brain regeneration and repair, neurobiology of cognition, and I'd like to be a neurosurgeon. If I went for a Ph.D, it would be in neuroscience.


    Background to question: In graduate school for a Ph.D, there are many trials a person has to undergo. One of them is practical exams. Not only this, but I have been told that people in the realms of the biological and chemical sciences deal with very detail intense examinations.

    Qs: As such, would you say that your level of graduate studying behavior well prepared you to deal with medical school examinations? If so, what aspects of your graduate education did you feel helped you with tackling and preparing for various exams you had to deal with in graduate school?

    Different questions:

    Qs: Did any of you attempt to apply for M.D./Ph.D programs before undertaking the Ph.D route? If yes, how did it go? If no, why not?

    Qs: How did asking for letters of recommendation in order to apply to medical school go about? Did your professors despise you for deciding to go to the realm of medicine?

    Qs: Do you think it's possible to bias one's graduate studies in order to prepare for medical school courses, such as taking a histology course? A neuroanatomy course?

    Qs: What did you guys do for volunteer work for medical school applications? How did you feel about it?
    Last edited: May 28, 2011
  21. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Lifetime Donor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    See below.

    No, I'd say that grad school training is different enough than med school training that you won't find much overlap in terms of what kinds of study skills you need in order to do well in each context.

    Most people do the PhD-to-MD route because they hadn't thought of doing MD/PhD earlier for various reasons, or because they did think of it but felt like their app wasn't strong enough to get in. In my case, I didn't know about MD/PhD programs in college. Once I got to grad school, I tried to transfer into the MSTP at my school after meeting an MD/PhD student in one of my grad school classes. The med school interviewed me and told me to reapply after I finished my PhD, at which point they would be happy to have me. Apparently there were political issues related to prior instances of the med school stealing students from the grad school. I did reapply to that med school after my PhD and was accepted there.

    "Despise" is kind of a strong word, but yes, there is some intellectual snobbery among some PhDs. I had a couple of people make comments or try to talk me out of it, but it wasn't like I was ostracized or anything. My PI was very supportive once I explained that I was going to finish my PhD first.

    Not for the most part, unless you are taking the class that the med students take. Like the study skill set, the knowledge set you need is also different for grad school versus med school, although there is some overlap.

    I have volunteered in various capacities since I was in middle school, and this did not change during grad school. Mostly I did things that were flexible schedule-wise and that related to my interests and expertise. So, I mentored UGs in the lab, worked as a moderator for SDN, did science demos for kids while serving as a big sister for BBBS, worked on a clinical trial, and volunteered at a hospital. The first three things I would have done anyway just because I enjoyed them. The last two I did because I was thinking about going to med school and wanted to get some clinical experience.

    Based on what you've said about not enjoying working with people, I think that going to medical school is a terrible idea for you. Medicine is a service-oriented profession, and medical training involves a great deal of time taking care of patients. At minimum, you'll have to do two years of clinical rotations, most of which involve patient care, for up to 80 hours per week. This will be followed by 3+ clinical years of residency and possibly a fellowship. (For the record, a neurosurg residency is much longer than most others, on the order of 6-7 years.) There are a few specialties that wouldn't have much patient contact like path or rads, but you'd still have to work with other docs, techs, etc.

    Also, you don't need to have an MD in order to do neuroscience research. Granted, you do need an MD if you want to be a neurosurgeon, but I'm wondering what exactly has got you convinced that neurosurg is the career for you. If you haven't already, you should really try to do some shadowing first before you take this any farther. But from what you've told us up until now, I would strongly urge you to do a straight PhD and forgo the MD. You'll be a lot less miserable during your training, and you won't waste time getting a degree and doing a residency that you don't even need in order to have the career you want.
  22. ChemGirl21


    May 11, 2011
    I am very interested in your story, as I have just read through this thread!! I really want to attend an MD/PhD program for Chemistry (specifically biochemistry) but I am very doubtful that I would be accepted. My cGPA is 3.65 (AMCAS it is a 3.56 -- retook one class), sGPA AMCAS 3.38 (without the one bad grade it is a 3.59) and my AO is 3.80, no MCAT yet -- taking in August. I am very unsure about what to do if I am not accepted into one of these programs (which is what I am expecting). I know I ultimately want both degrees because it will suit what I want to do with my future. I am interested in your opinion of how I should go about this process if not accepted. I am also more competitive for the PhD than the MD at this point. Just curious on your advice! I would greatly appreciate it.
  23. Ombret

    Ombret 7+ Year Member

    ChemGirl, it is probably not impossible for you to join an MD/PhD program; it is not all about numbers; you didn't say anything about your research experience and you don't have to, but that will make all the difference for an applicant with lower GPA. Reading your story, it sounds like you need to decide which piece of the puzzle you are MORE committed to: MD or PhD. Then go through that bottleneck first (or, rather, simultaneously with your MD/PhD application). Most but not all schools will have an admissions process that is compatible with this.
  24. ChemGirl21


    May 11, 2011
    My research is YDL124w Mutagenesis studies involving alanine-scanning (approx 7 mo) and research at my local medical school with an MD-PhD involving preeclampsia (approx 6 mo). Although my time in the lab doing research is not extremely extensive, I am always excited to be going into the lab and doing research. I am very enthusiastic about it and expecting posters/publications in the next few months. I'm sure if this additional information seems to help my MD/PhD application or hurt it because I do not have "many years" of research. Thanks for your response btw!!:)
  25. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Lifetime Donor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    You didn't specify if you were talking to me, but you posted right after me, and my ego is big enough that I'm going to assume you were. :p

    To answer your question, I would need to know how committed you are to getting both degrees. If you are sure that you want and need both, then my advice is to forget trying to go straight-PhD, and apply for MD/PhD and MD-only programs. Best case scenario is that you get into an MD/PhD program, and problem solved. However, if you don't get into an MD/PhD and you do get into an MD-only program, you can always add on the PhD later, either by trying to transfer into your school's formal MD/PhD program, taking a leave of absence to do your PhD prior to graduation, or doing your PhD after your MD. Getting into medical school is *much* harder than getting into grad school. If you are competitive enough to get into med school, you will be able to get the PhD at one of the points along the way that I mentioned. However, the converse is not necessarily true.

    As mentioned earlier in the thread, one of the major downsides of doing separate degrees is that you have to pay for your MD, and that's not chump change. You might also want to consider looking into formal MD/MS programs like Harvard's HST, Pitt's PSTP (or CRTP if you're interested in clinical research), and Case Western's CCLCM. I'm not sure about HST or BSTP, but CRTP and CCLCM both provide tuition support for their students. All of these programs integrate research into their curriculums and would provide you with mentoring and other support to help you start along the pathway of becoming a physician scientist.
  26. ChemGirl21


    May 11, 2011
    I actually was referring to you! And thank you for responding! I will be looking into these programs you mentioned, although I think I am a little under qualified for Harvard's program! I will also be monitoring the statistics for the 2011 incoming classes of MSTP and applying to the more "lenient" programs because of my lower statistics. I agree with you that pursuing the MD if the MD/PhD is a fail is a good idea. I hope I am competitive enough in that respect.

    Thank you so much for your advice. I was glad to read this thread to see others whose interests are mixed between these two fields. It definitely gave me hope and excitement for my future!
  27. QofQuimica

    QofQuimica Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting.... Lifetime Donor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    Your GPA isn't so low that you need to be this worried because of it. A 3.6 is basically dead average for MD-only program matriculants, which puts you in the right range. But until we know your MCAT score, we can't really say how competitive your stats are going to be. So right now, focus on the MCAT prep, because a strong score can help open up more options for you.
  28. I have to agree with QofQuimica here. Since your example was to do with neuroanatomy I thought I'd chime in...

    I took neuroanatomy when I was a PhD student (in neuroscience), and from what I've seen we had pretty little overlap with the med students' version of neuroanatomy. Our version spent about one-third of the term doing descriptive anatomy, and two-thirds of the term learning about the theory and application of various neuroanatomical research techniques (tracing, immunohistochemistry, lesion methods, fancy microscopes, etc. etc.).

    From what I can tell, med students probably end up knowing more neuroanatomy in the sense that they can point to spots on a diagram and say "Brodmann area 46!" but they probably aren't asked to read decades-old research papers detailing the first attempts at diffusion weighted MRI like my class did.

    But come to think of it, after I gave a talk once when I was in grad school, one of my professors asked if she could have some of my slides for a lecture she was giving to med students, so maybe there can be a tiny bit if overlap :)
  29. Neuronix

    Neuronix Total nerd SDN Advisor SDN Administrator 10+ Year Member

    Mar 14, 2002
    the beach
    Did you ever dissect a human brain? Most graduate programs don't seem to. The neuroscience department at my undergrad didn't offer neuroanatomy at all. In grad school I saw several bioengineering students who specialized in MRI attempt to get anatomy training either through general anatomy or neuroanatomy courses. They were denied every time.

    While we didn't learn Brodman areas, we did do actual cross-sectional anatomy where we dissected brains ourselves and learned the names of all the significant structures and tracts in the brain and spinal cord. I think this is important for graduate students in neuroscience, but the specimens and anatomy teachers are costly enough to dissuade graduate departments from offering this. Especially since the "anatomy" part of neuroanatomy is typically not directly studied these days, as it has been extensively described. It's much easier to get a PhD or series of PhD neuroscientists to talk about the techniques they use to study neuroscience than actually describe the individual parts of the brain they don't work on.
  30. No, and to be honest I think it would have been inconsistent with the goals of the program. We did dissect nervous systems of animals that we do work with... rat and mouse brains, the nerves of some kind of worm whose name I can't remember, and a sheep brain.

    At my school (OHSU), PhD students were allowed to take the 8-week "Gross Anatomy, Embryology, and Imaging" course with MD students, but only after advancing to candidacy and with the consent of their advisor. I'm pretty sure that very few students participated.

    The school actually had an interesting strategy... The school wanted PhD students to participate because they said that there is a shortage of PhD's who are highly qualified to teach the undergraduate-level Anatomy and Physiology courses that are pre-req's for PA, nursing, PT, pharm, and other healthcare programs. Students who try to take these A+P courses in any of the local universities or community colleges face long waiting lists. By including PhD's in the med class, they thought they could increase the supply of students who are ready for healthcare programs.
  31. jainp


    Apr 23, 2012
    Do you mind sharing the list of medical schools you applied after your PhD?
  32. jome


    Mar 30, 2017
    *Jobs include academic medicine, private practice, and pharmaceutical positions, as well as administration. And I disagree with Q that you need a MD to do translational and/or clinical research. Many MDs hire PhDs to run their clinical research programs. Scholarships are very very difficult to come by. Most can expect debt, unless indendently wealthy.

    OtterCreek, M3, PhD[/QUOTE]

    Did you have to take all the pre- med courses during your phD years to apply to Med schools?
  33. eteshoe

    eteshoe Time Bender

    Jan 4, 2016
    Rhea, Saturn
  34. nonamesleft

    nonamesleft 10+ Year Member

    Apr 8, 2007
    Holy Necrobump! That post quoted by @jome is more than 10 years old. I'm interpreting the question as "did you take med school pre-reqs as a grad student"? In which case, I would answer "if they weren't already taken in undergrad, then yes, the courses were taken during/after grad school in preparation for applying to med school".
    eteshoe likes this.

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