Petypet

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Thanks to those who have responded to my previous posts and thanks in advance for any help here. After spending the last ~2 months researching/planning I have laid down a time table for my entrance into medical school and would like any opinions if such timeline is realistic for med school admission.

Me: 3rd year post candidacy PhD student in biochemistry, likely to graduate either next spring (2011) or the following year (2012) pending publications. As of right now I have no notable altruistic ECs and minimal documentation of shadowing/volunteering. I did shadow for approximately 20 hours and volunteered in nonclinical setting but neither of those are within the last 4 years and getting references for these won't happen. My uGPA is ~3.6 and my gradGPA is about the same. The basic issue with any application right now is the lack of EC's.

Plan:
-volunteer at a major community hospital (non university related), likely once a week in either ED or other patient related. Likely will continue this until my graduation in 2011.
-Shadowing: I have an opportunity to shadow 3-4 physicians (2 FP, 1 surgery, 1 peds)
-MCAT: Currently prepping for this, as I am a horrible test taker I will spend the next 3 months prepping and take it in the summer
-Take 1 missing Biology course with lab (summer before entering medical school)

So I think a lot of information pending my graduation is unknown since it is highly regulated by the number of publications. Since I can graduate by 2011 if the stars align, would it be worth hauling butt to get everything in order for the next application cycle or just be patient for graduation in 2012. The reason I ask is obviously I am starting "official" volunteering and shadowing this spring I know it will feel/look like these ECs were just tacked on for the applications sake. I have been fairly investigative in the last year (plus growing up around the field) and I know that this is where my heart lies, however I am doing the ECs for applications sake not personal growth.

I don't think I have any red flags on my application other than the lack of altruistic ECs, however I know that is very important for med school admission. Especially now that I have committed to the PhD degree I imagine it will be very challenging to convince the adcoms after "how do you know this is what you want to do" without said ECs.
 

riverjib

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Thanks to those who have responded to my previous posts and thanks in advance for any help here. After spending the last ~2 months researching/planning I have laid down a time table for my entrance into medical school and would like any opinions if such timeline is realistic for med school admission.

Me: 3rd year post candidacy PhD student in biochemistry, likely to graduate either next spring (2011) or the following year (2012) pending publications. As of right now I have no notable altruistic ECs and minimal documentation of shadowing/volunteering. I did shadow for approximately 20 hours and volunteered in nonclinical setting but neither of those are within the last 4 years and getting references for these won't happen. My uGPA is ~3.6 and my gradGPA is about the same. The basic issue with any application right now is the lack of EC's.

Plan:
-volunteer at a major community hospital (non university related), likely once a week in either ED or other patient related. Likely will continue this until my graduation in 2011.
-Shadowing: I have an opportunity to shadow 3-4 physicians (2 FP, 1 surgery, 1 peds)
-MCAT: Currently prepping for this, as I am a horrible test taker I will spend the next 3 months prepping and take it in the summer
-Take 1 missing Biology course with lab (summer before entering medical school)

So I think a lot of information pending my graduation is unknown since it is highly regulated by the number of publications. Since I can graduate by 2011 if the stars align, would it be worth hauling butt to get everything in order for the next application cycle or just be patient for graduation in 2012. The reason I ask is obviously I am starting "official" volunteering and shadowing this spring I know it will feel/look like these ECs were just tacked on for the applications sake. I have been fairly investigative in the last year (plus growing up around the field) and I know that this is where my heart lies, however I am doing the ECs for applications sake not personal growth.

I don't think I have any red flags on my application other than the lack of altruistic ECs, however I know that is very important for med school admission. Especially now that I have committed to the PhD degree I imagine it will be very challenging to convince the adcoms after "how do you know this is what you want to do" without said ECs.
It's tough to make time for anything else when research is your full-time job, but I'd suggest starting now. You can volunteer three hours a week. It doesn't really have to be in medicine, but given your lack of clinical experience, I'd find a way to interact with patients if possible. It should be meaningful enough to be including in your PS in the form of some anecdotal story about someone you helped.

You're going to be fine, given a fairly strong GPA and a PhD! I'd take bio wherever you can. In your situation, taking a night class at a CC won't look suspicious, given that your basis in the biological sciences is stronger than that of most MDs. Just take the class...it will be a ridiculously easy A for you whether you take it at a CC or an Ivy League school.

You're a shoe-in, as long as you're not arrogant, and given your post, that's definitely not the case. Med schools love applicants who have not only proven proficiency in the sciences, but the ability to follow through. While they'd love to accept only applicants who LOVE medicine, they know many applicants are in it for other reasons. They really want to make sure you won't flake out midway, because retention rates are really important. Our med school's dean told us that once you get in, you're basically guaranteed to make it through. He said the few students who "fail out" do so intentionally, because they never wanted it and their parents pushed them into it.

Just spin your story so that you can say your research made you think about applying your love for biochemistry in a clinical setting. You probably don't have to make this up, if you've decided on medicine vs. research or academia. Cite a study (or something) that changed your mind. My writing professor called the PS "narrative truth," meaning that you shouldn't ever make up a story, but spin the details to fit the story you want to tell.
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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The basic issue with any application right now is the lack of EC's.
I concur.

Plan:
-volunteer at a major community hospital (non university related), likely once a week in either ED or other patient related. Likely will continue this until my graduation in 2011.
-Shadowing: I have an opportunity to shadow 3-4 physicians (2 FP, 1 surgery, 1 peds)
-MCAT: Currently prepping for this, as I am a horrible test taker I will spend the next 3 months prepping and take it in the summer
-Take 1 missing Biology course with lab (summer before entering medical school)
Seems reasonable.

So I think a lot of information pending my graduation is unknown since it is highly regulated by the number of publications. Since I can graduate by 2011 if the stars align, would it be worth hauling butt to get everything in order for the next application cycle or just be patient for graduation in 2012. The reason I ask is obviously I am starting "official" volunteering and shadowing this spring I know it will feel/look like these ECs were just tacked on for the applications sake. I have been fairly investigative in the last year (plus growing up around the field) and I know that this is where my heart lies, however I am doing the ECs for applications sake not personal growth.
If you don't graduate on time, many schools will not permit you to matriculate. I suggest that you speak with your PI about how likely s/he thinks it is that you will be able to graduate next year. If it's a case of, "well, maybe you can, but only if you're really lucky," you may want to plan on moving your apps back a year.

As for doing ECs, there is no inherent limit on how much time you need to spend on any EC. That being said, obviously you want to put in enough time in your clinical ECs to convince *yourself*, as well as an adcom, that you have some inkling of what you're getting yourself into.

I don't think I have any red flags on my application other than the lack of altruistic ECs, however I know that is very important for med school admission. Especially now that I have committed to the PhD degree I imagine it will be very challenging to convince the adcoms after "how do you know this is what you want to do" without said ECs.
This is correct. Clinical ECs are not optional. You should think of getting some kind of clinical experience to be a requirement just like taking biology with lab is a requirement.

Best of luck. :)

riverjib said:
You're a shoe-in, as long as you're not arrogant, and given your post, that's definitely not the case. Med schools love applicants who have not only proven proficiency in the sciences, but the ability to follow through. While they'd love to accept only applicants who LOVE medicine, they know many applicants are in it for other reasons. They really want to make sure you won't flake out midway, because retention rates are really important. Our med school's dean told us that once you get in, you're basically guaranteed to make it through. He said the few students who "fail out" do so intentionally, because they never wanted it and their parents pushed them into it.
First, *no one* is a "shoe-in" for medical school, regardless of whether or not they are arrogant. If you've gone through the app process, then you don't need me to tell you how highly subjective it is--if you haven't gone through it yet, you will see what I mean very soon.

Second, it is not true that the adcom would "love to accept only applicants who LOVE medicine," at least not at my school. Just as we do not want to only accept people who are fresh out of college, or only people who have high stats, we do not want to accept people whose motivations for med school are all identical. Seriously, how boring would that be?

What we do want all of our accepted students to have is a commitment to their future patients and to the profession. That commitment should be based upon some kind of practical experience with the medical field, which is why applicants are required to get clinical experience. This may surprise some of you, but there *are* people who realize while shadowing or volunteering at the hospital that, hmm, maybe medicine isn't really for them after all. It's a lot better to realize that early on than after you're two or three years into med school with six-figure debt.

Finally, you're correct that most people who start med school do finish. But saying that the people who flunk out "do so intentionally because they never really wanted it and their parents pushed them into it" is unwarrantedly cynical. Life doesn't stop when you go to medical school, and whatever problems you had before med school are likely to be magnified once you get neck-deep into the pressure cooker. There are people who get hospitalized for mental illness, develop drug dependency issues, get divorced, lose close family members, have children and aren't able to balance that with going to school, get audited by the IRS, lose their homes, and yes, people who thought they really did want to do medicine and then realized after they got here that it wasn't for them. But lest any of you reading this post feel a bit smug, that last group includes nontrads as well as trads, as exemplified by the experiences of panda bear and trismegistus.

Getting into (and through) medical school successfully is not easy for anyone. Regardless of how prepared any premed thinks they are, regardless of how certain you are that you know what med school will be like, you will be challenged in ways you can't even imagine right now. For many people, your classmates are some of the support system you will rely upon to help you be one of the majority who makes it through. And hopefully, you will do the same for them.
 

riverjib

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Okay, Q, you're right. Nobody is guaranteed to get into medical school. There are applicants who should at least get an interview based on a well-rounded application who don't, even with fantastic GPAs/MCATS/etc.

I'd love to believe that med schools really look at each applicant as individuals, which you are insinuating. I loved science and thought medicine was interesting, but had no interest in it until I worked in the field and volunteered on a medical mission. Long story short, it changed my life and my perception of what physicians do.

I worked in surgery, and constantly heard complaints about malpractice and insurance companies, and many of them warned me that I was "too smart" to go into medicine. Everyone's out to screw doctors. Even some of those who loved the profession pushed their own kids into other fields. That was fine with me.

But spending time with physicians (and nurses) who loved medicine, and were happy to sacrifice their vacation time to help patients really changed me. I realized that this was not a field full of arrogant blow-hards who were generally irritated with the system, and let it get in the way of how they approached people. I discovered that there were people who were passionate enough to dedicate their free time to helping people in need. I was inspired enough to choose medicine, and give up my life as I knew it to pursue medicine.

Seven years later, I've volunteered on multiple missions and spent plenty of time helping to procure supplies and personnel for the mission. I've volunteered in a hospital blood bank, where I have served as a liaison between patients and donors and physicians. I'd like to think that proving a love for medicine matters. If med schools can't differentiate between those who love it and those that don't (GPA/MCAT/etc. being equal), then the profession is doomed to mediocrity, especially considering the impending changes.

Medicine is an incredibly difficult field. But those who know what they're getting themselves into should fare well, despite the difficulties they'll encounter. But in reality, there are plenty of ADCOM members who ask the wrong questions, or push for admitting applicants who don't belong there based on a personal bias. So there will always be med students who are not ready or willing enough to finish their education.
 

Petypet

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Thanks for the informative replies and interesting discussion.

I have now committed to 120 hours of volunteer service at a local hospital working in the ER once every other week and as a patient advocate every other week I don't work in the ER. Crazily I signed up for Friday nights, as it should be less crowded with volunteers and was told I should get a lot of patient exposure.

In regards to my graduation, unfortunately I am in the ****tiest of all situations having gotten it thusfar with my PI he is now taking a leave of absence from the Uni and is now managing the lab half the time overseas. Luckily we are in a lab that pumps out publications so we'll see how that goes. I am not sure its realistic to have the 120 hours, and bio, and research, and mcats before the next application cycle. That is just too much to get things don't efficiently I think. However that is not a huge deal because I am both single, no debt, and parents that will help me financially with anything I need in the next few years.

That said, I am not sure if Q had this problem but as far as taking with an adviser what is the most common way to do so. Being a graduate student I do not have access to a "premed" adviser and I have emailed a few schools about admission questions and they suggested talk to "your adviser". My bio is a requirement, yes, but I have both taken much higher labs as well as taught (well TA) the class that I would be making up. I can not take it at the university that I attend as I am limited on the credit hours I can register (post candidacy student regulation) in which I can only take 1 hour of a seminar and 2 hours of research credit. Also I wanted an adviser just to proof/review my app/statements with, since 95% of the people in my program are either international or unfortunately not competent in my eyes to help me.

Edit for river:

Another interesting thing, now that I am in more of a mentor position to several undergrads that work in my lab; I am very surprised at how delusional some students are as what becoming a doctor entails. These are honor students, excellent GPA's, and are "premed" or accepted into medical school but frankly have little idea what they are getting themselves in to. Its even scarier how delusional I was at that age (only a few years ago) and actually I am glad I've had time to mature before I got knees deep into medicine. Anyhow, these students are not getting accepted for their "love" for medicine, but just based on stats alone (and of course interesting BS at an interview. Just an interesting food for thought. Now that I know what I want to do, and why, it really makes me wonder how someone so young can already know what he/she wants to do. hmm
 
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catswym

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as someone else having gotten my PhD in biochemistry a few years ago (and applying to med school now) I would say to not apply this coming cycle.

As you know, pubs and finishing are totally unpredictable and even when you think you're a year from finishing it could be two (or more!). I don't know where you go or what the culture is there but that is what I've seen in my experience. And, on top of that, you're trying to take a class and study for the MCAT (which you probably wouldn't take until late summer at this point anyway which would mean you're applying slightly later than optimal). Not to mention your app will look a lot better with sustained clinical experience rather than just a few months.

Talk to your PI, talk to postdocs and other folks in your lab to get an idea of how likely you are to graduate and handle all the other things going on in your life now that you are preparing for med school.
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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I'd love to believe that med schools really look at each applicant as individuals, which you are insinuating.
Granted that I only have experience with one school's adcom, but FWIW, this adcom does look at applicants as individuals.

Seven years later, I've volunteered on multiple missions and spent plenty of time helping to procure supplies and personnel for the mission. I've volunteered in a hospital blood bank, where I have served as a liaison between patients and donors and physicians. I'd like to think that proving a love for medicine matters. If med schools can't differentiate between those who love it and those that don't (GPA/MCAT/etc. being equal), then the profession is doomed to mediocrity, especially considering the impending changes.
I guess what I should have said is that successful applicants don't all love the same aspects of medicine for the same reasons. The adcom recognizes that there are a variety of ways to "love medicine" besides what you're describing.

In my case, I haven't ever gone on a medical mission to a third world country, and I probably never will. I didn't go to med school to serve in an inner city or a rural area that has no physicians. I'm not the person who will be opening a new free clinic in Eritrea. But I'm passionate about research and teaching, and people like you are going to need people like me to prepare you to go out and help all of those people in need. You and I also have our commitment to patient care and the profession of medicine in common, even though the specifics of our careers will likely be very different. It benefits everyone's learning to have people like both of us in the class.

Medicine is an incredibly difficult field. But those who know what they're getting themselves into should fare well, despite the difficulties they'll encounter. But in reality, there are plenty of ADCOM members who ask the wrong questions, or push for admitting applicants who don't belong there based on a personal bias. So there will always be med students who are not ready or willing enough to finish their education.
Like I said before, I think the view that people who drop or flunk out of school never wanted to do medicine in the first place is overly cynical. If anything, the vast majority of people apply to med school thinking they really want to do it. Not all of them want to do it as much as they thought they did. The majority of people also apply to med school thinking they really know exactly what they're getting themselves into. Most of them don't know as much about it as they think they do. I certainly didn't.

Teasing apart people's motivations to go to medical school isn't easy, because most people have multiple motivations, both conscious and subconscious. It's also true that individual adcoms have personal biases and ideas about what makes an ideal candidate. However, as a group, we do surprisingly well at weeding out the obvious bad fits and choosing the right people. Some of my school's adcom meetings get downright contentious, which I view as a sign that the committee is doing its job. Of course, nothing could prevent us from screwing up sometimes. But the process of arriving at a group consensus does prevent us from screwing up many times.

In regards to my graduation, unfortunately I am in the ****tiest of all situations having gotten it thusfar with my PI he is now taking a leave of absence from the Uni and is now managing the lab half the time overseas. Luckily we are in a lab that pumps out publications so we'll see how that goes. I am not sure its realistic to have the 120 hours, and bio, and research, and mcats before the next application cycle. That is just too much to get things don't efficiently I think. However that is not a huge deal because I am both single, no debt, and parents that will help me financially with anything I need in the next few years.
Wait the extra year. It will save you a lot of unnecessary grief and stress.

That said, I am not sure if Q had this problem but as far as taking with an adviser what is the most common way to do so. Being a graduate student I do not have access to a "premed" adviser and I have emailed a few schools about admission questions and they suggested talk to "your adviser". My bio is a requirement, yes, but I have both taken much higher labs as well as taught (well TA) the class that I would be making up. I can not take it at the university that I attend as I am limited on the credit hours I can register (post candidacy student regulation) in which I can only take 1 hour of a seminar and 2 hours of research credit. Also I wanted an adviser just to proof/review my app/statements with, since 95% of the people in my program are either international or unfortunately not competent in my eyes to help me.
I didn't have an advisor either. I had some preadmissions counseling at several of my state schools, and I had SDN. :)

Now that I know what I want to do, and why, it really makes me wonder how someone so young can already know what he/she wants to do.
I'm always awed by that myself, because some of them really do know. But if you think about it, in most countries outside of the US and Canada, students go directly from high school to med school. Their med school is six years, which I guess is kind of analogous to our BS/MD programs. Somehow, this system seems to work all right in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Maybe we're just less mature on average in this country. :shrug: