Jun 28, 2012
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Pre-Medical
Hi all,

Long time lurker, first time poster. I believe I have read most if not all of the phd to md threads which have been very insightful and helpful, however I still have a couple of questions.

Currently I am a 3rd year at a large public university that transferred from community college. I have a ~3.5 GPA and have not taken the MCAT. When I began college, I thought I was dead set on medical school, but after working in a lab for the first time I have found a passion for research. Naturally, I started seriously considering MSTP or getting a PhD after medical school but I came across a couple of problems.

1. I will most likely only be able to raise my GPA to a ~3.6 which would put me at a slight disadvantage when applying to MD let alone MSTP programs.
2. I have come to realize that at this point in my life, I really love science, but to get the grades to be competitive for medical school, I feel I would be sacrificing actually learning the material in my classes so I can memorize as much as possible.

I definitely want research to be a part of my career. Ideally I would love to run my own lab, mentor the students in my lab, and have the freedom to do really cool science.

However I also would really like to see patients in a clinic as well. I want to make a tangible difference in people's lives, and I also think that it allows physician-scientists to stay grounded in a way by keeping the big picture in mind: to alleviate the suffering caused by human disease.

Sorry for that long, idealistic, probably incredibly naive introduction. Basically what I am saying is that at this point in my life, I don't want to just memorize a bunch of information that I would actually enjoy learning, I would much rather spend 4-6 years in a lab doing, conversing about, and learning science. After that, I can reevaluate whether I want to continue down the academic TT route, or go to medical school in which case I will (hopefully) be wiser and more willing to go through those years of mental cramming.

So my question is, is this a good reason to consider getting a PhD first, or am I just too idealistic and stupid to see reality?
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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If you want your career to include seeing patients, you should go to medical school. You can always add on a PhD later (either during med school or afterward). Yes, doing it the other way around is stupid. I'm telling you this from experience. Learn something from what I did wrong, and don't do the same thing.
 
OP
M
Jun 28, 2012
15
1
Status
Pre-Medical
Thanks for the reply Q. I know that you are a huge advocate for not doing PhD to MD, and I appreciate your feedback, I just don't feel as confident about med school as I feel about graduate school, and I feel as if I will be miserable in my last years of undergrad and first years of med school. So what you're saying is that despite my extreme aversion to memorizing a bunch of information, I should just suck it up and try to get in to medical school?
 

vc7777

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Thanks for the reply Q. I know that you are a huge advocate for not doing PhD to MD, and I appreciate your feedback, I just don't feel as confident about med school as I feel about graduate school, and I feel as if I will be miserable in my last years of undergrad and first years of med school. So what you're saying is that despite my extreme aversion to memorizing a bunch of information, I should just suck it up and try to get in to medical school?
You say you want patient interaction: go invest some significant time in a free clinic, do some shadowing. You might be surprised and find out it's not for you.
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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Thanks for the reply Q. I know that you are a huge advocate for not doing PhD to MD, and I appreciate your feedback, I just don't feel as confident about med school as I feel about graduate school, and I feel as if I will be miserable in my last years of undergrad and first years of med school. So what you're saying is that despite my extreme aversion to memorizing a bunch of information, I should just suck it up and try to get in to medical school?
I hate memorization too. I hated it just as much in my 30s as I did in my 20s or teens. I rather doubt I'll suddenly wake up a little over a year from now at age 40 suddenly loving to memorize things. Going to grad school is not going to make you suddenly change your personality or style of learning. If anything, it only accentuates the misery of having to go back to your premed memorization days.

Have you considered other alternatives? Such as, you could ask vc here about the opportunities at CCLCM.
 
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vc7777

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I hate memorization too. I hated it just as much in my 30s as I did in my 20s or teens. I rather doubt I'll suddenly wake up a little over a year from now at age 40 suddenly loving to memorize things. Going to grad school is not going to make you suddenly change your personality or style of learning. If anything, it only accentuates the misery of having to go back to your premed memorization days.

Have you considered other alternatives? Such as, you could ask vc here about the opportunities at CCLCM.
Hold on...looking for the hung-out-to-dry emoticon...
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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Hold on...looking for the hung-out-to-dry emoticon...
Don't be so melodramatic. You're a senior CCLCM student. Who here knows more about the program than you do? :eyebrow:
 

vc7777

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No seriously CCLCM is a great program that gets you a free master's degree of you want - many people choose this over an MSTP. Some crazies even do this after a PhD - but I wouldn't recommend this as I previously mentioned they are crazies. And Q is right we don't memorize absent, pharmacology, neurobiology or ...well...anything since we have no grades, tests, or exams. However I think that comes back to bite us a little on the USMLE and on the wards when we rotate with people that can rattle off the make if the forearm at the drop of a hat ...
 

vc7777

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Don't be so melodramatic. You're a senior CCLCM student. Who here knows more about the program than you do? :eyebrow:
I suppose current fifth years and alumni like CCLCMer... But they don't lurk here as much.
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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I suppose current fifth years and alumni like CCLCMer... But they don't lurk here as much.
I can tell you from experience that alumni get out of the med school loop pretty darn fast after graduating. Until it comes time for the med school to ask you for a donation. Then they're all over informing you about everything they're doing. :p
 

vc7777

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I can tell you from experience that alumni get out of the med school loop pretty darn fast after graduating. Until it comes time for the med school to ask you for a donation. Then they're all over informing you about everything they're doing. :p
It's better than my wife's law school...which asked for a donation DURING THE GRADUATION CEREMONY...tacky
 

vc7777

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I digress. I'll reiterate: OP get thee to a infirmary.

I agree PhD before MD is not the way to do it. You can do meaningful research with just an MD. You can't do much clinically with just a PhD. You need to be certain you want clinical responsibilities. The best way is to start seeing them and shadowing doctors in patient care settings.
 
OP
M
Jun 28, 2012
15
1
Status
Pre-Medical
Thank you so much for your replies guys.
You say you want patient interaction: go invest some significant time in a free clinic, do some shadowing. You might be surprised and find out it's not for you.
I have done an ok amount of shadowing (~50 hours total of general surgery, rad onc, and internist). I also went on a medical mission trip for 10 days (for what that is worth?) with a lot of patient interaction and exposure. But I will definitely consider finding a free clinic/hospice to start volunteering.

I hate memorization too. I hated it just as much in my 30s as I did in my 20s or teens. I rather doubt I'll suddenly wake up a little over a year from now at age 40 suddenly loving to memorize things. Going to grad school is not going to make you suddenly change your personality or style of learning. If anything, it only accentuates the misery of having to go back to your premed memorization days.
*Sigh. I guess I thought that after 4-6 years, I would be less idealistic and more realistic/mature about what I need to do to have the career that I want. I just built up the idea that PhD to MD isn't all that bad because after I get my PhD I have a better idea of what my career should be (TT or med school) but now I am definitely reconsidering that thought.

The only thing I'm worried about is that I will be lower than 50th percentile for a lot of medical schools for GPA. I suppose I have a lot of thinking to do..
 
Dec 26, 2013
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Lots of good replies. I also got my PhD first. Looking back, it wouldn't be my first choice to do things this way. But I think for some, it may be a valid way to go (getting the PhD first).

I'm also not a big fan of combined MD/PhD programs (for me personally). For me, it would have been anticlimactic to complete 2 years of medical school, and not be able to move on to clinical rotations with my peers. If I had to do it all over again, I would have went for the PhD during residency/fellowship.

A couple comments.

"I feel I would be sacrificing actually learning the material in my classes so I can memorize as much as possible."
I'm not sure I understand the problem here. Memorization is a big part of learning, isn't it? I don't think you'll be sacrificing anything. You'll be laying a foundation.

"However I also would really like to see patients in a clinic as well."
It sounds like you've answered your own question. If you want to have a clinical focus ... or if you want to do clinically-oriented research ... then it sounds like you want an MD. If that's your goal, then make it your primary focus now.

A PhD isn't always needed for research. An MD might be sufficient. Also, a Masters degree could also be beneficial. It depends on your goals. For me, a PhD helped to sharpen my academic focus. My PhD also helped me learn research skills that I'd don't I would have learned from a medical degree.
 
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OP
M
Jun 28, 2012
15
1
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Pre-Medical
I'm not sure I understand the problem here. Memorization is a big part of learning, isn't it? I don't think you'll be sacrificing anything. You'll be laying a foundation.
I suppose what I am trying to say is that I find memorizing information for the sake of an A, without actually understanding the material, completely miserable. I was a terrible HS student and had sub 3.0 GPA. Since then I have been trying to find efficient study skills but I just haven't figured out the right methods. All I know is that when my only goal was the A, I was unhappy with myself because I wasn't learning anything, just memorizing, regurgitating, and forgetting.

It sounds like you've answered your own question. If you want to have a clinical focus ... or if you want to do clinically-oriented research ... then it sounds like you want an MD. If that's your goal, then make it your primary focus now.
What I would ideally like is the 80/20 research/clinic split, and as of now my research interest is in disease-related basic science/translational science. However, I don't want to be ignorant to the fact that my current interests could change. The huge plus I see of doing the PhD first is the additional time it would allot me to decide if medicine is the correct choice. I am certain I want research to be a major part of my career, I love science and am sure about the PhD, I don't see that changing. It's the MD that I'm unsure about. Which is probably why I should try to get more patient exposure to see if that's really what I want to do.

So basically I have no idea what to do anymore lol.
 

Scottish Chap

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I suppose what I am trying to say is that I find memorizing information for the sake of an A, without actually understanding the material, completely miserable. I was a terrible HS student and had sub 3.0 GPA. Since then I have been trying to find efficient study skills but I just haven't figured out the right methods. All I know is that when my only goal was the A, I was unhappy with myself because I wasn't learning anything, just memorizing, regurgitating, and forgetting.



What I would ideally like is the 80/20 research/clinic split, and as of now my research interest is in disease-related basic science/translational science. However, I don't want to be ignorant to the fact that my current interests could change. The huge plus I see of doing the PhD first is the additional time it would allot me to decide if medicine is the correct choice. I am certain I want research to be a major part of my career, I love science and am sure about the PhD, I don't see that changing. It's the MD that I'm unsure about. Which is probably why I should try to get more patient exposure to see if that's really what I want to do.

So basically I have no idea what to do anymore lol.
Spend some time in clinics or volunteer in a hospital. A PhD first is a horrible (and painful) way to prepare for medical school. Sounds like you have commitment anxiety. If you are really not that sure about committing to medicine or research, I would spend more time in one or both of those realms prior to enrolling. Year 3 of a PhD program is a bad time to wake and realize you don't want to be there either. Remember, you don't need a PhD to be a top notch researcher....research training can be done at many points during and after medical school.....but you can't see patients without the medical training; the only way to do that is to do it formally via medical school.
 
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Dec 26, 2013
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I suppose what I am trying to say is that I find memorizing information for the sake of an A, without actually understanding the material, completely miserable. I was a terrible HS student and had sub 3.0 GPA. Since then I have been trying to find efficient study skills but I just haven't figured out the right methods. All I know is that when my only goal was the A, I was unhappy with myself because I wasn't learning anything, just memorizing, regurgitating, and forgetting.
Thanks for the additional information, mayonasian24.
 
OP
M
Jun 28, 2012
15
1
Status
Pre-Medical
@Scottish Chap
I definitely think I have commitment anxiety lol. I've always been a goal setter and have always been so sure of what I want in life, but this back and forth between MD, PhD, MSTP, etc is very foreign to me. I agree with all of you that have been kind enough to reply that I should start volunteering ASAP. In addition, I always planned on taking the MCAT this coming september before all this mess happened and so I think I should try my luck at it and let that also be a deciding factor.

Thanks for the additional information, mayonasian24.
I can't really tell if this is a sincere or sarcastic reply...or both lol. Regardless, I appreciate your advice, and am definitely considering med school first, then a post-doc afterwards.

One more question. Assuming I do decide to get back on the pre-med track, as I said earlier, I have accumulated many units and i'm sitting on a 3.54 cumulative GPA. I am considering picking up an extra major (neuroscience) staying an extra year, which would give me the opportunity to raise my GPA to a 3.7+. Neuroscience is truly fascinating to me and if it wasn't for my school's strict transfer policy, I would switch to neuroscience now, but all my school will allow me to do is pick it up as a second major. Would the extra year of courses be a good investment and worth the risk to raise my GPA to a 3.7.? Or would it be more beneficial to just graduate on time and work as an SRA for two years before medical school?
 
Dec 26, 2013
31
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Attending Physician
I can't really tell if this is a sincere or sarcastic reply...or both lol. Regardless, I appreciate your advice, and am definitely considering med school first, then a post-doc afterwards.
It can be hard to tell sometimes. :) But my comments were sincere, and absolutely not sarcastic. I just wanted to acknowledge your clarification about "memorizing". At the same time, I didn't have anything else to add. So I just acknowledged your reply. Sorry for the confusion. No worries, of course.

One more question. Assuming I do decide to get back on the pre-med track, as I said earlier, I have accumulated many units and i'm sitting on a 3.54 cumulative GPA. I am considering picking up an extra major (neuroscience) staying an extra year, which would give me the opportunity to raise my GPA to a 3.7+. Neuroscience is truly fascinating to me and if it wasn't for my school's strict transfer policy, I would switch to neuroscience now, but all my school will allow me to do is pick it up as a second major. Would the extra year of courses be a good investment and worth the risk to raise my GPA to a 3.7.? Or would it be more beneficial to just graduate on time and work as an SRA for two years before medical school?
Good question. My feeling is to consider doing this simultaneously. Take the MCAT and apply to medical school on June 1st 2014. During the 15-month application cycle, you can do whatever you want. You can work on the neuroscience courses, or you can work as an SRA. This way, if you don't get in and have to reapply, you'll have the additional courses or experiences, which will hopefully strengthen your application.
 
OP
M
Jun 28, 2012
15
1
Status
Pre-Medical
@umcig

Thank you for the reply. I just want to clarify what my plan would be if double majoring. Since I won't be taking the MCAT until September 2014, I won't be able to apply until June 2015. However, I want to make sure i'm done with undergrad so (hopefully) my GPA will be as high as possible. This means that I will be taking at least one gap year working in a lab regardless of what I decide to do.

Plan 1: Pick up the neuroscience major and graduate in 2016, apply to medical school during gap year after graduation for entering class of 2017.
Plan 2: Don't pick up double major, graduate 2015, take two gap years working in a lab full time and apply to medical school during the second gap year for the entering class of 2017.

The reason I want to take two gap years is because If I'm not going to get a PhD first, then I want to get as much research training as possible before matriculation to medical school. So is plan 1 better than plan 2?