Realistically, how much would a PhD help in med school admissions?

PsychStudent

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Taking into account that it was completed at a fairly prestigious university, at least tangentially-related to medicine, and helped a person get some publications and patient experience? As many of you know I'm a 2nd year PhD student, but while I'm learning a ton and enjoying what I do I ultimately don't want to go into the field in which I'm training (although it would be an acceptable second choice to med school if that didn't work out). Unfortunately I was never pre-med in college and applied to PhD programs right out of undergrad without realizing exactly what I was getting into.

My boyfriend is an MSTP student and has said that the faculty in his med school have repeatedly bragged that people came into the school already having a PhD, but I can't see how it would help a person a lot more than having some impressive work experience. Or am I off here?
 

unknowng

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I'm currently finishing a PhD in physiology at ECU and have applied to medical school as well. My undergrad grades suck (2.8) as do my MCATs (26N) , but I believe the PhD is going to help me significantly. I've applied here and fully expect to get in (and have been told there shouldn't be any problems by faculity members on the adcom), but my top choices are UVa and UNC of which I have secondaries from both and an interview at UNC. I wish my MCAT was a little better, but only a dedicated hardworking person would finish a PhD and I think ultimately that is what adcoms want in medical school. UVa even says in their professional statement that they put little emphesis on memorization and regurg. I think with good recommendations and grades, along with MCAT over 25 you won't have any problems getting in. Of course there are others who will say graduate work means nothing and that a PhD won't help at all. In realityI think the're just mad they'll have to call a fellow student doctor before we even have the first class. :laugh:

g
 

QofQuimica

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unknowng said:
I think with good recommendations and grades, along with MCAT over 25 you won't have any problems getting in. Of course there are others who will say graduate work means nothing and that a PhD won't help at all. In realityI think the're just mad they'll have to call a fellow student doctor before we even have the first class. :laugh:
I hope for your sake that your optimism is well-founded. I am also graduating with my PhD this year, and I'll be starting med school in the fall. So I can tell you that it's NOT very easy to get into med school, PhD or no PhD. Med schools DO care about your undergrad record, even if you have a PhD, and they also DO care about your MCAT score. I'm not saying that a fantastic MCAT will guarantee you an acceptance and a lower one will guarantee you not getting an acceptance. But a higher MCAT score will definitely open doors that might not otherwise have been opened for you based on your undergrad record. At any rate, I would recommend that you not take anything in this process for granted, and DEFINITELY don't mention anything to anyone anywhere in this process about people having to call you "doctor" as a med student. (You *were* joking when you said that, right? :eek: )

OP, having a PhD is not a magical admissions bullet that will make the difficulties that all pre-med non-trads face go away. Yes, a PhD could suggest that you are hard-working and dedicated, but it can also suggest that you are a professional student who doesn't really know what you want to do with your life if you are just hopping fields without a well-thought-out reason. One problem you will likely face as a PhD graduate who is changing fields is that you will have to explain why you want to do the MD in a convincing and coherent way. This is not as easy as it sounds. Most non-trad pre-meds will be asked why they don't want to do PA or NP or the like. You, on the other hand, will have to explain why you must have an MD to fulfill your career goals instead of just going on with your PhD. If you say that you want to do clinical research, you will be asked why the MD is necessary; why not do research as a PhD who works with MDs? If you say that you do not want to ever do another day of research in your life, you will be asked how/why you know that medicine is the right field for you, when you were wrong about thinking that research was the right field for you.

Either way, you should definitely get as much experience in the medical field as you can before you apply. If you want to do research as an MD/PhD, then find a physician scientist to shadow so that you can back yourself up when you tell an interviewer that you want to do similar kinds of investigations. If you want to go straight clinical, then you need to get as much exposure to clinical environments as you can. This is so that (for example) you can tell the interviewer that you spent X number of hours as an EMT, and thus you're POSITIVE that EM is right for you.

Best of :luck: to you.
 

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Q about stated all there is to say...a PhD while an excellent "add-on" will NOT make up for poor undergrad GPA *and* a poor MCAT score period. Sure we WILL hear about anecdotal evidence of someone that got in with 25 but this is NOT the norm and if you do not believe me go see the average scores for accepted students posted at the aamc website. I have never heard any medical school state that with a 25 you are fine...most expect 27 and up as a minimum...
 

QofQuimica

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efex101 said:
Q about stated all there is to say...a PhD while an excellent "add-on" will NOT make up for poor undergrad GPA *and* a poor MCAT score period. Sure we WILL hear about anecdotal evidence of someone that got in with 25 but this is NOT the norm and if you do not believe me go see the average scores for accepted students posted at the aamc website. I have never heard any medical school state that with a 25 you are fine...most expect 27 and up as a minimum...
Good point....I have my trusty MSAR here....for applicants accepted in 2004, the avg. for ECU is 28 MCAT, 3.6 GPA. For UNC, it's 31 MCAT, 3.6 GPA. For UVA, it's 33 MCAT, 3.7 GPA. It's of course possible to get into one of these schools with a 26 MCAT and 2.8 GPA, but it's not going to be a cakewalk.
 
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Thanks for the responses thus far! I did pretty well as an undergrad (3.7 at an Ivy), but then again I haven't taken any pre-med classes yet or taken the MCAT. I also had great ECs in college, but most are research vs. clinically related. I'm planning to try to shadow a dr. this summer sometime, probably in peds or ob/gyn.

I'm a clinical psych PhD student (w/ a child focus) in a very research based program, and the reasons I want to want to go for the MD are that a) we really only tend to learn the psychosocial part of the biopsychosocial model and I want to be able to fully manage and understand my patients, b) understand and treat more severe psychopathology than the usual depression/anxiety disorders, and c) because our program is much more research-based than most, I want to get more training working with patients, especially children. I guess I could do that latter in a 2-3 yr post-doc and I'll have to address that in my application.

I plan to do about 20-30% research in the future, so my quantitative skills from my current program wouldn't be lost. I wonder if (well, I hope!) that the current shortage of child psychiatrists will work in favor of me. But is it bad that I have such a narrow focus? I'm honestly also very interested in straight peds and ob/gyn too much is why I plan to shadow docs in those areas. If I was going to start my MD a little earlier, I'd definitely do a combined ped/child psych residency. Thanks for reading!
 

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PsychStudent said:
Taking into account that it was completed at a fairly prestigious university, at least tangentially-related to medicine, and helped a person get some publications and patient experience? As many of you know I'm a 2nd year PhD student, but while I'm learning a ton and enjoying what I do I ultimately don't want to go into the field in which I'm training (although it would be an acceptable second choice to med school if that didn't work out). Unfortunately I was never pre-med in college and applied to PhD programs right out of undergrad without realizing exactly what I was getting into.

My boyfriend is an MSTP student and has said that the faculty in his med school have repeatedly bragged that people came into the school already having a PhD, but I can't see how it would help a person a lot more than having some impressive work experience. Or am I off here?
Speaking as one who has walked this path, a Ph.D. will make you competitive for most allopathic medical programs - even if you feel your GPA is not that great. I have a couple of friends who received multiple offers with undergraduate GPA's of around 3.0-3.3. I will be honest and say that the research experience and publications are really what helps and the undergraduate GPA is still going to be more important than the graduate school GPA. This was my experience and the experience of my friends. The logic in your application package, however, must be totally consistent with your past endeavors....to answer why medicine, why now? Feel free to PM me if you have specific questions.
P.S. Even in jest, NEVER refer to yourself as doctor in medical school. That's just inviting adversity.
 

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QofQuimica said:
So I can tell you that it's NOT very easy to get into med school, PhD or no PhD. Med schools DO care about your undergrad record, even if you have a PhD, and they also DO care about your MCAT score. I'm not saying that a fantastic MCAT will guarantee you an acceptance and a lower one will guarantee you not getting an acceptance. But a higher MCAT score will definitely open doors that might not otherwise have been opened for you based on your undergrad record. OP, having a PhD is not a magical admissions bullet that will make the difficulties that all pre-med non-trads face go away.
Well said. Having a Ph.D does not guarantee anything in the admissions process.
 

unknowng

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Of course I was just kidding about calling me doctor. I'm not crazy I've seen a wild pack of medical students long in the tooth after studying for exams 15 hours a day. :D

I've seen the "inside" stats here at ECU and the numbers in the MSAR are inflated. This years average MCAT was 26.8 and 3.2 GPA. Of course I don't have that info for UNC and UVa and maybe it's a long shot for me there, but I know the numbers here at ECU. I'm not saying it will be a cake walk, but if undergrad numbers and MCAT scores were the most important thing in the world then why are there people with mid 30s and 3.8+ GPAs being rejected at some schools. Sure they will get in at other schools, but many with those numbers have been rejected from Wake pre-secondary.

I do whole heartly agree with you that you must know why you want to move from PhD to MD. For me I want the hands on clinical experience that I can't get at the bench so I can work on clinical trials. I realize I would probably still be able to do that with the PhD alone, but having the MD opens a lot for doors as far as funding is concerned.
 

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unknowng said:
I'm not saying it will be a cake walk, but if undergrad numbers and MCAT scores were the most important thing in the world then why are there people with mid 30s and 3.8+ GPAs being rejected at some schools. Sure they will get in at other schools, but many with those numbers have been rejected from Wake pre-secondary.
Such a situation tells me that these people don't interview well, that's all...or they did not impress the interviewer on that day. Competitive nembers don't gaurantee you admission, as you say; once you're at the interview, you don't need that edge, but you it's very, very tough to get the interview without it. Still, there are exceptions to every rule, but they are exceptions nonetheless.
unknowng said:
I realize I would probably still be able to do that with the PhD alone, but having the MD opens a lot for doors as far as funding is concerned.
Honestly, this is the biggest myth out there. I promise you that competitiveness for RO1's stems from two things alone: past publication record and potential for success in the grant propsosal. The MD in itself will not open more doors for funding - unless the research proposal is some esoteric area of research that only a licensed medical professional can engage in.
 

QofQuimica

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unknowng said:
Of course I was just kidding about calling me doctor. I'm not crazy I've seen a wild pack of medical students long in the tooth after studying for exams 15 hours a day. :D

I've seen the "inside" stats here at ECU and the numbers in the MSAR are inflated. This years average MCAT was 26.8 and 3.2 GPA. Of course I don't have that info for UNC and UVa and maybe it's a long shot for me there, but I know the numbers here at ECU. I'm not saying it will be a cake walk, but if undergrad numbers and MCAT scores were the most important thing in the world then why are there people with mid 30s and 3.8+ GPAs being rejected at some schools. Sure they will get in at other schools, but many with those numbers have been rejected from Wake pre-secondary.
Ok, so if I jumped on your case without warrant, I apologize. But in your previous post, it seemed to me that you were saying you'd be a shoe-in for med school. I'm just saying that you might not feel quite so cocksure once you receive your first rejection or two. I'm not speaking about the strength of your specific app so much as to the fact that I and many other people here have received rejections from various schools. So it's quite possible--indeed, quite common--for people with advanced degrees to receive rejections. PhD doesn't equal MD; this explains why there are also PhD-holding applicants who get rejected at some schools. So until you have that acceptance letter in your hot little hands, don't take anything for granted. And when you do get in, appreciate it, because a lot of other people don't get in. G'luck to you with your apps.
 

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unknowng said:
I'm currently finishing a PhD in physiology at ECU and have applied to medical school as well. My undergrad grades suck (2.8) as do my MCATs (26N) , but I believe the PhD is going to help me significantly. I've applied here and fully expect to get in (and have been told there shouldn't be any problems by faculity members on the adcom), but my top choices are UVa and UNC of which I have secondaries from both and an interview at UNC. I wish my MCAT was a little better, but only a dedicated hardworking person would finish a PhD and I think ultimately that is what adcoms want in medical school. UVa even says in their professional statement that they put little emphesis on memorization and regurg. I think with good recommendations and grades, along with MCAT over 25 you won't have any problems getting in. Of course there are others who will say graduate work means nothing and that a PhD won't help at all. In realityI think the're just mad they'll have to call a fellow student doctor before we even have the first class. :laugh:

g
Hi there,
I went into medical school with a Ph.D and NONE of my fellow medical students called me "Doctor" until May 12, 2002 when I graduated (along with them) from medical school. When I taught undergraduates, I was addressed as "Professor" which was the highest honor and title that I could have received.

My Ph.D had little to do with my acceptance into medical school (I was accepted by UVa for medical school) as my undergraduate grades were equal to my graduate grades and my MCAT was very, very competitive. One of the medical schools that interviewed me, chose to talk about my reaserch but other than that, most interviewers were impressed with my hard work and dedication to teaching and mentoring. (I won a couple of Golden Apple awards).

As a member of an admissions committee, I generally hold a candidate with a Ph.D to a higher standard rather than a lower standard for admission to medical school. Just having a Ph.D is not particularly an asset for admissions but having a Ph.D that you have done something with is a positive in the applications process. A Ph.D generally will not make up for a very poor undergraduate GPA unless there was some extenuating circumstance that was responsible for the poor academic performance (immaturity, no direction, no mentoring).

There are too many Ph.Ds who try to jump into medical school with the belief that they will make more money with an MD. You have to show me more than that and my admissions committee will generally "red flag" a person with a Ph.D who has not done a post-doc or done something with that Ph.D. other than attempt to use it for another pre-med degree.

njbmd :)
 

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unknowng said:
My undergrad grades suck (2.8) as do my MCATs (26N) , but I believe the PhD is going to help me significantly. I've applied here and fully expect to get in (and have been told there shouldn't be any problems by faculity members on the adcom), but my top choices are UVa and UNC of which I have secondaries from both and an interview at UNC.
As a UNC alum with strong adcom ties, I think getting in with a 26 MCAT is going to be pretty tough. They are desperately trying to crack the top 20 in rankings (thanks to the dean) and can only do that with 30+ MCAT's. On top of that ECU isn't highly regarded by UNC. I hope you haven't taken this the wrong way, since ECU recruited me and until I decided not to retun to NC, was on my list of schools to apply to. But to many at UNC (and NIH I found out), ECU is a joke where graduate training/research is concerned.
 
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NJBMD, you think going straight to med school after just a PhD and a 1-year clinical internship could be a liability for me since it shows that I'm just "profession-hopping?" Hmm, I never thought of it that way, darn! Would it help that my PhD is in clinical child psychology and I want to be a child psychiatrist (thus showing the continuity of my interests)?

Thanks for your help!
 

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njbmd,
Would you recommend a master's instead? I have a poor undergrad gpa, but completely believe I am medical school material. One of the things I want to do is design nutritional supplements. With that in mind, I was thinking of getting my masters in nutritional biochemistry, just so I had a little more knowledge on all of the nutrition information. Then I was going to apply to medical school.

The only other option is for me to go do a one year post bacc program at loyola, since this is the school I really want to go to. Do you have a recommendation on what would be more beneficial?

THanks for your time
 

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Before I start, great discussion. It's good to see people can agree to disagree without it starting a flame war like you get over in the pre-med forum.

After going back and reading my post I can see why people would think I was being over confident. That is was not my goal and I fully understand that I may not get into any school this application period. When I wrote the original post I had just received my secondary from UNC and got some really good results from one of my animal experiments the same day so I was a little full of myself and I can admit that.

Now back to the original post. I think the area of research also influences how much the PhD would help you. I would think (and again this may be my own stupidity) a PhD in a medical science like physiology, biochem, or micro, would have more pull than one in engineering. Not to say the engineering degree is not tough and requires hard work and dedication, but it may not be directly related to the medical field. Some of this however, may just be my love for physiology and other biomedical sciences.

And again I appologize for my "call me a doctor" statement. That's really a joke I have here with a couple of my friends who are M1s now.

Finally to the person who wrote ECU is a joke as far as graduate training and research is concerned, I would disagree with you. There are plenty of well funded individuals who are currently engaged in some very interesting research, not to mention physiology alone has graduated some exceptional researchers who have gone on to be Howard Hughs investagators and leading large labs at leading research institutions. The medical school is consistantly ranked very high for rural healthcare and all students must pass the same board exams regardless of what school they came from. Of course you and I are both somewhat biased when it comes to the opions of our respective universities and I respect your opinion, but just because we bleed purple and gold doesn't mean we are a second rate school. IF I get accepted at both ECU and UNC it will be a hard descision. UNC is probably my top choice because my wife will be looking for post-doc opportunities and RTP is a lot better choice than eastern NC. I'm not knocking UNC by any stretch, It's a great school and I'd love to be a student there, I'm just saying ECU is not the red-headed step child some make us out to be.
 

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unknowng said:
Now back to the original post. I think the area of research also influences how much the PhD would help you. I would think (and again this may be my own stupidity) a PhD in a medical science like physiology, biochem, or micro, would have more pull than one in engineering. Not to say the engineering degree is not tough and requires hard work and dedication, but it may not be directly related to the medical field. Some of this however, may just be my love for physiology and other biomedical sciences.
While I have seen no stats in terms of doctorates, you may actually find the converse to be true. In an effort to create a diverse class, a school may be far more interested in the engineer than the med science PhD. You see this happen a lot in the undergraduate candidates -- the percentage of non- science majors, engineers, etc accepted to med school has been climbing annually while the more traditional premed majors (bio, biochem) often are found to be too cookie cutter, and no longer dominate the class. Med schools like to feel that they do a good job teaching you what you need to know in medicine, and thus don't pay too much homage to those who come in already knowing more than the prereqs. That being said, a good candidate from any field (even medicine related) has a shot.
 

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unknowng said:
Before I start, great discussion. It's good to see people can agree to disagree without it starting a flame war like you get over in the pre-med forum. Finally to the person who wrote ECU is a joke as far as graduate training and research is concerned, I would disagree with you. .
It's kinda hard not to start a flame war when you misread my post. I didn't say I though ECU was a joke I said that the people I know from UNC and NIH think ECU is a joke RESEARCH WISE. Common guys, can we try to be a litle less sensitive when reading these posts?

Also wouldn't it be just a tad bit hypocritical for me to have previously decided to apply to the school and think it's a joke at the same time? :confused: I've received a LOT of love from ECU but that doesn't stop from seeing what are obvious weaks points in their reserach training. I wouldn't call it a "joke" but the reality is that anyone graduting from this school hoping land a good residency at a research oriented program would be in for a straight uphill battle.

I wish you all the best with your endeavors!
 

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Law2Doc said:
While I have seen no stats in terms of doctorates, you may actually find the converse to be true.
I definitely agree with this. In fact, what I've seen with people with PhD's in fields like Micro, Pharm, ect is that adcoms see them as trying to back-door their way into med school. I guess I would have to agree (and would do it myself if I had to ;) ) since ~50% of the PhD's students I had classes with when I was working on my Master's were med school rejects from the previous year.
 

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Hey Path1 I wasn't directing my post directly at you (ok sorta) but just making an arguement to those at UNC and NIH that ECU does a fine job at training both Medical as well as PhD students. Honestly, the amount of people who are accepted as PhD students who were rejected at medical school here at ECU is very few, although I can imagine that it occurs at other schools. The PhD students here have always wanted to be PhD not MD. I'm actually the only one out of about 60 that have any desire to go to medical school. When I interviewed here for my PhD, I told them that after graduating I would be applying to medical school. There were two other guys who interviewed with me who had been rejected twice from medical school and they didn't get in. Was it because they just settled on a PhD? Maybe. I've heard multiple times when they see a student who has applied to and been rejected they tend to think long and hard about accepting that person.