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Reapply MSTP or accept MD?

Discussion in 'Physician Scientists' started by BruinBear13, May 19, 2014.

  1. BruinBear13

    BruinBear13 7+ Year Member

    Jun 16, 2010
    Hello everyone,

    I know there are some other threads about this topic on this forum, but I wanted to get your opinion on my specific case, as no two cases are identically similar.

    I applied to essentially all MD schools except for 3 MSTPs (Stanford, UCLA, UCSF) this past cycle, and ended up with 3 interviews with one acceptance a couple of days ago. I had already been planning on re-applying 2-3 months ago, with a set MCAT date on June 5th.

    What I am planning on doing is holding the acceptance at the medical school, take the MCAT June 5th, receive my score early July, and based on that decide whether or not I will reapply.

    I understand that many people would advise me to take the MD acceptance, but although the school is great, there is no MD/PhD program there. I am pretty convinced that I want to pursue that path, but the reason why I did not apply to all MSTPs last cycle was because I didn't think my application was the most competitive.

    I think I am more competitive now, with this year spent in a top immunology lab and a co-authorship on a paper under review at Nature Immunology. I am also working on my own first author-paper. For those reasons, I would reapply to almost all MD/PhD programs.

    But of course, this all comes with risks. Aside from the obvious uncertainty of the whole process, I am also worried that a lot of schools will not even bother checking my application upon seeing that I am a reapplicant...

    Here are my stats:
    cGPA: 3.66
    sGPA: 3.75
    MCAT 33Q (13BS, 12PS, 8VR) - Expired, retaking June 5th.
    Lots of research experience. Good clinical/volunteering. Good LORs.

    I appreciate your input.
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  3. Fencer

    Fencer MD/PhD Director Physician PhD Faculty 10+ Year Member

    Oct 10, 2007
    PM me with more info.
  4. StIGMA

    StIGMA Doctor Professor PhD 7+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    To how many programs did you apply? If you "applied to essentially all MD schools" and came away with three interviews, then I would strongly advocate for you to take your acceptance. Did you receive any MD/PhD interviews from the three applications?

    If I were in your shoes, I would choose the MD acceptance because (1) your chances are likely the same or lower next year, even with a slightly higher MCAT score, (2) you have to state on the application that you declined an MD acceptance, which makes it seem like you don't care so much for the MD (which is the primary reason to do an MD/PhD program...), (3) you may get in to a program but it could be less desirable than your current acceptance, and (4) you are setting yourself back at least 4 years and more likely 5-6 years versus doing the MD alone (1 year off + 3-5 years additionally in combined program, if you get in at all).

    To the last point, you can simply take a year-off research program as an MD student and be as competitive as most MD/PhD students for many fields. If you truly want to run a lab 5-10 years from now, you can pursue further research training (post-doc/fellowship) at that point.

    I am unclear how much research experience you currently have. It does not appear that 1 additional year of experience would even bring you to 'average' among MD/PhD applicants.

    Are you a US citizen? If not, your chances at an MSTP are extremely low.
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
  5. [insertname]


    Apr 18, 2014
    An MD/PhD is not necessary for a successful career as a physician scientist. Even at the NIH, many PI's run a lab, as practicing physicians, with just an MD.
  6. StIGMA

    StIGMA Doctor Professor PhD 7+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    Yeah, and they also received PhD-level training at some point, even if they did not get it while doing a PhD. One could also argue that science is more complex than it was 20-30 years ago and requires more training now to be successful.
  7. Mad Jack

    Mad Jack Critically Caring Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 2+ Year Member

    Jul 27, 2013
    4th Dimension
    Don't be dumb. Take the MD acceptance. You can always do a PhD later if you're just dying to complete one.
    gbwillner likes this.
  8. [insertname]


    Apr 18, 2014
    Yes, for reference, most successful PI's I met at the NIH had done at least 5 years of postdoc work.
  9. ValentinNarcisse

    ValentinNarcisse 2+ Year Member

    Jan 21, 2014
    Just do HHMI or similar research fellowship at a bigger research institute than the medical school you will attend.
  10. BruinBear13

    BruinBear13 7+ Year Member

    Jun 16, 2010
    1) I did not receive any MD/PhD interviews, but the three programs I applied to are some of the strongest.
    2) Where do you get this notion that you have to declare that you declined an MD acceptance?
    3) I would argue MD/PhD program is more focused on the research, actually.
    4) I think it is a rather widely accepted fact that the days of MD-only led labs receiving grants are coming to an end. Only 16% of grants are granted compared to 35% in the past. A pure MD is definitely not seen as competitive as a MD/PhD, unless that MD has taken significant time out of his practice to study and practice research, but that is financially not realistic. That is the whole reason for the existence of MSTP programs.
    5) I have 3 years of research from my undergrad institution + this year off.
    6) I am a US citizen, though not originally born here.
  11. URHere

    URHere Physician PhD 10+ Year Member

    Nov 20, 2007
    If you are so set on a research career, I think you really made a mistake by applying to so few MD/PhD programs during your first application cycle.

    That being said, you have an MD acceptance in hand now and my advice to you would be to take it. There are other ways to build up your research resume, including medical school fellowship programs like those offered by Howard Hughes and research-heavy residencies/fellowships. If you take advantage of those opportunities and use the time to publish a few papers you can be competitive without a PhD.
  12. StIGMA

    StIGMA Doctor Professor PhD 7+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    2) Re: Where do you get this notion that you have to declare that you declined an MD acceptance?
    I thought this was/used to be the case. You will have to state to the programs you previously applied that you are a reapplicant to their program.

    3) I did not say anything specifically concerning this. You misunderstood my point. See what URHere wrote in the previous post.

    4) MD-only scientists receiving grants/running labs will not end in our lifetimes. Many MD/PhD's and higher-ups at the NIH and senior members on this board favor or are at least amiable toward a model of MD followed by post-doc/fellowship to supplant/compete with the MD/PhD pathway.

    5) With this much research experience, I am surprised you did not have more success in the application cycle (I would have expected with 15+ applications that you would have netted more than 3 interviews- did you apply to mostly competitive programs?). I still think your odds of acceptance to any MSTP next year are <~75-80% (or worse) even if you apply broadly (20+ programs) with an improved MCAT. You are not competitive at top programs (low GPA, low MCAT, average research), including the three to which you applied. For MD/PhD programs, your research advisor recommendations are absolutely critical. I would not personally take that risk. Please PM Fencer to get an opinion of a program director.
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
  13. ratherbefishing

    ratherbefishing Name says it all. 2+ Year Member

    Apr 3, 2013
    Take the bird in hand.
    radiology2014 likes this.
  14. Underarchiever

    Underarchiever 2+ Year Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    If you are from some of the top grade deflation schools such as Princeton or MIT, you may be competitive next cycle if you have a 1st author publication in Nature Immunology or other top journals, on the condition that you improve your MCAT to 36+.
  15. mTORC

    mTORC 2+ Year Member

    Apr 26, 2013
    I guess what I don't really understand here is, if you were that intent on going the MD/PhD route, why did you apply to only 3 MSTPs and the rest MD programs..?
    Reckoner and plumazul like this.
  16. gutonc

    gutonc No Meat, No Treat Administrator Physician PhD 10+ Year Member

    Mar 6, 2005
    A fibrotic stroma
    The bolded above is why the OP should just go with what s/he's got. Too many dependent variables. If this was a grant application, it would get triaged.
    Reckoner likes this.
  17. radiology2014


    Oct 6, 2013
    I would echo the above advice: An acceptance to a great medical school is very difficult to get period, and, as others have said, there are plenty of research training opportunities at later stages if you are still interested.

    The people who benefit most from an extra year are the ones who have a big hole in their application that is preventing them from being acceptable at all. Given you are already acceptable (and in fact actually accepted at a great med school) I would estimate a low <50% probability that there will be a positive effect on your application, when balanced against being a reapplicant. The much more important issue is that the positive effect, if it is even there, will be small compared to the amount of background variability in the admissions process. The bottom line in my view is that, mostly irrespective of your best efforts in the mean time, you could end up with either a better or a worse school next round. Given you only really have an n=1 more try, it is nowhere close to worth the gamble.
  18. MedStud!


    Nov 4, 2013
    I just graduated Sunday from an MSTP and recently sent my first email to another academic investigator with the title of "MD, PhD." It was a very surreal feeling. And I did spend the next day in the lab gathering data for a potential publication/grant application :) If you aren't the type that is willing to go straight back to the hospital or lab the day after such a big event then this path is not for you.

    Anyway, I think you applied to way too few MSTPs and they were all ridiculously competitive. I applied to 15 total and got into one. In retrospect, many I applied to were also too competitive. I would have applied to more of them and to more that were less competitive. However, I'm definitely happy with where I am now so I'm lucky enough to have saved the money.

    You can become a physician-scientist if you go MD only but the key is that you put in the time to learn the science. This will never be solidified from 2-3 month research rotations. You must either do the PhD, Fellowship, or combined PSTP. It sounds like you have a pretty strong background already. So if you do take the MD only plan make sure you have a good plan to make it happen, but unfortunately it might be difficult from a research poor institute because physician-scientist spots are few and there are plenty of people who have been through an official training program like MSTP ready to take them.

    This is a VERY, VERY, VERY difficult decision to make. You have an acceptance to a medical school that many would kill to have, but you want to be a physician-scientist which may be difficult if you take an acceptance to a school without strong research. You need to take Fencer's and other MD/PhD director's advice with the most gravity and only consider what we have to offer you here on a forum. The details of your application in this case would be critical to your decision and only they can give you the best advice in this case. You can PM me and I would try to connect you with ours as we have a fairly strong Immunology program so if that is an interest then you might be a good fit and our director is more than willing to give advice.
    Reckoner and cooltrumpet like this.
  19. VitaminVater

    VitaminVater 5+ Year Member

    Sep 10, 2012

    When you say his chances if he is not a US citizen will be shot, it's because you're thinking he's an international applicant right?

    I ask because I'm not a US citizen but have been a permanent resident for the past 4 years...I shouldn't worry right?
  20. StIGMA

    StIGMA Doctor Professor PhD 7+ Year Member

    Jul 6, 2008
    1) Yes. 2). Dont worry:

    According to (just did a cursory search, you can find more definitive statements on your own), "U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible for MSTP funding."
  21. catzzz88

    catzzz88 Purrrrrr!?!11?? 5+ Year Member

    Mar 28, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Your stats are extremely similar to mine. Check out my story.

    Anyways, I see three main (good) options:

    1) Personally, I think you should take the MD acceptance at a school that is Pass/Fail and dedicate lots of time from the very beginning establishing a relationship with a PI and doing lab research. Find a PI willing to let you have your own project and run with it. Be proactive and tailor your education to your liking. Rock the step 1, take a residency with good research options, and then move forward with your life as a Physician/Scientist.

    2) Alternatively, many schools allow application to a Ph.D program during first/second year with entry after the second year is completed. You could talk to the MD/Ph.D director at the top schools and learn about how common/easy this is and how much support they provide.

    3) lots of schools have supplemental Masters options (like master in clinical research or masters in basic science research). This can be a good option.

    Last of all is dropping your MD acceptance and applying again. You DO have to declare that you are a re-applicant and you will be asked about your choice to throw away offers of admission!

    Just my two cents, but feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

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