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SMP vs. MS vs. MPH

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by andrey1225, Apr 20, 2007.

  1. andrey1225

    2+ Year Member

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    I'm planning out my future right now and could use some help focusing on grad programs before med school. Is there any overwhelming reason to pick one of these three over the other? So far, I'm having a really hard time deciding because I can see myself doing any of them. Here's how I see it so far:

    SMP--
    Pros: short (1 year), similar curriculum to 1st year in med school, compete with medical students
    Cons: the degree has little value outside of getting into med school and can't really be used to get into research afterward

    MS--
    Pros: hardcore material, opportunity to do original research, good experience if I want to do research after med school
    Cons: long (2 years), pricey, doesn't really display I'm capable of handling physiology or broad med school curriculum

    MPH--
    Pros: focus on health, professional degree, many 1 yr. programs, since managed care is changing it'll probably be worth something in the future
    Cons: longer programs are pricey, doesn't show focus on the sciences, always the issue of how different med schools view the MPH

    I'm pretty torn but I think I'm leaning toward getting an MS before applying to med school (i'm a 3rd year and will graduate w/ a 3.4 or 3.5 and have a competitive mcat)... does anyone have a reason for me to pick otherwise? thanks for any other input.
     
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  3. tdd340

    tdd340 Assistant to the sensei
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    If you will have a 3.4 or a 3.5 and a strong MCAT why would you do any of those programs if what you want to do is go to Medical School. With that GPA and a strong MCAT you will have a very good chance of being accepted if you apply broadly. If you want a masters for some other reason then persue it for that reason, but I don' think you need on to strengthen your application.
     
  4. epigastric

    epigastric Stewart U. Class of '11
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    You're more likely to find good advice about this in the post-bacc or non-trad forums, which are almost as active as pre-allo and have the advantage of a concentrated group of people who have tried all three of your options.
     
  5. Depakote

    Depakote Pediatric Anesthesiologist
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    If you want to go to med school, do a SMP. Those programs are designed to get you in and prepare you for medicine. They're fast, they're cheap and they do the job.

    Right now, focus on getting into med school. Don't worry about research, you can worry about that later... and having a MS behind your name won't make or break you if you try to do research as a physician.
     
  6. andrey1225

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    They all eventually venture to the pre-allo threads though... while most pre-allo's don't venture over there. So I think I get the best of both worlds here...

    Even though my stats are competitive, I want to submit the best app I can possibly have. If that means taking a year or two off to do something worthwhile (MS/MPH), then I'm definitely up for it. While I'm pretty sure I have a shot at getting into a lower tier private med school, I'd really like to go to a UC (I'm a CA resident), and they're noted for taking applicants with high GPAs. So, while my MCAT score is at their avg or above for some and my ECs/LORs are good, I need more to make myself stand out.

    That's another reason for getting an MS-- if I can get into an MS program at a UC rather than an east coast SMP, I think it may help my chances.
     
  7. tdd340

    tdd340 Assistant to the sensei
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    If this is your motivation I would think an MPH would be the best bet as it is the most relevant to your future career plans. An MS isn't going to blow any adcoms away any more than an MPH and the MPH will definitely be useful in the future if you are interested in academic medicine at all.
     
  8. obgyny

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    what's SMP??
     
  9. epigastric

    epigastric Stewart U. Class of '11
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    While I'd happily make that argument for any other forum, 99% of the "informed" responses on the pre-allo board will come from students who plan to go straight to their MD and are just telling you what their friend or their pre-med advisor opined to them last week. Don't confuse greater traffic with greater coherency.

    If you post to the post-bac forum, you're much more likely to have people who have an MPH, have an MS and went to an SMP anyway chime in. I may also be biased, but I think the advisors for that forum tend to have the best advice, since they answer your question about twice a week.

    And the person who asked what an SMP is: Special Masters Program, generally referring to an MS or MA designed to get you into medical school, recommended for those with low undergraduate GPAs. While they may award you an MS/MA, the degree itself is usually of little use except to get you to medical school, unlike a regular MS in biology, etc.
     
  10. andrey1225

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    Those are good points. I meant to intimate that the postbac-viewing SDNers probably view the pre-allo threads as well, while the reverse probably doesn't hold.

    Would either of those programs push me from the low tier (RFU, drexel, etc... based on rankings alone and not meant to offend anyone) med schools to the mid tier (UCI, UC Davis, USC... more competitive because they're in cali) med schools?
     
  11. TheGalvaniFrog

    TheGalvaniFrog Dissected & Electrocuted
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    I say go with MS or MPH, if you have interest in research or public health.

    If your stats are pretty decent, it's not worth it to go for SMP. The SMP year will probably be the most stressful year of your educational life so far, since one bombed final in a 7 credit medical course may seriously worsen your chances to get into any med school, no matter how decent your previous undergrad GPA and MCAT are.

    SMP is used for people with marginal stats to prove their academic abilities. With 3.5 and good MCAT, you have nothing to prove in that department. If you do well in the program, it only confirms that you are academically sound, which is nothing new to the adcomms who have seen your numbers.
     
  12. Instatewaiter

    Instatewaiter But... there's a troponin
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    Really your first choice is apply and see if you get in. If you dont then think about those options.

    So if you dont get in your choices are MPH, MS or SMP:

    SMP (aka special masters program). The conferred degree (Masters of Medical Science or, rarely, an MS) is relatively worthless. Excellent at getting you into medical school though. Very difficult and can ruin your chances if you bomb the year. Since you are competing with medical students you really have to be on top of your game. If you do well, first year of med school will be a breeze and getting in will be no problem.

    MS: If the worthiness of your degree is something that worries you, you need to know that an MS in not exactly major step up from what you get out of doing an SMP. In science an MS is pretty worthless, perhaps with the exception of MS in genetics where you can be a genetics councilor. Unless you have a PhD or MD you dont get much more respect than a kid with a BS who has done some research. Since the difficulty of masters programs differ, they dont have quite the power that an SMP does.

    MPH
    : Since you have pretty good stats this is not a bad option for you if you find it interesting. I feel like these programs have the weakest power in terms of admissions since both the masters courses and the SMP courses will be very medically related. MPH classes are only peripherally related and not exactly part of the basic sciences. If you have something to prove b/c of a low GPA or MCAT, an MPH is probably not where you should be. However if you are a borderline applicant, an MPH could be what tips you over the edge.

    If you really want to do an MPH, do a combined MD/MPH program. The MPH portion only takes 1 year while many 'normal' MPHs take 2 years.
     
  13. Engin

    Engin Senior Member
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    I doubt you will get into a CA med school with your numbers, even with a SMP/Masters/ or MPH (no offense, as a CA resdient, I didn't get into CA either). At best, you have an outside shot of it. I will heavily dispute anyone who disagrees with me (this statment is true for the general case; exceptions are there, but execeptions are just that).

    Boost your GPA. Apply this coming cycle, and get in where you get in. Not getting into a CA school, sucks, but it's not worth delaying your application for this sole reason. It's not worth wasting your time doing either of these programs if you're solely using them as a bridge into med school. Especially since I doubt they'll help you much anyway. Not only are you losing a year of doctor's pay (100K +), but it is rarely worth delaying your carrer if you can avoid it.

    Saying that, I think a masters would be your best bet if you want to get into CA. Boosting your GPA over two years is better than one year, and the outside research will really really help if you actually can get some publications. Then you might have a shot, but again not recommended.

    Caution: If you do a two year program, I am assuming you will have to take the MCAT again? If true, avoid this at all costs.
     
  14. andrey1225

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    I actually don't think I'll have to take it again... the MCAT is good for 3 years (pretty sure that's right) and I would be applying after my first year of grad school when I still had a year to go (so I'd be right around the deadline but just before it).

    I actually wasn't considering applying this cycle. I'm doing SURP at AECOM and may not have time to work on secondaries then or when I get back. I think I'll talk to some professors and my boss (he used to be on the board at my undergrad's med school) and see if applying for this cycle would be the best option. But, I have my whole senior year to raise my GPA (which is now a 3.4 and I can realistically get it to a 3.5 but probably not beyond that)... so I think that's a better option than applying with a 3.4 this cycle.

    Do you guys know what med schools think of applying to medical school while still in grad school? Are they more apt to reject and tell you to wait until all grad school grades are in?
     
  15. sendwich

    sendwich you rock!
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    it depends on what YOU need to spruce yourslef up. know thyself.
     
  16. CoolerTHANu

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    if you have an interest in doing large scale Clinical research in the future, get an MPH in epidemiology. Evidence based medicine is the way of the future. Epidemiology is getting that evidence.
     
  17. droberge

    droberge Admission or Bust
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    I would do the MPH. It is much more valuable than the MS or SMP and it provides some diversity in your application. Since it does not focus strictly on the hard sciences but rather more of the problems in health care and administrative aspects, it will give you a different perspective to health care in America. I do not know exactly why a med school would look an MPH negatively, but I doubt that is true. If a medical school does, however, I would not want to go to that school.
     
  18. Old ortho

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    What is your MCAT breakdown if you don't mind sharing? I am from Cali and I know a lot about the difficulty in getting into UC's.
     
  19. Instatewaiter

    Instatewaiter But... there's a troponin
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    Needs to be noted that an SMP, MS or MPH will not affect your undergraduate GPA that shows up on AAMC. Those fit into the graduate section

    Epidemiology is really boring.

    Honestly I think you will get a better perspective actually being out there as a 3rd year-resident than they could teach you in an MPH.

    Med schools wont look at an MPH negatively but if you good grades are what you lack, an SMP will serve you better.
     
  20. ssquared

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    You have some good points-what people have neglected to mention for the OP is what do YOU want to study? Using a graduate degree simply as a means to an end will not make for a happy camper. Epidemiology is lots of math. MPH's don't cover a lot of bio or anything science-y, it's a lot of "social injustice and why poor people are sick." Does that interest you? Or do you like taking science classes? Do you mind being a TA? Do you only want to get into medical school-then why not just go ahead and take med school classes via an SMP? I think you need to put a little more thought into what you want out of your graduate degree, and then the answer will become a bit more clear.

    (my own disclaimer: I'm doing an SMP next year...yeah, it's a means to an end but I'm ok with that)
     
  21. deuist

    deuist Stealthfully Sarcastic
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    How would you know? I got my MS from a top ten program. Every interviewer I had asked me about the research I was doing. Given that REL has warned other students about pursuing the SMP, I'd say that all three paths produce the same value to an admissions committee.
     
  22. andrey1225

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    i think that summarizes this thread. if i present the grad work in a positive way and demonstrate its somehow contributed to my application, any of them would probably help me.

    i'd rather do something research oriented (like MS or even MPH), and really don't like the idea of having one screw-up kill my chances for med school... which is probably a reason to stay away from the SMP. But, I think the admissions commitee will weigh the SMP a little more in terms of preparing the applicant for med school.

    I was also looking at where students ended up after georgetown's SMP, and the school list wasn't that good:

    http://smp.georgetown.edu/prevclass.htm

    I think I have a shot at a lot of the schools on the list. So, is there any incentive in enrolling in an SMP when it really doesn't push me to the next tier?
     
  23. Christo1

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    It's not that bad either. A ton of them got into Georgetown, although not very surprising since it IS their SMP. Is this common however to have a SMP class with high acceptances to their own med school?
     
  24. GreenShirt

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    Do you have a strong reason for remaining in California? You don't really have any guarantee that you'll get into a CA school with another degree. You could spend another 1-2 yrs and end up in the same spot you're in now. Also, if you are taking out loans to cover your graduate education, that's going to be another $25-$60K of debt before you even start med school. Unless you're aiming for a very competitve residency, a low tier med school is going to give you a good education. Although, if you feel you need to take some time off before med school, another degree is not a bad use of time. I, personally, would cringe at the thought of sitting through any more classes than I have to.
     
  25. andrey1225

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    do I have a strong reason for staying in CA? no, not really. i dont like cold weather... that's probably the strongest. i also want to do my residency in CA and eventually practice in CA (as do a lot of physicians), and the best way to get a good CA residency is to attend med school in CA. but i can definitely manage wherever i go and don't mind going oos.

    i've thought about working in a lab or as a pharm tech (i'm certified) for my year off, but the money isn't that great and i think i'd get a lot more out of a degree. also, unless i can make some good connections at AECOM this summer, the research i'd be doing for my master's would probably be better than working as hired help for a big time lab.
     
  26. Aggie07grl

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    It seems that you enjoy research (just based on your previous posts) so I would go for the MS-if that is what YOU want to do.

    For the MPH-I am planning on getting mine after I graduate simply because I really ENJOY that sort of thing. If I were going into medical school right away I would be applying for MD/MPH programs. It is just something that I am interested in.

    Do something you will enjoy. It is much easier to excell at something you like.
     
  27. REL

    REL Senior Member
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    All of this depends on may things. Firstly, a strong MCAT (30+) and a 3.4/3.5 GPA, depending upon your undergrad school, may be very competitive. Secondly, each of the 3 degrees you mention may be perfect depending upon the rest of your application. Get individual advice from a med school if at all possible. Thirdly, there are great differences in each of the degrees you mention. As noted, I recommend great caution when choosing an SMP, it's an "end game" option. If you do well you are competitive for entry to med school, if you dont you're cooked. Make sure you have a solid science backgroung before starting the first year "trial" med school that is often the make-up of the SMP. Regarding the MPH, if you are trying to prove your prowess in basic sciences after a weaker showing in your undergrad degree stay away from the MPH --- there is not normally enough solid basic science in an MPH to prove much to an admissions committee. Finally the MS in basic science may be your best solution to showing that your undergrad effort was not the real you. If you got a slow start and have an upward trend in your science GPA and need to continue to show a strong trend, maybe even strengthen your foundation for another run at the MCAT, this may be your best option. Of course you should also keep the fires lit in your medical motivation etc, during all of this. Again, my opinionated generalized response. Get good advice on your individual situation. Getting into med school is becoming more competitive with increased numbers of applicants. Each applicant needs to take their time to put a solid application together to make it all happen.
     
  28. alibai3ah

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    I wholeheartedly agree with Aggie07grl, there is no point in you doing an MPH if you do not truly care about public health. I am in a similar situation to you (3.4 GPA as well), and after tremendous amount of research I believe the SMP and MS is the best choice for candidates with our situation. I assume you are trying to better your chances through increasing your science GPA. MS programs have a number of science classes that can help your GPA, and show admission coms that you can handle the courseload in medical school. Unless you are interested in public health, you will most likely be bored and will do yourself a disfavor. I would recommend an MS in biology, physiology, neuroscience, or whatever you find interesting and do well at that.
     
  29. njbmd

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    No graduate degree outside of the SMP will make you more competitive for medical school. The SMP is a double-edged sword (besides being expensive), in that you have to do extremely well for these to be effective (not a chip shot). If you do poorly or mediocre, these can be the "kiss of death" for your medical career.

    If you need uGPA "damage control" then you need to take post-bacc coursework or an application enhancing SMP. Outside of those, graduate work is rated about the same as an extracurricular activity.

    A better strategy would be to do the best you can from here on out, apply broadly and see what happens. The worst that happens here is that you have to either reapply after some post bacc work or re-visit this. If you are saavy about the schools to which you apply, you may gain admission and save the expensive tuition and risk of an SMP.
     
  30. REL

    REL Senior Member
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    I guess it may depend upon where you are. I see great value in doing a full-time basic science 1 or 2 year MS to show a med committee that the academics are better than was represented in the bachelor's degree. I have seen a lot of success doing this type of MS without the pressure of an SMP. If for some reason you do not do well enough to impress, you still have the SMP as the final gambit.
     
  31. Pterosaurus

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    I've got 4.o GPA and 36 on MCAT. Should I do SMP or MPH? Any advice?
     
  32. dw2158

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    you shouldn't need either.

    but DO NOT do the SMP. i guess do the MPH if you're interested, but if there's something that kept you from getting into med school with a 4.0/36, you've got problems no masters program is going to fix.
     
  33. AD28

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    For med school admissions, it's practically worthless. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed my classes and I learned a lot of things that would benefit doctors in practice, but it won't help you get into medical school at all. The sciences you are taught in any MPH program are marginal sciences and focus more on populations (obviously) whereas medicine is focused much more on the individual. As a result these classes are easier and a medical school adcom won't be impressed by it. If your goal is to go to med school, the SMP is the way to go. If you're interested in a career in health policy, REAL public health (not medicine), healthcare finance/administration, epidemiology, etc. then the MPH is the way to go.
     
  34. Instatewaiter

    Instatewaiter But... there's a troponin
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    Simplified:

    SMP >> MPH=MS
     
  35. dw2158

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    but the person with the question has a 4.0. how is any masters program going to help?
     
  36. Wiingy

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    This is sort of a naive view of an "MPH" - schools usually offer an MPH in a few different fields. While some of these fields are more touchy-feely than others, epidemiology is very math/science oriented. Most of my fellow epidemiology students and I are taking courses with titles like "Mechanisms of Bacterial Pathogenesis" and "Infectious Disease Transmission Modeling." Many of the non-hard-science courses focus on study design and analysis, which is very useful if you plan to perform/manage clinical trials, and statistic courses make up the rest of our program.

    MPH is a very broad term, and I'd agree with you that some programs are mostly about "social injustice and why poor people are sick", but extrapolating these programs to the entire degree isn't exactly true.

    It is true that you can get an MPH in one year if you complete it during medical school, but I chose to do it before applying because I wanted to have the opportunity to spend another year learning, performing research, and working with a dataset that I helped to collect - I feel that the extra year will pay off in the long run and I'd like to focus only on the MPH while I have the the chance. Just my $0.02.

    I wouldn't do the MPH to get into medical school - from what I've heard it's no better than having a gold star EC to adcoms. If you're interested in public health issues (e.g. emerging infectious diseases and surveillance) then it's a great idea.
     
  37. dw2158

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    you're responding to a post from 3 years ago...
     
  38. Wiingy

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    Well I guess that makes everything I said invalid...
     

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