Taking 3-4 years after undergrad to get a PhD if I don't get into MD/phd, and then apply MD?

krispykreem

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I'm just wondering if this is an option. My stats aren't that great because my EC's are lacking. I am wondering if it is a good option to first take 3-4 years after undergrad and get a PhD, and then apply MD? I know that I would have to pay for my MD if I do this, but I just don't know how good my chances are of getting into MD/phd, they are all just so prestigious. My GPA will be a 3.7 by the time I graduate (in a couple years) and I am getting research experience right now by volunteering in a lab, but I don't have time to do all the community service that med schools require. I only have time to do research, tutor (my p/t job) and shadow a doctor a couple hours a week. Don't have time for anything else at all.

And there are way more funded PhD programs than just MD/PhD. There are like 4-5 schools in my state that have funded PhD programs, but there's only one MD/PhD prorgram that accepts like 5 people per year. So idk. During my PhD I might rack up more EC's, and the phd would be a good EC for med school, but idk. what do you think?

Or maybe I should apply to some places that don't fund the med school but fund the phd part? That way I don't have to worry about med school acceptance? But in that case, I would be limited to just that med school...
 

Fencer

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MD/PhD programs only want ~100 hrs of physician shadowing and lots of months in a research lab. EC's are not as important as for MD applicants. The reason of physician shadowing is to convince Admission Committees that you have been exposed to MDs and want to become one of them. Your GPA is fine. MCAT is, unfortunately, critical. Once you are over the MCAT threshold, you have a chance. The difference between applicants is quality and quantity of the research experiences, publications and/or presentations, enthusiasm and understanding about your science and about the challenges of a clinician scientist career. Lacking EC's are not a big deal except of those described in the first sentence.
 

gutonc

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And just to add to what Fencer said, you're not going to have all sorts of free time for ECs during a PhD. Probably less than you have now. Particularly if you want to try to finish it in 4 years (plan for more like 5-6 in a straight PhD program).
 

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You need to first figure out what it is you want to DO. As in, your ultimate goal. If it involves treating patients, that's tantamount to saying your ultimate goal is to obtain MD, and doing a PhD only program first is an extremely roundabout way to buff up your application to get into medical school. It will take longer and cost much more than the combined program, plus there is no real guarantee you even get in to medical school later. Plus a PhD is an extremely grueling process that will ultimately crush you when you know you're doing it just as a stepping stone to something else.

It is probably better to apply to MD and MD/PhD programs now, or if you are not competitive now, then spend 1 (I repeat, ONE) year buffing up your application with whatever you need. Extracurriculars, a masters in public health or whatever, a research year, whatever it takes, and then apply to MD and/or MD/PhD programs.

TL;DR Getting a PhD is not a smart way to segue in to medical school. It's too long, too hard, and not worth it.
 
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krispykreem

krispykreem

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MD/PhD programs only want ~100 hrs of physician shadowing and lots of months in a research lab. EC's are not as important as for MD applicants. The reason of physician shadowing is to convince Admission Committees that you have been exposed to MDs and want to become one of them. Your GPA is fine. MCAT is, unfortunately, critical. Once you are over the MCAT threshold, you have a chance. The difference between applicants is quality and quantity of the research experiences, publications and/or presentations, enthusiasm and understanding about your science and about the challenges of a clinician scientist career. Lacking EC's are not a big deal except of those described in the first sentence.
Also, which mcat should I take? 2014 or 2015? I will be applying the summer of 2016. I feel like if I take the 2015 mcat and the rest of my application isnt strong, it might ruin my chances. But if I take the 2014 mcat, it will be 1.5 years old when I apply. What to do?
 

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Never start a PhD program if your goal is medical school.

Shifty is right on track here. The PhD program is long and demoralizing, and medical schools are going to expect PhD excellence which you are not going to have if you are not very research focused. Even if you are very research focused, you may not got PhD excellence due to the instabilities of the research world. What we see more often are people applying after a master's (huge red flag if you started as a doctoral candidate) or because they want to transfer out of their PhD programs. Most programs don't consider them. Even if you are successful, you will spend 5+ years on a PhD just to pay full price for an MD.

If your stats are lacking now, they're not going to get better. The medical schools will view your PhD as one EC. That's it. Your grad school GPA doesn't replace your undergrad GPA, and is largely ignored because doctoral GPAs are almost always close to a 4.0. Your potential MCAT score will go down and you will probably have to prep even harder for it (and with what time?). Even with a PhD in the sciences, you won't be working with MCAT level material.

But you said your graduating GPA will be a 3.7. So what's your problem with stats? A 3.7 isn't bad.

My GPA will be a 3.7 by the time I graduate (in a couple years) and I am getting research experience right now by volunteering in a lab, but I don't have time to do all the community service that med schools require. I only have time to do research, tutor (my p/t job) and shadow a doctor a couple hours a week. Don't have time for anything else at all.
MD/PhD programs don't care about all the bogus ECs that most medical school applicants have. GPA, MCAT, research experience, and some volunteering/shadowing is all you need. Did you read: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/what-are-my-chances-read-before-asking.539268/ ?

And there are way more funded PhD programs than just MD/PhD. There are like 4-5 schools in my state that have funded PhD programs, but there's only one MD/PhD prorgram that accepts like 5 people per year. So idk. During my PhD I might rack up more EC's, and the phd would be a good EC for med school, but idk. what do you think?
MD/PhD programs don't care about your state of residence. You apply to them nationally. You should plan on applying to at least 12. If the idea of leaving your area is unappealing, then don't apply MD/PhD. You will likely have little control over your physical location for the rest of your career if you are serious about research.

You're not going to rack up more ECs for medical school during your PhD. You'll be just as pressed for time as you are now.

Or maybe I should apply to some places that don't fund the med school but fund the phd part? That way I don't have to worry about med school acceptance? But in that case, I would be limited to just that med school...
Any medical school will let you take time out to go do a PhD. It's called a personal leave of absence and is no sweat off their back, because they're not giving you any money. The problem is that your 80k+ of loans you accrued during the first two years will start accruing interest. In fact, you'll probably have to start paying them. So do you want to start paying ~$600/mo (or whatever that works out to) when you're only making take home about ~$2000/mo, watching yourself go into even more debt? It's just not a good idea. If you want to go to medical school, just go to medical school. You don't need a PhD to do research anyway.

Also, which mcat should I take? 2014 or 2015? I will be applying the summer of 2016. I feel like if I take the 2015 mcat and the rest of my application isnt strong, it might ruin my chances. But if I take the 2014 mcat, it will be 1.5 years old when I apply. What to do?
I have no idea what you're saying here. If you graduate with a 3.7 GPA, several years of research, and 100 hours of volunteering/shadowing (which is NOT hard to get), your application will be fine. So why are you worried that the rest of your application won't be strong? Commit yourself to a pathway and get yourself there.

It doesn't matter when you take the MCAT. My advice is to take it when you feel very ready for it. Your practice exams need to be up in the mid to high 30s and you need to have had ample time to prep specifically for the MCAT. Whenever you can make that time and be ready to take it is the right time to take it. At least if you plan to take in 2014 and you can't get your act together to do well on the MCAT, you have that buffer to stop and take in 2015. Whatever you do, don't take it if you're not prepared. That score doesn't just vanish when you re-take.
 
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I actually did exactly that. I went to get my masters after undergrad and liked research and switched to PhD. I am graduating this spring (4 years), and starting med school in the fall. If you start PhD alone, you most likely will not finish it in 3-4 years at least in biology. I did my phd with a PI that I have been working with in undergrad, so my transition was much smoother and I did not need much of a training. Also skipped entire year of just rotating different labs which is a requirement if I do regular PhD. In addition to it, you can't expect things to go as planned in lab, which makes it to difficult to predict if you would actually finish in 3-4 years. MD/PdD combined programs expect their students to finish in 4-5 years, and everything is set up for them in a way that they facilitate that possibility (ex: reduced course load during PhD, PIs with experience with MD/PhD students who do not mind them graduating in 4 years and actually tailor the program towards that need). Also grad school is just one of the most difficult things you could do and no one should do it unless research is something you absolutely love.

So as everyone else is saying, if you think PhD is going to get into med school, that is probably not a good idea, because it does not really amp up your application that much (it is just another EC that is pretty solid). I probably would not go that path myself, though that is the path I chose. If you are really interested then go for MD, then switch to MD/PhD which is way easier (still difficult, but in comparison). Also you really do not need the PhD to do research. You can get research experience during med school, and also during residency and fellowships. it is no way a replacement for PhD, but you can definitely make it happen if you make right choices along the way.
 

QofQuimica

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I'm a PhD-to-MD. Yes it's an option, but it's not a good one. See the sticky at the top of this forum if you want links to some threads where I and others have discussed in detail why PhD-to-MD should only be an option for career changers and not a planned path for becoming a physician scientist.