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UCSF vs Gates Scholarship (plz help)

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hello_world_doctor

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Hi Everyone!

I'm incredibly fortunate to have received acceptances from both UCSF and the Gates-Cambridge Scholarship for a PhD in Computer Science at Cambridge University (waitlisted UCSF MSTP). If I went to UCSF I would send a strong LOI and likely convert to MSTP later if not accepted initially.

Logistics wise, UCSF only allows one year deferrals so I may have to reapply and retake the MCAT in 3 years after my PhD if I pursue the Gates. I am trying to get UCSF to allow a three year deferral, or the Gates to allow me to switch degree programs, but both seem unlikely. I also received funding from the NIH OxCam scholars program, which would supplement my UCSF MD with 50k a year (basically half of what MSTP funding normally is).

I'm trying to get things to work out between the organizations, but in the good chance that it doesn't I have to choose between these two great programs.

My main goal is to become a physician scientist working on converting bleeding edge computer science breakthroughs into healthcare and biology. Of course, this may change over time as new opportunities arise.

Personally, I think it would be really nice to just go to UCSF and stay near my friends, and work with Atul Butte. But I am afraid it will be closing a really great opportunity for me to grow and become a better physician-scientist. Any advice is greatly appreciated, thank you for reading!

Gates Scholarship/NIH OxCam Scholars

Pros

  • I can do the PhD first, then decide whether I want to do the MD afterwards still (more flexibility)
  • Dual mentorship between both NIH and Cambridge
  • Opportunities to intern at Tech companies due to flexible nature of program
  • Travel and explore new countries
  • A new perspective on health-tech outside the US, exposure to a different health system


Cons

  • Not as rigorous training as in UCSF
  • Haven't really found mentors that are as good here as in UCSF
  • Not much tech buzz compared to SF
  • Would need to reapply to medical school AND retake the MCAT :(.
  • If I go to medical school, overall money is only half of what MSTP programs cover during the MD years (basically the same price as converting to MSTP your 2nd year).


UCSF MSTP

Pros

  • I went to Stanford undergrad, so a lot of my friends and potential collaborators are working in the area, would be challenging to maintain relationships while abroad.
  • Can work with Atul Butte who pretty much the best in the world for what my research interests are
  • Tech buzz so lots of money going into my research field
  • Opportunities to build relationships in the tech industry/academics in the area which will be valuable for future career options


Cons

  • Slightly longer degree (probably ~1 year)
  • PhD is in bioinformatics, which isn't as unique/impressive as something in computer science
  • Gates name might open lots of doors/?? Hard to really "gauge" or quantify how much this is though.


Advice from mentors:

  • Both my mentors push me toward the Gates, namely because they say its so unique and the name will help open lots of doors.
 

hello_world_doctor

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Hi Everyone!

I'm incredibly fortunate to have received acceptances from both UCSF and the Gates-Cambridge Scholarship for a PhD in Computer Science at Cambridge University (waitlisted UCSF MSTP). If I went to UCSF I would send a strong LOI and likely convert to MSTP later if not accepted initially.

Logistics wise, UCSF only allows one year deferrals so I may have to reapply and retake the MCAT in 3 years after my PhD if I pursue the Gates. I am trying to get UCSF to allow a three year deferral, or the Gates to allow me to switch degree programs, but both seem unlikely. I also received funding from the NIH OxCam scholars program, which would supplement my UCSF MD with 50k a year (basically half of what MSTP funding normally is).

I'm trying to get things to work out between the organizations, but in the good chance that it doesn't I have to choose between these two great programs.

My main goal is to become a physician scientist working on converting bleeding edge computer science breakthroughs into healthcare and biology. Of course, this may change over time as new opportunities arise.

Personally, I think it would be really nice to just go to UCSF and stay near my friends, and work with Atul Butte. But I am afraid it will be closing a really great opportunity for me to grow and become a better physician-scientist. Any advice is greatly appreciated, thank you for reading!

Gates Scholarship/NIH OxCam Scholars

Pros

  • I can do the PhD first, then decide whether I want to do the MD afterwards still (more flexibility)
  • Dual mentorship between both NIH and Cambridge
  • Opportunities to intern at Tech companies due to flexible nature of program
  • Travel and explore new countries
  • A new perspective on health-tech outside the US, exposure to a different health system


Cons

  • Not as rigorous training as in UCSF
  • Haven't really found mentors that are as good here as in UCSF
  • Not much tech buzz compared to SF
  • Would need to reapply to medical school AND retake the MCAT :(.
  • If I go to medical school, overall money is only half of what MSTP programs cover during the MD years (basically the same price as converting to MSTP your 2nd year).


UCSF MSTP

Pros

  • I went to Stanford undergrad, so a lot of my friends and potential collaborators are working in the area, would be challenging to maintain relationships while abroad.
  • Can work with Atul Butte who pretty much the best in the world for what my research interests are
  • Tech buzz so lots of money going into my research field
  • Opportunities to build relationships in the tech industry/academics in the area which will be valuable for future career options


Cons

  • Slightly longer degree (probably ~1 year)
  • PhD is in bioinformatics, which isn't as unique/impressive as something in computer science
  • Gates name might open lots of doors/?? Hard to really "gauge" or quantify how much this is though.


Advice from mentors:

  • Both my mentors push me toward the Gates, namely because they say its so unique and the name will help open lots of doors.
 

libertyyne

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Why did you simultaneously apply to a phd program and regular MD program?
 
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Avada Cadaver

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Umm this is prob one of the most unique vs threads I've ever seen lol. But anyways, if you turn down an MD you're kind of shooting yourself in the foot in terms of reapplication.
 
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deleted962973

I would take the MD. Reapplicants are already disadvantaged but reapplicants who had an acceptance to a US MD and turned it down will not get into medical school.
 
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pommes

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Seems like your end goal is to be a research doc. You've got two pretty sweet offers in front of you - one to do exactly that (with or without MSTP), and the other to do the research part, with no guarantees of the MD and a lot more work down the line to reapply as you and others have mentioned. Save yourself the trouble and run with the MD and try getting off that MSTP waitlist. If you really want to try out the UK you can take time off during med school.
 

fdgjfg

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You'd likely be better served by re-posting/moving this thread to the physician-scientist forum; this is more of a unique situation that would be better answered by some of the older posters over there who are residents/faculty. Here you'll have a lot of premeds/recent MD-only admits giving opinions from a paradigm that doesn't really apply to you - i.e., I don't think there'd be all that much "reapplicant stigma" that would follow you if you turned down an acceptance for the NIH OxCam program, and I think you should probably evaluate subsequent career implications instead.

Physician Scientists

That said, UCSF seems like it would be slightly more professionally advantageous in that you appear to be more aware of potential mentorship opportunities, collaborations, and a positive atmosphere/environment for your subject of interest, since these are the most important components of your scientific training. I'm not super aware of how things shake out in the field, but I doubt there's a better place than the bay area to integrate CS with healthcare/biotech, so you're not losing any advantage there. The NIH OxCam/Gates programs are certainly prestigious in an amorphous qualitative way, but I would probably attach more importance to the mentorship/lab environment aspects (where UCSF is certainly adequate) so I don't think the Gates has any advantages there.

UCSF also has some practical advantages if it is both degrees that you want - I think you would be fine getting the PhD and coming back, but it certainly might be a pain to retake the MCAT when you have much better things to be spending your time on, lose out on a year re-interviewing, probably take a longer amount of time overall to get both degrees, and the financial considerations of course (if you can't get the NIH funding/3 year deferral from UCSF then you'd likely take some debt to get the MD after the PhD, which isn't ideal for a physician scientist).

The main advantages of Gates seem to be more lifestyle/qualitative experience oriented, i.e. exploring a new culture, a new system, being able to commit fully to research rather than jumping back and forth between clinical work, growing as a scientist, etc. and those are all valid considerations.

Maybe some part of you is really trying to evaluate whether you want the MD/PhD or just the PhD - if you just want the PhD, the Gates program would probably be a good choice for your stated reasons, and maybe you feel a pull in that direction. It would probably be worth thinking on it a bit more to better understand your own feelings and emotions surrounding the situation. It is definitely difficult that your mentors are telling you to go with the Gates since their opinions are valuable to you, but I think they may be coming from a PhD paradigm unless they are MDs as well.

I would keep working with UCSF to see if you can get the deferral. If you can't, then it's the tough choice - personally I think I would select UCSF and try to transfer into their MSTP. If you're sure you want to be a physician scientist, it seems appropriate to take the most direct path - you wouldn't suffer any practical/qualitative training disadvantages (and might actually have advantages, given your awareness of mentors etc.); you'd likely get there faster and more efficiently without wasting effort reapplying/re-interviewing; you have a "bird-in-hand" guarantee that you'll receive a top flight clinical pedigree and future residency placement; you'll likely come out financially more sound (big for MSTP grads since you'll have reduced compensation if you want to run a lab); and finally, friends/family/support network around is always nice.
 
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crimson-cat

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There's a fair number of students in my class who had to fight with the university to get deferrals for UK scholar programs (with only one managing to successfully get a 3 year deferral). While I imagine that some programs would frown upon you running off to get a PhD in computer science and turning down your initial MD, I imagine many of the top programs - who focus more on producing 'physician leaders' than pure clinicians - would value the fact that you turned down a chance to go make bongo bucks in tech post-PhD to put yourself in medical school and impact human health. There's also a middle road of fighting to prolong the MD referral every year, and/or to get permission to finish the PhD remotely. It looks pretty bad for prestigious grad programs to have students jump ship, and I've seen people finaggle a 2 year in UK, 1 year remote PhD.

In the case you had to re-apply, who knows if you could get back into UCSF specifically, but I imagine you'd still end up at a top tier program, and probably a strong candidate for some sort of funding like Stanford's Knight-Hennessy. Anyhow, sounds like you really need to decide what your priorities are, see how the MSTP works out, and pick between your awesome options!
 
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lalalallala

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I think UCSF MSTP is the smarter choice. But also I'm not really convinced that the MD is the degree you want. Certainly some people get it and then head off to tech but also seems like you don't necessarily need the MD to do that
 
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hello_world_doctor

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Can you defer the MSTP at UCSF to do a 1 yr MPhil through the Gates?
This is something I've emailed about, initially they have said I can not convert the PhD to the MPhil but I asked again more recently. I'm also inquiring about doing the PhD after 2 years of medical school (deferring gates for 2 years).
 

libertyyne

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I'm interested in MSTP programs, the PhD program I applied for is essentially MSTP but with PhD in the UK!

As others have said above, I'm not sure if you really want to practice any clinical medicine .If that is the case why not forgo the MD all together.

If you do get an MD would you complete a residency?
 
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Naruhodo

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This is something I've emailed about, initially they have said I can not convert the PhD to the MPhil but I asked again more recently. I'm also inquiring about doing the PhD after 2 years of medical school (deferring gates for 2 years).

These seem like your best options. I feel like UCSF would certainly grant the 1yr deferral for something as prestigious as the Cambridge-Gates. Also, at least in the PhD program I went to if you successfully passed quals and all other requirements and left after 1yr you still got the masters. It may not be what they prefer, but they definitely still consider those folks alumni and are proud of their subsequent accomplishments.
 

Endoxifen

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There is a recent OxCam grad who had the same issue, but with the Marshall scholarship. He managed to get a deferal for the duration of his PhD. I’d be happy to put you both in touch.
 
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kakaaw

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Super proud of you for these amazing choices. You can’t go wrong with either choice. The one thing I will say is: I have worked closely with Atul Butte and as brilliant as he is, he has the personality of well, a butt. That said, there are a ton of terrific people at UCSF in the space you’re interested in. Keep an open mind about potential mentors.
 

hello_world_doctor

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Thanks everyone for your advice. Kakaaw it would be great to hear more about your experience working with him!

I tried pretty hard to combine options but it seems I will have to choose between the two in the end. I am leaning toward UCSF but any more advice would be greatly appreciated
 

hello_world_doctor

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Super proud of you for these amazing choices. You can’t go wrong with either choice. The one thing I will say is: I have worked closely with Atul Butte and as brilliant as he is, he has the personality of well, a butt. That said, there are a ton of terrific people at UCSF in the space you’re interested in. Keep an open mind about potential mentors.
 
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