Utah MSTP vs Miami MD-phD vs Colorado "MSTP

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Oct 31, 2022
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Reposted from the Physician Scientist Forum:

Sorry to make one of these, and at the risk of being neurotic, but I'm just struggling to even figure out how to start thinking through these. I haven't been accepted to all of these programs, but I will most likely end at one of these three based on my IIs so far.
I have a friend that's moving with me wherever I go as well to attend grad school next year, so... the earlier I start thinking about housing etc the easier it will get. More so, coming into this cycle I realistically wasn't assuming I was going to get any MD-PhD IIs, let alone As... and then having to sort through multiple As. As a first gen kid it's a dream come true but also terrifying and no one I know irl is in this position. I'm also coming to this knowing that I don't even know what questions to begin asking for Second Look when I need to start making decisions. This whole thing is just some nebulous concept I can't seem to wrap my brain around.
So here are my list of pros and cons.

Utah MSTP:
Pre-PhD contains clinical experience/longitudinal clerkship
Just got their MSTP affiliation
Have lots of cool PI's to work with
Overall very collaborative and everyone I met was really really nice and down to earth
Lots of fun skiing and hiking in the area
My friend has a full ride scholarship to the grad program here

VERY far away from family
IDK what their match rates are to more competitive residencies? (Derm, Anesthesia, ENT)
Small immigrant community
Not very diverse (which isn't a huge deal for me, but it still makes my inner immigrant kid feel out of place)
Would be in the first class of their new curriculum so everything might not be ironed out yet

Very diverse medical school Community
Huge immigrant community
Pride themselves on being able to get people into Ivy league residencies
Very cool research
Have had 3 years with their new curriculum so things should be more ironed out and it looks like due to new that it'll be a faster time to get you MDPhD
Closer to home (still 10ish hours driving, but closer than Utah)
Nice warm weather with lots of cool things to do year round (key west, night life, beaches etc)

Seems very competitive
Vibe between students is nice but seems very very stressful (all medical students are but these seemed more than other places I interviewed at)
Not true P/F (you are ranked)
Will be harder to live off their stipend because the cost of living and rent is so darn expensive (easier to buy a house in the future tho!)
Higher crime ratings in the city?
More expensive for my friend, because she probably won't be getting a full ride scholarship at this place( financial aid package for her here hasn't come out yet)
Have heard some rumors about the vibe of the MD-PhD program administration isn't very nice, but again, idk, may be just other people's biased opinions

Cool place to live (seem to be the best of both worlds of diverse living, but lots of outdoor activities)
Diverse medical school community
Large immigrant community
Highest ranked MSTP Program out of the three
Seem to be a really lowkey hippie vibe
Very cool Research
Would be cheaper for my friend's grad program as well

Students seem unsatisfied with new curriculum (MD-PhD in particular)
With the new shift, seem to be taking much longer to degree completion (9-10 years)
Administration seems slightly disorganized?
IDK their match rates, but they seem to be highly ranked?
Bitter cold, lol

In short, I don't even know what else to ask these programs for their second look that would help me make a decision. I love all of these programs, and am getting really confused about PD rankings, vs residency match lists, etc. All very confusing and overwhelming. I went into this process thinking the one program that accepts me will be my "best fit", and never imagined having so many IIs.

Any thoughts on rankings of these schools vs match lists? Or other questions to ask for the Second look that would make the decision easier?
According to PD rankings it goes Colorado--> Utah--> Miami. Yet Miami is known to have amazing residency placements.

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Congratulations on your acceptances, particularly at this early stage! MD/PhD training is long and intense, and you want to be where you think you'll be happiest. Factors that people usually consider include: availability of mentors of interest, support of the administration, proximity to friends and family, location, and culture of the institution.

Usually, the most important factor to consider is the availability of multiple PIs you are potentially interested in working with. You will be spending half of your time in the program in this lab (or labs if co-mentored), so it is important to select a location with multiple potential mentors of interest (if you know for certain, and have an agreement in place, to join one lab in particular, it can be an exception. But even this may change over the next two years before you begin your thesis). A fantastic lab on paper can be a horrible match in person, so having multiple options is critical.

Second visit gives you a chance to interact with classmates and to get a gut instinct of where you feel best. You can ask questions about time to degree, how well students feel supported when there are administrative conflicts between the medical and graduate school (this tends to be quite important in the first two years), and how strong a presence the MSTP leadership is throughout their training and in the institution overall (smaller programs tend to be "bullied out" by the needs of the medical and graduate school), etc. But the main reason to attend revisit is to get a sense if it feels like someplace you would like to call "home" over the next 7-9 years.

Success in residency matching is tricky, and reading rankings/match lists does not help much (US News rankings have severe issues associated with them*, and match lists are a nice advertisement that basically tells you MD/PhD students as a whole generally match to high academic centers, but says nothing about the preferences of the student or where they placed on their ROL). Especially as a starting MSTP student, I would consider the other tangible factors for you happiness and success (the weights of which only you can decide).

You have time, so reach out to trusted mentors and F&F (and since you have a +1, deciding where they would be happiest too. The full ride scholarship for them, assuming this is a non-STEM grad degree, is significant).

*Some resources:
1. Opinion article, and nice summary, by Dean of UChicago: Deans: Dump that USNWR 'best medical school' survey

2. Correlation of US News ranking and physician care: Association between physician US News & World Report medical school ranking and patient outcomes and costs of care: observational study

3. Statistical critiques of US News ranking methodologies: America's Best Medical Schools: A Critique of the: U.S.... : Academic Medicine

4. Ranking list of US medical schools for research, based on >50 years of data of student outcomes (published by prominent physician scientists in collaboration with doximity, in the official AAMC journal) What Makes a Top Research Medical School? A Call for a New... : Academic Medicine
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Congratulations! Also understand that you will see all the people you meet at the MD/PhD second looks (students, faculty, admins). No one will take your decision personally, but they all understand that you need support for all the years you will be at their program. Review old webinars from APSA where the MD/PhD students are talking among themselves or with incoming students like you. Ask them what was important for them both when it came to research support, student wellness, and career flexibility/services (since most will try to get you to only think about academic careers as it is their charge to).

In general, where would you want to grow the most? Investigate the presence of an affiliated ethnic community so you don't feel so isolated. Ideally you should pick a place where both you and your partner do not feel isolated, and I presume that your 8-9 years of schooling is not something that can be matched by your partner. It would be great to be debt-free for both of you, but assuming the other person doesn't want to get a doctorate, the partner should be trying to get a position in that same city where jobs are plentiful. In essence, I think you are ideally trying to find a new home for you both, hoping that nothing derails you when it comes to partner's job progression and your own matching to a residency.