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volunteering and MD/PhD

superdevil

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    hey, where is everybody? are the secondaries that bad ?;) just seems kinda quiet lately...

    ok, this may be a stupid question, but whatever. i know that many med schools continually harp on community service/volunteerism for straight-MD admissions. since this is the most deficient part of my profile, I was wondering if MSTP programs were as worried about the touchy-feely volunteer work, seeing as how most of them are geared toward producing scientists anyway.

    as always, thanks!
     

    canadagirl

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      I only applied for MD/PhD in Canada, so maybe things are a little different here. But I remember someone involved in the admissions process telling me that the first question was whether applicants could 'cut it' (I think that was her phrase) in the program. The idea being that MD/PhD is a heavy program that requires really good multitasking skills and the ability to focus on a lot of things at once. To work on a research project, go to class, take on clinical responsibilities, and still be able to be innovative and productive.

      I don't know that they were interested in the touchy-feely aspect of my extracurriculars, but I think they really liked that I could show that I was able to handle doing a lot of things at once successfully, at the same time as doing my schoolwork and a research project. Just my opinion, of course.
       

      Vader

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        Most MSTP programs wish to produce physician-scientists. This means that they are looking for applicants who are committed to both basic science and clinical medicine. Admissions committees look for applicants who have demonstrated potential for science and medicine, including clinical experience.

        Think about it: what would YOU think about an applicant who has good research, but very little clinical experience? How could you be sure that he or she knows what clinical medicine is about or that he/she would even enjoy or be capable of being in medical school? Why isn't the applicant applying for PhD-only programs?

        If you can show that you have some clinical experience in one way or another, then you will appear to the admissions committee to have better insight into what you are trying to get yourself into.

        Hope this helps.

        Vader
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        Neuronix

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          I agree with the ideal of what Vader is saying. However...

          Some schools are really interested in seeing that you did some clinical work to see what it's all about. Others, just don't care. For example, my roommate here at Penn had no volunteering and I can't seem to get a clinical experience out of him before he came. I think this reflects the focus of many admissions committees on potential for research because many MD/PhD programs (like Penn) really want to produce researchers. This doesn't apply just to Penn, I've seen it for other schools as well, though I can't remember which specific ones.

          I would recommend that you do some volunteering, but I don't think you have to. I still remember Baylor's interviewer form for MD-only which said something to the effect of, "Significant research experience may be substituted for clinical experience."
           

          Primate

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            Neuronix,

            I agree with you, but want to emphasize the part about "SIGNIFICANT research experience" (emphasis added). There's been a number of threads about how much research one needs to get into a CD program. If your research is strong, points to you. If not, however, you'll have to get by the MD adcom as the CD side might not advocate for you as strongly.

            Perhaps this is a very nuanced point, but thought I'd raise it anyway.
             

            pathdr2b

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              Originally posted by superdevil
              I was wondering if MSTP programs were as worried about the touchy-feely volunteer work, seeing as how most of them are geared toward producing scientists anyway.

              To everyone, don't underestimate the value of a volunteer expereince. My Spring/Summer 2003 volunteer experience turned into a very well financed opportunity to get my dissertation research done in the area of my PhD program :clap: :clap:
               

              superdevil

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                as always, thanks for all the helpful info!

                time allowing, I will try to get some more volunteer work done.

                for reference, I do have significant biomed. research experience (by the time I graduate ~2.5 years worth).

                as for clinical exp., I did shadow an orthopedic surgeon for many months and got a good LOR from him. I've seen the debate on several threads that shadowing is/isn't viewed with much weight by adcoms because your actual responsibilities with the patient are next to nil. your thoughts?

                thanks again.

                p.s. if anyone knows of some of the schools Neuronix was alluding to (where research may compensate for clinical/volunteerism) please let me know!
                 

                Primate

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                  IMO (big disclaimer there), most schools that offer a MSTP will be swayed more by research than volunteerism, provided the rest of your application is solid. Programs that get NIH funding are pretty serious about cranking out scientists (not just well trained clinicians) and VERY MUCH like to see that you've had significant exposure to research - presumably so that you won't bolt for private practice when you find out what a lab is really like. My take is that they are more concerned with that than with the # of hours you volunteered at the local ED.

                  The story is different for straight MD, and if you don't crack the combined degree at a particular school not having volunteer experience may hurt you with the MD-only adcom.

                  Also, now that I'm yabbering on, you may find it easier to get into an MD/PhD that is not MSTP funded if your research exposure is less significant. That was true ~7 years ago, but I haven't kept up with admit profiles at those programs as well as I have with MSTPs (terrible bias, isn't it).

                  Luck all around.
                   

                  Vader

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                    The value that different programs place on clinical experience is highly variable. Some programs, as Neuronix mentioned "just don't care" and are really only concerned with training scientists. Others, however, do care quite a bit, especially those programs with strong medical schools that have a large say in which applicants they admit into MD/PhD programs.

                    Some programs have separate MD/PhD committee that makes all the admissions decisions for the school's MD/PhD applicants. Others, like Harvard and UCSF, have separate MD and MD/PhD committees that must evaluate each applicant and determine if he/she is suitable for both the MD and PhD components. While these programs value research experience, they also look for other things like clinical experience, volunteer work, and leadership activities.

                    IMO, while it is certainly within their right to determine what types of applicants they look for, I believe that if there are programs that do not take clinical experience into account or "just don't care", they are really doing a disservice to the essence of the MSTP program.

                    However, for the most part, I would say that most programs will look for some type of clinical experience, whether it be shadowing, volunteering at a clinic, working as an EMT, or whatever. Most programs do want to see that you have an interest in medicine, and are not solely a basic scientist at heart.

                    That all being said, it IS true that MD/PhD admissions committees place more emphasis on the research experience of applicants, because they want to generate physician-scientists who will spend most (but not necessarily all) of their time conducting research.
                     

                    Primate

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                      I was just stating what I thought adcoms look for at different types of programs. I agree that applicants should have at least SOME clinical experience (else they should just go for the PhD). That may not be the way it actually is, though. Even programs with different committees take into account where the student is going (most MD committees have a combined degree representative or two). That said, having everything in your application is better than not. ;)

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