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WAMC-American student getting master's abroad, potential MD/PhD path, applying this cycle

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keu

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Year: I am currently in a non-science, bilingual (Spanish and English) two-year master’s program in Barcelona, graduating this July and likely defending March 2021 (instead of Sept 2020 so that I can use my student visa to stay in Europe for a WHO internship fall of 2020, if that still happens considering the pandemic, funding changes, and travel restrictions here in Europe).

Alma matter: private liberal arts school (would rather not say for anonymity).

Demographic stats: 26-year-old white female

Employment:
Teaching English online through grad school--difficult for me to do things related to medical school here due to my visa status.

State: Kentucky, but I have been living outside of the country for almost two years and would rather attend a program that at least has a global health focus. I will still apply to UK and UofL, though. I also lived in Vermont and Arizona before moving to Spain but not long enough to establish residency.

Major: International Studies (International Relations focus).

MCAT: 509 (126 / 128 / 124 / 131)-->509 (127 / 128 / 127 / 127)—I will explain this later.

cGPA: 3.8 (net upward trend).

sGPA: 3.4 (mostly net upward trend).

Research: Research in genetics (1 semester, methods), descriptive research on health systems and government health (population) campaigns in Cusco, Peru; politics & health research for upcoming master’s thesis (Given similar resources, what explains the variation between governments for inclusive or exclusive COVID 19 response plans?), plan to research during gap year with prof regarding asylum seeker (mental) health—no publications yet on my part.
-can give you more details if needed

Clinical Volunteering: 300 OBGYN (Peru) and geriatrics (Colombia).

Shadowing: 300 hours, primarily surgery (Mexico), then cardiology (semi-rural US) and emergency med (semi-rural US), Psych (Spain).

Non-Clinical Volunteering: 650 hours (Disability Resource Center tutoring, early child development and literacy, English tutor, hospital admin).
-1700 hours of AmeriCorps service (social and educational support for refugees and conservation), though technically AmeriCorps members are not volunteers.

Other/Leadership: Fluent in Spanish, NCAA athlete with a final four run, all-conference team, tour guide, peer mentor, pre-med society, Walk for Life coordinator for AFROTC unit as a freshmen, Girls on the Run, certified yoga instructor (was about to begin classes for trauma intuitive yoga before Spain went on complete lockdown).

Employment history: AmeriCorps Service member during gap year between college and master’s, now I teach English online.

Immediate family members in medicine? (y/n): Yes, well, hospital pharmacist, nurse, pharm tech, physical therapist.

Specialty of interest: I am considering internal med or psych. Due to the extenuating circumstances listed below, I’m really interested in the effects of stress and trauma on the body, so I could also see myself in cardiology, gastroenterology, neurology or looking at how the body copes with infectious disease with pre-existing physical and psychological traumas.

Interest in rural health (y/n): Yes, but more interested in migrant health—though these certainly intersect.

Extenuating circumstances/how to best explain this on PS and OP:

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How to best explain extenuating circumstances that lasted for a long time without sounding like I am taking advantage of the presence of extenuating circumstances to boost my application?

-How personal is too personal? Would someone looking at a PS think rape is too personal and/or political?

The year before my junior year, I got a concussion in a game outside of the country, which limited immediate treatment. The treatment regime I was given upon return was to rest and not doing anything…which can obviously lead to depressive symptoms for someone who is used to moving all the time.

Two months later I was raped but couldn’t bear telling anyone about it at the time. Two months after that I got another concussion in my first game back. Needless to say the grades for my junior year are rough (but manageable, only 1 C I think) and my senior year is slightly better (I quit the team in order to give myself more time to focus on school, but obviously this was difficult and isolating as I had played all of my life).

I didn’t really let myself process all of this until 2019 because it was hard to not repress something that did not coincide with my self-concept (thanks psych/soc) as a strong athlete able to take on anything. It was also last year that I realized, without a doubt, that I still wanted to go to medical school (lifelong dream, but needed to check out other social factors related to it first). I studied for the MCAT while processing all of this and going to school, was really prepped and then the night before my MCAT (which I flew to take in Frankfort, Germany) my Airbnb host wouldn’t leave me alone (sexual advances wise) despite me telling him I was there for the test and that was it. I could hardly sleep.

The second MCAT I took while home. Felt very prepared and then the week before I was sleeping on a couch at a friend’s place and I woke up in the middle of the night with her boyfriend's friend's hand on my leg and moving up (who was supposed to be sleeping in the other room...) despite me not being the least bit flirtatious or forthcoming with him in any way previously.

If I had scored the same score on that second MCAT as I had on the first in psych/soc (98% percentile), I would have gone from a 509-->513. I was planning on doing my psych/soc review the week before the test because I enjoyed it and I had done so well on it last time, but mentally I struggled to be focused that week and could feel my nervous system on overload the whole week because of what happened/the out of control feeling because of it. I firmly believe I would have done much better had that not happened. I have considered taking the test again, but am worried of doing it a third time while dealing with work, school, thesis stuff and pandemic restrictions

Like I said, I have no idea how to convey this other in the way that I just did…any thoughts? This will not take up all of my PS but it will be part of it because it contributes to why I want to become a physician and how I came to have a new definition of what it means to heal.

MD/PhD: Likely going to apply to some MD/PhD programs (medical anthropology) that consider applications separately/simultaneously
-I do not think I have enough research background; most of that research will happen during the application year, thoughts on this?

-Should I make the effort to apply to MD/PhD programs, considering my background and experience? I have firmly outlined research questions, plans for them, obstacles envisioned, and am already in contact with people regarding them. I am also open to doing independent research once I have the MD and finding an organization that matches my interests (MSF, Physicians for Human Rights, ICRC, etc.) Thoughts on independent research without a backing academic institution?

-I know I want to do continue my research, but want a clinical focus, e.g. 60% clinical 40% research. I know the general theme is that MD/PhDs mainly do research but talking to alums from Harvard, UCSF/UCB, they say you decide those limits

-Also open to applying to a PhD program once I get into medical school, thoughts on this?

I am looking for a school with good community (collaborative instead of hyper-competitive, reputation focus), global health focus, underserved populations focus, migrant health focus, PTSD research, holistic perspective focus (e.g. open to things like yoga for PTSD patients that have not respond to other treatments, etc.), located somewhat close to access to the outdoors, if MD/PhD—clinical sessions integrated into first two years and reintegration course after PhD.

These are some potential schools I am considering but I am open to suggestions/revisions based on the school characteristics I have listed.

School list:


  • Baylor
  • Dartmouth
  • Duke
  • Emory
  • Harvard
  • Mcgill
  • Michigan State
  • Northwestern
  • PSU
  • Penn
  • Rutgers, Robert Wood
  • Stanford
  • UC Irvine
  • UCLA
  • UC San Diego
  • UCSF
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Florida
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of Louisville
  • University of Michigan
  • UNC
  • UT system?
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Washington
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Washington University in St. Louis
  • Wayne State
  • Yale
 
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Goro

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MD/PhD candidates need to be superstars. Your MCAT score rules that out. My understanding to Canadian schools is that it's nearly impossible for US citizens to get into them.

Very very sorry to hear of your sexual assault. This from a father of a daughter. But if you're trying to explain away your MCAT scores as being a result from your unfortunate events, that's going to come off as an excuse, not an explanation. It also brings your judgement into question as to why you'd take a career deciding, high stakes exam not once, but twice when you were not at your best.

You're still a competitive candidate for med school! I suggest:
NYU-LI
Dartmouth (maybe)
Rochester (maybe)
Emory
Tufts
Pitt (maybe)
Nova MD
U VM
Miami
George Washington
Georgetown
SLU
Albany
Rush
Rosy Franklin
NYMC
MCW
VCU
EVMS
Wayne State
Wake Forest
Netter
Jefferson
Temple
Drexel
Creighton
Tulane
Loyola
Uniformed Services University/Hebert (just be aware of the military service commitment)
Oakland-B
Seton Hall
TCU/UNT
Your state schools
Any DO program. I can't recommend Nova, Wm Carey, BCOM, ICOM and LUCOM, for different reasons. MSUCOM? Read up on Larry Nasser and you decide. LMU has an accreditation warning, which concerns me. CalHS is too new and appears to be too limited in rotations sites. UIW refuses to post their Boards scores, which is fishy.
 
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keu

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Great, thank you for your help. I would also hope that a medical school would understand that to some extent there is not time to wait for recovery for such a thing to somehow be complete, because it's not something that can be completed. Would it make sense for me to wait several more years of my life, holding off something that I want to do, just because of something that someone did to me? Doesn't feel like an excuse to me, feels like needing to work with what I've got. Also, it's not that I was in full breakdown while preparing for the test...It was completely out of my control that I had two events like that happen before each test.

I really appreciate your advice and I am not bringing animosity to the discussion. It was a sensitive question to answer, in any case. I will find a way to incorporate this into my PS regarding why I want to be a physician without making it sound like an excuse. Thanks again.
 
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GreenDuck12

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I can’t comment on the PS. You likely will be screened out for MD/PhD programs because of a lack of research experience. Experience during your application year would not compensate for this. It is important to keep in mind that your research interests need to match, on some level, the research being conducted at the university that you are applying to. You seem to have a very specific area of interest that may not be widely available. I know at my program, competition for MSTP is incredibly fierce especially because these programs are funded. This year, they interviewed 90 applicants for 6 spots - the 90 that were interviewed were selected from over 800 applications. If a combined degree is your goal, you should consider a multi year delay to gain research experience, publications, and a higher mcat score.
 
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keu

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Great, thanks for your comments. Can either of you (or anyone else) speak to this question specifically?

"Also open to applying to a PhD program once I get into medical school, thoughts on this?"
 

GreenDuck12

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Great, thanks for your comments. Can either of you (or anyone else) speak to this question specifically?

"Also open to applying to a PhD program once I get into medical school, thoughts on this?"

Again, you will need research experience before you will be a competitive applicant for PhD programs. Some of that you may be able to acquire during M1-2, in addition to this upcoming year, but likely need to be on hold during clinical years and residency. You could also explore doing a research year during medical school that may or may not lead to a masters degree but that’s not always an option at every school.

All of this is to say that yes you can pursue a PhD in addition to an MD but you will need to demonstrate that you have the background / skills to qualify for the training and to be funded. Having an MD does not necessarily signify that you have the necessary background.
 
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keu

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Great, that's helpful. Thanks for your reply.
 

sw99

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Your app looks good. Don't write about rape in your PS if you don't feel comfortable discussing that in an interview. Why do you want to become a MD/PhD?
 

keu

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Thanks for the tip. I feel comfortable talking about it in an interview. Like I said above, my recovery over the years helped me think about medicine, health, and well being in a new light that I believe will allow me to have a unique perspective and instinct as a physician. I will go into detail about this in my interview if needed but I find despite its origin, the resulting experience post-event has been invaluable.

I want to become an MD/PhD because I want to continue working on the desk research that I have started here and expand it to the field, but with institutional backing and guidance. I don't know how many of you answering me have ever done social science research or are familiar with students who aren't lab research based. The research I started (but realized it was too big to do for my 10,000 word thesis) was looking at how PTSD (in the person seeking asylum) affects asylum decisions and what are the various political, social, ideological, and cultural features that explain this variation across countries. Looking at the literature and speaking with different organizations, I saw that in some countries it has a negative, positive, or null effect on the decisions. It is extremely dependent on the context, obviously. There is little to no research on this specific topic in the context of the US and it is something I would like to continue working on with institutional backing. This is my most pressing question at the time, but of course I have several others that I hope to get to next.
 

ThoracicGuy

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Thanks for the tip. I feel comfortable talking about it in an interview. Like I said above, my recovery over the years helped me think about medicine, health, and well being in a new light that I believe will allow me to have a unique perspective and instinct as a physician. I will go into detail about this in my interview if needed but I find despite its origin, the resulting experience post-event has been invaluable.

Personally I'd leave it out of the PS. I agree with @Goro with the school lists. Given your sGPA and MCAT scores, you wouldn't be competitive for several of those schools. Many state schools also have in-state biases that you would need to look at to determine if you would even be considered for a spot.
 
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GreenDuck12

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Thanks for the tip. I feel comfortable talking about it in an interview. Like I said above, my recovery over the years helped me think about medicine, health, and well being in a new light that I believe will allow me to have a unique perspective and instinct as a physician. I will go into detail about this in my interview if needed but I find despite its origin, the resulting experience post-event has been invaluable.

I want to become an MD/PhD because I want to continue working on the desk research that I have started here and expand it to the field, but with institutional backing and guidance. I don't know how many of you answering me have ever done social science research or are familiar with students who aren't lab research based. The research I started (but realized it was too big to do for my 10,000 word thesis) was looking at how PTSD (in the person seeking asylum) affects asylum decisions and what are the various political, social, ideological, and cultural features that explain this variation across countries. Looking at the literature and speaking with different organizations, I saw that in some countries it has a negative, positive, or null effect on the decisions. It is extremely dependent on the context, obviously. There is little to no research on this specific topic in the context of the US and it is something I would like to continue working on with institutional backing. This is my most pressing question at the time, but of course I have several others that I hope to get to next.

It seems like you are not interested in a PhD in STEM but rather in social science/government/policy/public health that can incorporate your medical training into your work. If that is the case, the MSTP will likely not apply to you since those tend to have a different focus. Instead, you would need to find a joint MD/PhD program with the PhD program being centered in a larger academic center (College of arts and science, school of government/policy/public health, etc) where you would be dual enrolled. I know of a few programs that allow this but they are all extremely competitive for both MD and PhD admissions. From what I understand, you would need to apply to both and be admitted to both.

how will a PhD further your ability to pursue this area of research more than an mph?
 

keu

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@GreenDuck12 right, I never said anything about a PhD in STEM or MSTP. Yes, the large academic centers with established MD/ social science PhD programs were what I had written on my original list. Because a PhD gives me more research training in the focus that I want (culture, politics, gender, ethnography and interview as related to health rather than only a broad policy level, which I already have) and allows me to be competitive for research positions at international organizations. Thanks for your help anyway!

@ThoracicGuy, it would be okay if I put that I had been hit by a car, though, right? Then everyone would be comfortable talking about a traumatic experience emotionally, physically, and mentally that helped me have a more nuanced picture of healing. Maybe I'll put that.

I think this thread has been has helpful as it had any potential to be. Thank you for your school suggestions and other thoughts. Be safe and well.
 
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