5+ Year Member
Jul 5, 2015
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  1. Pre-Medical
Hi everyone. I have been teetering on going from MD to MD/PhD. Long story short, I applied to MD schools this year but applied late and let the pandemic get to me and this cycle is mostly going to be a bust for me. That being said, I had some time to reflect on everything going on in my life and realized that I want to do MD/PhD instead. I've been wracking my brain in anxiety for the past few days to see if this route is actually feasible. I initially went MD because I felt unsure about whether or not I wanted to be a PI. But, with Covid and my time in industry, things have changed. So, my question is whether or not I can do this. With MD apps going so badly for me this year, I would love to get your thoughts on whether or not I will be qualified to apply to MSTP programs. I will be applying early next time. My goal is to ultimately work in academic medicine and be a PI (that's a new goal) and work as a liaison to industry to help guide their various platforms. I want to study gene therapy and do my PhD in Biomedical Engineering. So, I guess, here is my app. I am looking into feedback on what schools to apply for and if I need to find more experiences somewhere.

Undergraduate Major(s)/Minor(s): Biomedical Engineering (BME)—> 3.67 GPA, 3.78 Science GPA+ BME (Master's) —> 4.0 GPA (my stats are low guys. I got mentally lost my junior year and my gpa suffered that year.) —> 2020 grad (#covidgrad)

MCAT Score(s): 508/511/515 (final score). I'm really worried about the three retakes. I'm over thinker.. hence the anxiety.

Research Experience: I worked in research all through undergrad. My first lab, I did about 2 years. I ended up leaving because my grad student left and then I was kind of left without anyone to work with. The first lab, I got on a paper (basically last author) —> total hours (~1200). The second lab I did my master's thesis work in and started as an undergrad. I would say here, I did about ~1800hrs just because of the amount of work I did and how much time I spent working. I have a published thesis and contributed to another paper. In the middle of these experiences, I worked as an intern in research at a biotech startup. It was a co-op, so it was 7 months, so thats about (~1120 hrs). It was amazing and really broadened my eyes to what's out there.

So, then I graduated, the pandemic hit and I was unemployed (had a job offer pulled last minute) and I got hired back to company I worked for as an associate scientist in research. So far, I love the science I do and it has helped me decide what I want to study as a scientist and how I want to work with patients. I will working here for two years full-time, so I'm estimating my hours to about (~4200hrs). So, overall, my total research hours comes to about ~8300hrs.

Publications/Abstracts/Posters: 2 middle author publications, one published thesis, 4 first author posters. I have couple more on the way with my current job. I won my school's research fair. Not sure that really makes a difference.

Clinical Experience: Volunteering: Hospice (covid is getting in the way - End of Life Doula - 200 hrs); Health Screenings in College (100 hrs); Patient Navigator (maybe 15 hrs); Currently getting my EMT cert and planning to work as ED tech part-time (I'm estimating my hours out to matriculation so about ~1000)

Physician Shadowing: ~120 hours in a few different specialties, eshadowing (just started - hopefully will have another 50 hrs by next year)

Non-Clinical Volunteering: Ronald McDonald House Family Room (~500 hrs), Food Pantry (Hope to have 50hrs), Women's Homeless Shelter (~200 hrs), Red Cross Blood Drives (~150 hrs), Medical reserve Corp volunteer (~100 hrs - in my home town). I also volunteer at my religious organization but it varies.

Other Extracurricular Activities: I was president of a public health group in college, a member of the community service leadership group at my school, a Resident Assistant, a Teaching Assistant for three classes. I was also in the school's BME honor society and had a leadership role in that. I won a graduating senior award for my department. I'm a huge fitness person so that's my hobby. I also like to paint and doing crafts.

Schools: I am interested in studying gene therapy and drug delivery for my PhD. I haven't had a chance to look at schools and I would love your suggestions. I literally made this decision after talking to one of my mentors this week and having an epiphany.

For me, MD/PhD is a scary endeavor and pursuing this might be the scariest thing I have done. I would love your feedback on whether this is something I can do and if admission committees will see me as a capable. It also scares me that I have not received a single MD interview this cycle, so will MSTP programs, a more difficult program, think I'm good?

Thank you in advance for your help everyone!!!


2+ Year Member
May 26, 2018
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  1. Pre-Medical
Hello! Current MSTP applicant and fellow engineering/covid grad here!

Skimming through your post, it seems you have a substantial amount of research (with output!), which is ultimately the most important thing for MD/PhD applicants. Your stats may hurt you some at the most competitive programs, but ultimately you also need to convince MSTPs that this is something to which you are committed rather than a fallback after an unsuccessful cycle. Another thing to consider, MSTP programs are not necessarily more difficult to get into per se, it is just that different things are scrutinized more heavily (research is weighed much more and clinical experiences less). I think you could have some luck in the MD/PhD world, but I defer to some of the more experienced folks here.
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2+ Year Member
May 7, 2017
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I'm also a current applicant applying into Biomedical Engineering and related fields! You have plenty of productive research experience, so that will be enough to get your foot in the door at lots of great programs. The low stats and 3 MCAT retakes might be detrimental to your chances at the top tier schools, but your research will probably be your saving grace at some programs.
However, the fact that you haven't gotten any MD interviews is concerning given your good clinical experience and activities. You need to make sure you have a cohesive story that shines through in your essays and interviews. Try to have your essays edited by a couple people before your next cycle just to make sure everything is in shape. Also make sure your LORs are from faculty/mentors you trust. Other than that, make sure you apply early!!
As for schools, I think your chances would be good if you applied broadly. So a handful of T10s, several T20s, and several more T40s for a total of 20-25 schools sounds reasonable (but it really depends on your budget and bandwidth for writing good secondaries).
Hopefully that helps!
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Sep 4, 2020
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Hey, So I was actually in a similar situation. I retook the MCAT once because my first test was kinda messed up by my commute the day before the exam (Screw the MTA and LIRR). I applied MD only during the 2018-2019 cycle, got some interviews late in the game, and ended up on waitlists because 1) I just wasn't the best interviewer and had no confidence and 2) I was a late applicant. I had around 2K hours of research by the time I applied, and around 3.5K once I graduated, and I honestly just thought I would never be good enough to be competitive in academia so I stuck to MD only.

After I graduated in 2019, I got more clinical hours in, but then realized I missed research, and began working in a lab. I hit the ground running and I am currently working on two really cool projects and I'm pretty happy. Literally right before COVID hit and stuff got shut down, and I was in this rut where I couldn't justify to myself that I wanted to do MD only, and so I talked to a lot of people and realized that I wanted to do MD/PhD. I applied broadly this cycle, and I got a few interview invites and I was accepted into one program so far, and I think I have a really good shot at the rest I interviewed at as well (these committee decisions take forever ugh). But I can say that you should definitely reach out MD/PhD students and graduates and learn about their story and their reasons, and if it aligns with your ideals and what you want, then you should definitely do it.

In terms of your application, I would say you're a fairly decent applicant with plenty of clinical and effective research hours. No harm in applying broadly if you don't have your heart set on anything, but spend the next few months just looking into programs. Don't be overly concerned with T20 and T40 programs and rankings cause I've talked to a lot of people and essentially, the medical education that you receive at any school is standardized enough so that you all take the same standardized tests, and the research is really more so about what you make of it with the lab that you join (which should primarily be based off of your relationship with your mentor, even though being in a well funded lab is very nice and often productive). So REALLY spend the next few months looking into programs that you would be happy to attend that have good funding in your areas of interest, but also in other areas just incase you switch.

Also make sure you have your story down packed. Get those three primary app essays done and read and reviewed by a few people (before may if possible) and if more than one person makes the same edit, you should heavily consider editing it (also have your PI look at your Significant Research Essay, they literally write grants and can tell you where the BS is/what is wrong with it.) MD/PhD programs want to see that you know/can talk about all of your research on a very detailed level, and that you are at least 99% confident that you wouldn't just do MD or PhD alone (a question you often get is why both/ which would you choose if you could only choose one).
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