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Greetings everyone,

I'm yet another person currently in a PhD program for Pharmacology looking at going to medical school looking for a little advice. I have read multiple threads related to the matter, but I'm curious on what some of your thoughts on myself going / getting into medical school. Let me start by saying I am lucky in a number of ways, but I don't necessarily think my heart is in the PhD anymore. And because of the hassle to get funding and the poor job / salary outlook. People from my lab are landing good post-docs but usually expect to spend 5 years doing a post-doc. Currently, for those of you who may not know the NIH standard (which is what most P.I.'s pay) for a Post-Docat 5 years is still only $47, 460.

I have passed all my qualifying exams, and plan to be done within the next 2 years. I plan on using this time to finish my dissertation research, prep for the MCAT, and beef-up my application (not to mention keep getting a paycheck). What do you guys think I may need to make myself a competitive applicant?

My undergrad grades are somewhat subpar, but not uncalled for with an Overall GPA 3.33 (3.56 at my graduating institution, I transferred in), which I worked full-time during undergrad. Grad school GPA is 3.9. My advisor is an MD/PhD whom I'm pretty positive will write me a solid letter of reference, and soon to let me shadow him in the hospital. I have won a few awards, will have at least 2-3 papers published, and most likely a pre-doctoral fellowship (recieved a good score). My extracurricular activities are mostly related to Philanthropy, but also for student organizations. I've held several leadership positions in these student organizations including President.

If you have any questions I'll certainly answer them ASAP, and I'm happy to take any advice people are willing to share. I'm wanting to give myself the best possible chance of success for entering an MD program.
 

pseudoknot

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Do well on the MCAT and apply to a lot of schools and you will probably get in somewhere. Also make sure you have solid clinical experience and a good story about why the career change.

It's tricky to apply with a PhD and low numbers, since the places that are likely to value the doctorate most are the research-intensive sorts of schools that tend to have high stats. Again, the solution is just to cast a broad net. I had similar numbers and applied to 29 schools, which got me 10 interviews but only 2 acceptances. (Apparently I interview poorly. Gotta work on that before fourth year...)
 

BozoSparky

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keep in mind that for 4 years in medical school you will only spend money...and that after medical school you will make 50k for another 3-6 years.
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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If you have any questions I'll certainly answer them ASAP, and I'm happy to take any advice people are willing to share. I'm wanting to give myself the best possible chance of success for entering an MD program.
Good grief, when it rains, it pours. You're literally the *third* PhD-to-MD wannabe that has joined SDN and posted a new thread this week. I'll give you the same advice that I gave the last two:

1) Read the forum sticky; it will answer most of your questions along with others you haven't even thought of yet. This one in particular is addressed to you.

2) At the top right corner of the forum, you will notice a link that says "search this forum." If you click it, a box will come up, and you can type your search terms in there. That way, you can bring up previous posts on the same topic, and not have to reinvent the wheel.

Oh, and welcome to SDN. :)
 
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Thank for the advice so far guys,

pseudoknot- I think I interview pretty well. I've been thinking a lot about why I want to make the career change and am confident I can answer that question. But I absolutely intend to cast a broad net, and happy to hear from someone else with similar numbers is succeeding in med school.

BozoSparky - I understand medical school is a huge financial commitment and then still only making ~50K a year for 3-5 years, but it seems to have a lot more earning potential in the long run. A post-doc with 7+ years of experience still only brings in ~52K according to NIH standards, although there's usually extenuating circumstances for people doing a post-doc that long. Also I've talked to several post-docs who have tried getting a Research Associate Professor (RAP) position and still are only offered ~50K a year, without any guarantee of tenure (and that's after 4-5 years for the PhD and 5 years or more as a post-doc). Money certainly isn't my only motivation, but it seems a lot more financially beneficial in the long run to have an MD. Some faculty members I've spoken with from state/public Universities had their base salary cut 8-10% because of the economy, regardless of whether or not they are pulling in grants.

What do you guys think about securing a good residency, assuming I actually get into Medical School? I've spoken with a few MDs and MD/PhDs and have heard having PhD can help land a good residency because of "problem solving" skills. But that's just what I've heard through conversation so far.

Also, I've read a lot of threads saying some schools use computer programs to assign a 'ranking' to potential applicants and to weed out lower scoring applicant by their combined GPA and MCAT scores (i.e. score = 10 * GPA * MCAT). Is the Graduate School GPA not considered at all? I've read some threads claiming that graduate school classes are easier, but I know for a fact some graduate schools actually have their students taking classes with the medical students. Is considering grad school GPA a case-by-case scenario for different schools? Not many schools I've found actually state they use this type of ranking system.
QofQuimica - Sorry I didn't see your post until this morning. I guess we were actually writing our responses at the same time. Thanks for the 'welcome to SDN.' I read your post previously and several others as well (I actually already bookmarked that particular post) . I was just curious if there were other people with similar grades as mine from undergrad. And getting some more advice than just the typical - "volunteer and shadowing." I'm looking at which schools to apply for (state, out of state, big, small, research oriented), what are my options in medical school and afterwards, scholarship opportunities,...strategy, etc. (But if 3 PhDs joined this week, I'm not surprised. It is grant season for those looking to get pre-doctoral fellowhsips, and writing those suckers can be extremely jarring.)

I most likely will be applying to research-intensive sorts of schools as pseudoknot mentioned because of my background and for more 'translational' type research opportunities. However, I do have at least a year to 'beef-up' my application. So I'm just looking for as much help as I can get. And will continue to take as much advice as I can get.

Thanks again guys.
 
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pseudoknot

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2) At the top right corner of the forum, you will notice a link that says "search this forum." If you click it, a box will come up, and you can type your search terms in there. That way, you can bring up previous posts on the same topic, and not have to reinvent the wheel.
It's worth pointing out that the SDN search function sucks, and in particular you cannot search for three letter terms such as "PhD."
 

pseudoknot

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What do you guys think about securing a good residency, assuming I actually get into Medical School? I've spoken with a few MDs and MD/PhDs and have heard having PhD can help land a good residency because of "problem solving" skills.
I'm not sure I would worry so much about this yet. That being said, the answer varies by program and field. From what people tell me, in many cases having a PhD will make little difference in residency apps. It will have the biggest impact in research-friendly specialties and I know that in academic internal medicine programs, a PhD is a huge asset.

Also, I'm not sure to what extent this is different for someone who got the degrees sequentially rather than in an integrated program. Some have claimed that program directors may discount the former since we are in a sense switching careers away from research. I hope this isn't the case, but who knows.


Is the Graduate School GPA not considered at all?
No, I don't think it usually is, unless it's from a special master's program where you are actually taking med school classes. I do think this is fair since graduate grading and coursework are quite different from undergrad or med school. Fair or not, it seems to be the case.
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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It's worth pointing out that the SDN search function sucks, and in particular you cannot search for three letter terms such as "PhD."
Yes you can. I just tried searching for PhD, and it worked fine.
 

pseudoknot

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Yes you can. I just tried searching for PhD, and it worked fine.
There must have been a recent update to vBulletin, or else I've had a mild stroke. I have vivid memories of searching for that and other three character words, only to be told that the search terms were not included because they were too short.

Well, it's good that it works now.

I just realized, I was so excited about the start of third year that I forgot to try to talk the OP out of going to med school...
 

DogFaceMedic

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Actually, you are in a good position to apply to med school. I know one Pharm PhD who is now a Surgery resident. His Pharm background is invaluable where it matters -- patient care. Any field in medicine will benefit from a MD-Pharm PhD.

But, don't mention the money. Rather, it is very believeable and preferred to say you want to focus on applying research to the bedside. I know several who were sick of the lab and switched.

Your grad GPA is combined with undergrad, and a 3.33 undergrad is not a problem because you have demonstrated you can succeed academically.

My story is somewhat similar (PhD first) with avereage undergrad GPA, although I took a long and winding road to where I am now in the ER.
 

docbill

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I'm not sure I would worry so much about this yet. That being said, the answer varies by program and field. From what people tell me, in many cases having a PhD will make little difference in residency apps. It will have the biggest impact in research-friendly specialties and I know that in academic internal medicine programs, a PhD is a huge asset.

Also, I'm not sure to what extent this is different for someone who got the degrees sequentially rather than in an integrated program. Some have claimed that program directors may discount the former since we are in a sense switching careers away from research. I hope this isn't the case, but who knows.
I hope having a PhD helps when I apply for residency. The research track residencies prefer it... but they might say we been out of the research world too long. Either way no biggy. There are not too many of us MD-PhD or PhD-MD running around.

You still have to do decent on board scores.
 

DogFaceMedic

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I hope having a PhD helps when I apply for residency. The research track residencies prefer it... but they might say we been out of the research world too long. Either way no biggy. There are not too many of us MD-PhD or PhD-MD running around.

You still have to do decent on board scores.
It is a benefit regardless how long ago or what field you finished your phud. Most residencies, including more clinically focussed specialties, have a research requirement. So, anyone who comes in with any research experience helps the residency director meet his accreditation requirements.

I advertised myself as a researcher who likes patients and I want to see my research where the "rubber meets the road" so to speak.
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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I think I interview pretty well. I've been thinking a lot about why I want to make the career change and am confident I can answer that question. But I absolutely intend to cast a broad net, and happy to hear from someone else with similar numbers is succeeding in med school.
Everyone thinks they interview well; far fewer actually do. Sitting on the other side, I can tell you that interviewing some otherwise very bright and qualified candidates can be incredibly painful. Make sure you do some mock interviews with someone who doesn't know you very well and will be appropriately critical. Another faculty member in your dept (not your PI) could be a good choice, and if they're an adcom, even better.

I understand medical school is a huge financial commitment and then still only making ~50K a year for 3-5 years, but it seems to have a lot more earning potential in the long run. A post-doc with 7+ years of experience still only brings in ~52K according to NIH standards, although there's usually extenuating circumstances for people doing a post-doc that long. Also I've talked to several post-docs who have tried getting a Research Associate Professor (RAP) position and still are only offered ~50K a year, without any guarantee of tenure (and that's after 4-5 years for the PhD and 5 years or more as a post-doc). Money certainly isn't my only motivation, but it seems a lot more financially beneficial in the long run to have an MD. Some faculty members I've spoken with from state/public Universities had their base salary cut 8-10% because of the economy, regardless of whether or not they are pulling in grants.
Considering how many years (four) you will be taking away from earning a salary of any amount and how much money you will likely be taking out in loans ($100,000+), I would caution you against going this route because you think you will come out ahead financially. Especially since you're not starting out at age 22, it is very possible that you will come out behind financially if you go to medical school. There are some excellent discussions of this issue in the nontrad forum if you haven't seen them yet. Go to the sticky in there and you'll find the links. (I'm a huge sticky afficionado, if you hadn't noticed. :p)

What do you guys think about securing a good residency, assuming I actually get into Medical School? I've spoken with a few MDs and MD/PhDs and have heard having PhD can help land a good residency because of "problem solving" skills. But that's just what I've heard through conversation so far.
This is highly specialty-dependent. In the research-oriented specialties most frequented by MD/PhDs like medicine, peds, path, etc., having a PhD can be a significant plus. In other, more procedural fields where there is heavy pressure to do clinical work to maximize revenue, it may be harder at many programs since they have a strong disincentive to want you there primarily as a researcher.

I'm a fourth year right now and should be applying this year, although I'm taking an extra year off first. But a lot of my friends are applying, and of course I've thought a lot about these issues myself. My general impression is that applying to residency with a PhD is kind of like applying to med school with a PhD, in the sense that it won't save your app if you aren't generally competitive anyway. But if you have good board scores and good clinical grades, it can be a significant boon at more research-oriented programs. ScottishChap or Bozo, you can feel free to disagree and/or provide more info, since you've already gone through the process.

Also, I've read a lot of threads saying some schools use computer programs to assign a 'ranking' to potential applicants and to weed out lower scoring applicant by their combined GPA and MCAT scores (i.e. score = 10 * GPA * MCAT).
I don't know how many schools do this. Mine definitely does not.

Is the Graduate School GPA not considered at all?
In the formula, or in general? Like I said, we have no formula at my school. We do consider grad school performance, but again, if you have an unacceptably low UG GPA, it won't generally make up for that. (NB, I'm not saying your UG GPA is unacceptable; this is a general statement.)

I've read some threads claiming that graduate school classes are easier, but I know for a fact some graduate schools actually have their students taking classes with the medical students.
Grad school classes aren't easier, but the grading is often easier. Very few people get less than a B in a grad school class. Especially if you're doing well in the lab, your PI wants to keep you, and you get your gentleman's B. Also, adcoms know that anyone with a grad degree must have a 3.0 or better GPA; otherwise, they'd have flunked out of the program. So a grad school GPA of 3.6 (which is the avg UG GPA for med school matriculants) just doesn't carry the same weight.

Is considering grad school GPA a case-by-case scenario for different schools? Not many schools I've found actually state they use this type of ranking system.
Probably.

QofQuimica - Sorry I didn't see your post until this morning. I guess we were actually writing our responses at the same time. Thanks for the 'welcome to SDN.' I read your post previously and several others as well (I actually already bookmarked that particular post) .
No problem, I hadn't seen your response to me either when I skimmed through your post. I appreciate knowing that you read the sticky; it was a lot of work for Neuro and me (especially Neuro) to assemble it. :laugh:

I was just curious if there were other people with similar grades as mine from undergrad.
Definitely, and at the premed level, many people with grades far worse than yours.

And getting some more advice than just the typical - "volunteer and shadowing."
That advice may not seem very situation-specific, but it's true. You need to get clinical experience (an absolute *must*, something that you should treat as being a prereq just like a year of gen chem or physics is). And you need to do some significant ECs, which often includes community service. It makes sense when you think about it from the adcom's perspective, because medicine is a service profession. You don't have to be a saint to go into medicine, but I do think you need some streak of altruism to do it, because no amount of money alone will compensate you for the next 8+ years of sweat you'd be putting into training.

I'm looking at which schools to apply for (state, out of state, big, small, research oriented), what are my options in medical school and afterwards, scholarship opportunities,...strategy, etc.
You do need to consider these things, but first decide if applying to med school is even something you want to do at all. In general, you should apply to all of your state schools, especially if you're in a state like FL (where I'm from) that protects its seats for state residents. You should also target OOS schools that take residents from your state and that are research-oriented, assuming you want to continue on in research. All of this info can be found in a book called the MSAR. Scholarships are few and far between. I have one, but I was extremely lucky beyond what I can possibly express in words, and the vast majority of matriculants will unfortunately not get scholarships. As I said before, you should expect to take out six figure loans if you go to medical school.

(But if 3 PhDs joined this week, I'm not surprised. It is grant season for those looking to get pre-doctoral fellowhsips, and writing those suckers can be extremely jarring.)
Yeah, there are a few of us here and there sporadically. I've been on SDN for five years now though, and I haven't ever seen this many at once before.

I most likely will be applying to research-intensive sorts of schools as pseudoknot mentioned because of my background and for more 'translational' type research opportunities. However, I do have at least a year to 'beef-up' my application. So I'm just looking for as much help as I can get. And will continue to take as much advice as I can get.

Thanks again guys.
Keep reading, and keep asking. There's lots of advice to be had. This forum generally has higher quality advice than PA does IMHO, although you won't necessarily find as as many discussions that specifically pertain to your situation (i.e., PhD-to-MD) since most of the regulars here are attending or applying to combined programs. I think it would be worth your while to spend some time in nontrad too; that relates to you in the sense of being an older student switching careers.

Hope this is helpful, and best of luck to you. :)
 

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PhD clunker,
As a current resident who is seeing the financial realities of the real world coming up fast, let me say the following, and it may not be what you are expecting:

If you are done with the PhD for financial reasons, thinking that it will be too difficult to get funding etc, please note that there are many people in medicine who currently feel that the S**t is about to hit the fan here. Specialties that are used to making gobs of money, like Rads, are predicted to take the brunt of government-backed slashes to their paychecks. When Obama states that the current course in medical care is unsustainable, he is pretty much right. Whether or not his health care reforms pass matters little- if they pass those slashes may come sooner, but ultimately doctors salaries are going to get smaller and smaller regardless. It's not hard to see how it will happen- they will simply lower medicare reimbursements. As they do so, private insurers will follow suit, and there is nothing we can really do about it since private insurers are not going to start being less profitable simply because we want to keep earning a good living. Med school isn't getting any cheaper and future earnings look to be shrinking. just think about that.

Furthermore, there are a lot of jobs you would be qualified for with a PhD that does not involve basic science research. There is industry, editorial work, teaching, and numerous other possibilities most people don't think of that probably earn much more than an academic paycheck.

I guess my point is to do whatever you like to do. If you enjoy science, do that. If you don't do something else. If you go into medicine, rack up 300K of debt, graduate and find out you make $80K per year after residency while PA's make $75K with two years to your 7-8, AND you don't really like what you do, you will be miserable.
 
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PhD clunker,

If you are done with the PhD for financial reasons, thinking that it will be too difficult to get funding etc, please note that there are many people in medicine who currently feel that the S**t is about to hit the fan here. Specialties that are used to making gobs of money, like Rads, are predicted to take the brunt of government-backed slashes to their paychecks. When Obama states that the current course in medical care is unsustainable, he is pretty much right. Whether or not his health care reforms pass matters little- if they pass those slashes may come sooner, but ultimately doctors salaries are going to get smaller and smaller regardless. It's not hard to see how it will happen- they will simply lower medicare reimbursements. As they do so, private insurers will follow suit, and there is nothing we can really do about it since private insurers are not going to start being less profitable simply because we want to keep earning a good living. Med school isn't getting any cheaper and future earnings look to be shrinking. just think about that.

Furthermore, there are a lot of jobs you would be qualified for with a PhD that does not involve basic science research. There is industry, editorial work, teaching, and numerous other possibilities most people don't think of that probably earn much more than an academic paycheck.

I guess my point is to do whatever you like to do. If you enjoy science, do that. If you don't do something else. If you go into medicine, rack up 300K of debt, graduate and find out you make $80K per year after residency while PA's make $75K with two years to your 7-8, AND you don't really like what you do, you will be miserable.
I appreciate the good advice. I have been following the policies on medical care and health reform rather closely lately. And I definitely agree its not hard to imagine that change could come rather quickly especially in regard to medicare. But I'm not jumping, or rather planning to jump ship just because of the money. (although that still plays a part in my decision. If we're being honest money always plays a part in the decisions people make. Unfortunately its just a fact of life. )

Like several of the other PhD -> MDs whom have already posted. I'm planning on applying to Med School, but still applying for post-doc positions, and other non-academic jobs. Med School right now is my 1st choice if I get in because I like the work, or at least what I've been around so far. I have plans to shadow people in neurology, pediatrics, anesthesiology, and endocrinology, so far so we'll see how that goes and then some more. But I have also considered applying to PA school to save some time, money, and a little stress :).

QofQuimica - you give some pretty solid / well-rounded advice. Not just to my post, but per your advice I've been reading in the nontrad stickies where you have posted as well. It seems you kept your options fairly open as well when considering going to Med School. I saw you don't really have many regrets other than maybe not directly going to an MD/PhD program. Currently I'll be 27-28 as an entering Med student (if accepted), so I'll be around the same age as many MD/PhDs I know when its time to graduate and apply to residencies. I'm lucky in the respect I don't have any children yet, and my gf is extremely supported of me going to medical school. She even said my attitude got a lot better when I mentioned it. Thank you for the interviewing advice for sure. I'll definitely be asking around for some help with mock interviews. And fortunately I do know some students and faculty who have sat on the Admin. Committee.

Thank you to everyone else whom has posted so far. Sorry if I haven't quoted or mentioned you by name yet. I do have some quick questions related to many of your concerns.

As I read many of the stickies of those considering medical school. It seems mostly people warn of two things in general. #1 the time-committment # the financial burden. The time committment I'll admit is enormous and I see it everyday around the med students & residents at my school. But I have yet to hear many finished doctors say it wasn't worth it. Any thoughts? To me it seems very dependent on the individual.....#2 how 'horrendous' is the financial side of it all. Yes most people including myself will have to take out loans in excess of 100K. But many residents and physicians I have talked to say it isn't terrible so long as you don't try to live like someone on MTV. I plan on applying to mainly state schools, but also some others to 'cast a wide net' as pseudonot and others have suggested. If accepted and taking the ideal road to finishing I'll graduate around 32 and finish residency before 40. Which leaves several years of practicing medicine. How bad does everyone think the financial strain is? And is it too insurmountable at this age? I mean a traditional med student/graduate will be around 6-7 years younger than myself, but I don't think they have it so much better because of have 6-7 years more to play the finacial catch-up. But I'm still looking at the world from pre-med school eyes, so what does everyone else think?
 

QofQuimica

Seriously, dude, I think you're overreacting....
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As I read many of the stickies of those considering medical school. It seems mostly people warn of two things in general. #1 the time-committment # the financial burden. The time committment I'll admit is enormous and I see it everyday around the med students & residents at my school. But I have yet to hear many finished doctors say it wasn't worth it. Any thoughts? To me it seems very dependent on the individual.....
Everyone has some regrets. Any time you make a decision, you are walking away from the possibilities you did not choose. Going to medical school has pros and cons. Hopefully the pros will outweigh the cons, but there's no certainty here. Even if you go in thinking the pros will win out, you may change your mind by the time you get to my point, or beyond. You should search for a user called Panda Bear and read his blog.

#2 how 'horrendous' is the financial side of it all. Yes most people including myself will have to take out loans in excess of 100K. But many residents and physicians I have talked to say it isn't terrible so long as you don't try to live like someone on MTV. I plan on applying to mainly state schools, but also some others to 'cast a wide net' as pseudonot and others have suggested. If accepted and taking the ideal road to finishing I'll graduate around 32 and finish residency before 40. Which leaves several years of practicing medicine. How bad does everyone think the financial strain is? And is it too insurmountable at this age? I mean a traditional med student/graduate will be around 6-7 years younger than myself, but I don't think they have it so much better because of have 6-7 years more to play the finacial catch-up. But I'm still looking at the world from pre-med school eyes, so what does everyone else think?
It's hard as a student to wrap your mind around how staggering that much debt is. It's like a mortgage on a house (and where I come from, a pretty darn nice house!). If you go into the PA forum and ask this question, every premed and his brother will tell you that you should go to the school you like best, damn the torpedos and the extra debt. Meanwhile, most med students, residents and attendings will tell you to go wherever is cheapest. I would concur.

The thing is, Clunker, you are living like a student right now, and it doesn't seem that bad. You're used to it. Fast forward ten years. You and your girlfriend are married and have a kid or two. You want to buy a house, a nice car, take a vacation every now and then, put money away for your retirement and your kids' college. You know, a regular middle class life. The problem is, you have to send a few thousand dollars to Sallie Mae every month. After all of the hard work you put into becoming a doctor, that huge expense is going to really sting. It will affect how you can live your life for years, maybe decades. Some of my attendings in their 40s (who were trads) are still paying their loans off 20+ years after the fact.

I'm not trying to suggest the financial strain is insurmountable. But it *is* significant, and it probably *will* affect your life for many years after you graduate. Just something to consider when you're doing your calculus as to whether med school is worth it for you.