“Preparing for and Applying to PhD, MD/PhD and MD Programs: A Dean’s Perspective” John Jay College November 3, 2011 Joel D. Oppenheim, Ph.D. Senior Associate Dean for Biomedical Sciences NYU School of Medicine Topics to discuss…. • • • • • • Introductions What Program Should You Be applying To? College preparation Who is looking for what Medical School Information Application Strategies PhD, MD, or MD/PhD? The Biomedical Enterprise The Spectrum Physical Sciences Basic Biological Sciences Integrative Biological Sciences DiseaseOriented Research PatientOriented Research Patient Care Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine The Physical Sciences PhD, (MD/PhD), ((MD)) Mathematics Physics Chemistry Computational Sciences Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine The Basic Biological Sciences PhD, MD/PhD, (MD) Molecular Genetics Cell Signaling Structural Biology Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine The Integrative Biological Sciences PhD, MD/PhD, (MD) Cell biology Developmental Biology Physiology Immunology Neurosciences Evolutionary Biology Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine Disease-Oriented Research PhD, MD/PhD, Cancer Biology Sickle Cell Anemia Cardiovascular Disease Auto-Immune Disease Alzheimer’s Disease MD Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine Patient-Oriented Research *Hypothesis-Driven MD/PhD, MD Congenital Disorders Aortic Aneurisms Auto-Immune Disease Cardiovascular Disease Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine Patient-Oriented Research *Observational MD, (MD/PhD) Epidemiological Studies Environmental Studies Drug Trials Longitudinal Studies Outcomes Research Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine Patient Care MD, (MD/PhD) History and Physical Diagnosis Treatment Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine The Biomedical Enterprise The Spectrum...Revisited MD MD/PhD PhD Physical Sciences Basic Biological Sciences Integrative Biological Sciences DiseaseOriented Research PatientOriented Research Patient Care Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine Preparation Freshman & Sophomore Years • Take broad spectrum of introductory sciences courses (including laboratories): biology, chemistry, physics, math, computer sciences • Take courses which help develop skills in reading comprehension, writing and public speaking • For MD or MD/PhD • arrange at least one hospital experience which includes patient contact sometime during your sophomore or junior year • Participate in a meaningful community service activity • Take a leadership role in some university related activity • Establish a good relationship with your school’s health careers or undergraduate research advisors • Get involved in research at your home institution and begin to think of off-campus research experiences (i.e. summer programs), especially at schools that you are considering applying to • Make sure that you do not over-extend yourself and remember that ACADEMICS COME FIRST!!! “REALITY CHECK” Somewhere between the end of the second year and the end of the third year you must ask yourself: “Have I prepared myself appropriately and do I have a strong enough record to apply for the graduate or professional program in which I am interested?” If the answer is “no” it is time to candidly re-examine your career goals, your learning strategies or your educational goals Junior Year • Take advanced level science courses: biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, genetics, microbiology, physiology, organic chemistry,, etc. These courses will prepare your foundation for all graduate and medical school curriculum • Take liberal arts courses that expand your comprehension, communication and critical/analytical reasoning skills: e.g. economics, history, literature, philosophy, etc. • Expand your research experiences • For PhD and MD/PhD you must carry out in depth research at your home institution • Summer research programs (summers between your sophomore and senior years) • • Chose a program directed at your career interest Chose a program at a school you are interested in attending Junior Year… • Begin preparation for MCAT or GRE: take preparation courses (Kaplan, Princeton Review, etc.), • MCAT is a computerized exam which is given 22 x a year beginning in January; it should be taken before you submit your AMCAS application • GRE exams are also computerized and you can take most any time; fall of your senior year is most common; also must check if schools require a subject test Senior Year • Submit your applications early (be realistic in your choice of programs) • File AMCAS application for MD or MD/PhD by earliest possible date (early June); apply to ~10-12 schools • File individual grad school applications in early fall; apply to 6-8 schools • If possible, visit the schools that interest you before applying • For MD and MD/PhD applicants expect the fall semester to be very demanding (and expensive): be sure to take this into account when planning class schedules and other social commitments; most MD/PhD interviews are between Sept 15 - Jan 30 • PhD interviews are usually paid for by the visiting school; between Jan 15 -March 15 • For PhD and MD/PhD bound students be sure to take advanced level science courses, especially those which are research and techniques oriented and complete any ongoing research projects • Take “life-enriching” courses that you will enjoy: art history, religion, etc. • Be sure to graduate! Who’s looking for what? What students should be looking for Academic Considerations: • Does the program offer a curriculum that meets your needs MD programs: - traditional or problem based learning - research or primary care based medical school PhD programs: umbrella vs. departmental PhD and MD/PhD programs - are there sufficient faculty choices in the research areas you are interested in - is there flexibility within the PhD to change directions • Do you feel comfortable with the program’s structure and organization; this is especially important for MD/PhD applicants • Are there adequate university research support systems to carry out the type of research you are interested in (library, computer facilities, specialized equipment, etc.) What students should be looking for… Special MD Considerations • Does the school offer (and/or encourage) specialized programs that could enhance your medical school experience: • combined degree programs (MD/MPH, MD/MA, MD/JD, etc.) • research opportunities for medical students (NIH Honors Programs, HHMI, Sarnoff, etc.) • international clerkships • educational and clinical opportunities outside the normal curriculum (humanities and social science events) What students should be looking for… Financial Considerations • • • • Can you afford it….This is not usually a consideration for students pursuing PhD and MD/PhD programs, but is a major issue for MD applicants (though it really does not have to be) Anyone can afford to go to medical school… It becomes a question of how much debt you are welling to incur (the average medical school graduate in has a debt of >$160,000) There are many ways of financing your medical education (loans, stipends, work study). Seek the help of the Financial Aid Office Alternate ways of funding your education (i.e. National Loan Repayment Program, Armed Forces and PHS support, etc.) What students should be looking for... Other Considerations • • • • • • • Geographic location of the school Campus environment Size of the class Appropriate support systems (advisors, tutoring-services, etc.) Diversity of student body Record on residency placement of MD graduates Intangibles for PhD and MD/PhD - time to degree (national average 6 yrs for PhD, 8 yrs for MD/PhD) - % completions Record on placement of graduates - MD and MD/PhD: Residency placement - PhD: postdocs, industry, government, etc - outcomes (# in academic positions) What schools are looking for • Strong undergraduate academic performance as indicated by • Strength of course load & GPA (compared to other candidates from the same institution) • MCAT or GRE scores • For PhD and MD/PhD applicants, sustained research experience(s) • Letters of Recommendation from appropriate individuals (and/or Committee Letter) • Strongly motivated students, who understand why they are applying • Students who can clearly express themselves both in writing and orally • For MD applicants, students who understand the social and economic implications of the career they have chosen and who have demonstrated leadership capabilities What schools are looking for… • For PhD applicants, superior preparation in the discipline for which the student is applying • For MD/PhD applicants, an understanding of why you are applying to a combined program Medical School Information National Applicant Data: for Fall 2010 By Gender and Ethnicity • Total Number of MD Applicants MD/PhD Applicants • • • 1,703 (4%) By Gender: Male Female Underrepresented students Hispanic Black Native American 42,742* 22,534 (53%) 20,207 (47%) 6,393 (~15.5%) 3271 3475 415 Non US & Perm Res *From AAMC database (1.1% increase over 2009) 1,706 National Applicant Data: Fall 2010 Applicant vs. Matriculate Data* Applicants Matriculates MCAT (mean ave.) 27.8/O 30.8/P GPA (mean ave.) - Science - Non Science 3.49 3.39 3.62 *Source AAMC database 3.65 3.59 3.73 National Applicant Data: Fall 2010 Medical School Matriculants* • Total: MD & MD/PhD 18,665 (43.6%)** MD/PhD • 612 (3.2%) By Gender: Male Female • Underrepresented students • Non US Citizen & Perm Res 9,909 (53.1%) 8,756 (46.9%) *AAMC Database **1.5% increase in matriculants due to 3 new medical schools 3141 (16.1%) 281 (1.3%) Medical Student Qualities: Admissions Assessment □ □ □ □ □ □ □ GPA/MCAT Scores □ Problem solving / Work ethic/Discipline Integrity analytical reasoning □ Academic Improvement Maturity/Insight Time management skills Ethical Decision- Making Cultural Competency/Sensitivity □ Consistency □ Interpersonal Communication □ Empathy / Compassion □ Teamwork Skills □ Teaching Skills Academics Professionalism Motivation/ Investigative Mind □ □ □ □ Scientific aptitude Intellectual Curiosity Enthusiasm Self-Motivation Interpersonal Skills Experience □ Commitment to Service □ Leadership □ Care of underserved □ Exposure to different cultures/ diversity □ Patient Care Experience □ Extracurricular Activities Academic Requirements for Applying to Medical School* • Biology minimum 6 semester hours • English minimum 6 semester hours • Inorganic Chemistry (with lab) minimum 6 semester hours • Organic Chemistry (with lab) minimum 6 semester hours • General Physics (with lab) minimum 6 semester hours • Recommended Additional Courses: mathematics (including calculus) , quantitative and physical chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular genetics *AMA-AAMC and State of New York Requirements Strategies for Applying Strategies on Applying to Medical School • The best strategy is to have a 4.0 GPA, have a MCAT score of 45/T, have great letters of recommendation, have carried out research, and have spent countless hours in medical environments and to be a mature, well rounded individual. If you don’t totally fit this profile then to optimize your chances it is recommended you follow some, if not all, of the following suggestions: Strategies… • Be sure to take the MCAT examination in your 3rd year • It is strongly recommended that you take a MCAT prep course before taking this exam • Apply to schools through the AMCAS process at the earliest possible date (~1st Monday in June) • If you receive a Secondary Applications, be sure they are resubmitted ASAP • Be sure to have people who know you well write letters of recommendation for you Strategies… • If you have had some academic problems request that those individuals writing your letters of recommendations address these issues in their letters • Apply to schools that may know you (from summer programs, where you have volunteered, where you have carried out research, etc.) • Apply to a sufficient number of schools (10-15) that are in a range and that you are competitive for • Apply to resident state university or private universities and not to nonresident state universities The Parts of Your Application “Package” THIS IS A HOLISTIC PROCESS! EACH SEGMENT IS IMPORTANT • • • • • • Application Forms for MD/PhD (entirely electronic) - Primary AMCAS - Individual school secondary applications - Additional essays (Primary) Application forms for PhD (mostly electronic) Transcripts Letters of recommendation (and/or Committee Letter) Statements (essays) National Examination results: MCAT & GRE Non-issues When Applying to Medical School • • • • • Age Gender Race or Ethnicity Marital Status Financial Status What Do I Do if I Don’t Get Accepted to Medical School • • Apply again Think of other career possibilities that will satisfy your interests Applying Again Evaluate why you were not accepted • Grades • MCAT scores • Poor or inappropriate letters of recommendation • Weak statement of purpose • Interviewed poorly • Applied to the wrong schools Applying Again… How to correct the problem(s) • low grades: are hard to deal with, you may possibly enroll in a postbaccalaureate or Master’s Program • low MCAT scores: repeat the exam but not before you take a prep course • poor letters of recommendation: hard to deal with especially if you do not have access to your file—get new letters • weak statement of purpose: do you have an adequate understanding of medicine as a career, and are you committed and enthusiastic • interviewed poorly: do practice interviews and improve the credentials that will give you more confidence • wrong schools: re-evaluate the schools that you applied to, be sure they represent a wide range and are appropriate Applying Again… What to do while you wait to reapply • Post baccalaureate program • Research program (NIH, Prep) • Enroll in a terminal master’s degree program (MPA, MPH, MSW, etc) that will give you a degree which can get you a job Useful URL’s • American Association of Medical Colleges: http://www.aamc.org • • • • Official Guide to the MCAT Exam Medical School Admission Requirements All the data you will need to make an informed choice GRE info: http://www.gre.org Some General Words of Advise • • • • Always remember that there are > 20 applicants for every place in most programs…schools/programs are looking for reasons not to accept you… do not give they reasons Do not be a high maintenance applicant It is your responsibility to be sure all documents arrives on, or better yet, before the deadlines Remember, everyone you speak to or meet during the application/admissions process, whether that be a secretary or professor, can impact your acceptance…treat everyone with respect GOOD LUCK TO ALL OF YOU! With my thanks to Drs. Jocelyn Spragg, Roger Chalkeley and Rod Ulane as well as the countless students, faculty and administrators who I have learned from over the years.