TIPS ON PREPARING FOR AND APPLYING TO PhD, MD

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“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….
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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))
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Mathematics
Physics
Chemistry
Computational Sciences
Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine
The Basic Biological Sciences
PhD, MD/PhD, (MD)
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Molecular Genetics
Cell Signaling
Structural Biology
Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine
The Integrative Biological
Sciences
PhD, MD/PhD, (MD)
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Cell biology
Developmental Biology
Physiology
Immunology
Neurosciences
Evolutionary Biology
Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine
Disease-Oriented Research
PhD, MD/PhD,
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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,
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MD
Congenital Disorders
Aortic Aneurisms
Auto-Immune Disease
Cardiovascular Disease
Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine
Patient-Oriented Research
*Observational
MD,
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(MD/PhD)
Epidemiological Studies
Environmental Studies
Drug Trials
Longitudinal Studies
Outcomes Research
Rod Ulane- NYU School of Medicine
Patient Care
MD, (MD/PhD)

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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
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Take broad spectrum of introductory sciences courses (including laboratories):
biology, chemistry, physics, math, computer sciences
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Take courses which help develop skills in reading comprehension, writing and
public speaking
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For MD or MD/PhD
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arrange at least one hospital experience which includes patient contact sometime
during your sophomore or junior year
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Participate in a meaningful community service activity
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Take a leadership role in some university related activity
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Establish a good relationship with your school’s health careers or undergraduate
research advisors
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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
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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
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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
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Take liberal arts courses that expand your comprehension, communication and
critical/analytical reasoning skills: e.g. economics, history, literature, philosophy,
etc.
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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)
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Chose a program directed at your career interest
Chose a program at a school you are interested in attending
Junior Year…
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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
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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
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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
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If possible, visit the schools that interest you before applying
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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
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PhD interviews are usually paid for by the visiting school; between Jan 15 -March 15
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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
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Take “life-enriching” courses that you will enjoy: art history, religion, etc.
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Be sure to graduate!
Who’s looking for
what?
What students should be looking for
Academic Considerations:
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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
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Do you feel comfortable with the program’s structure and organization; this is
especially important for MD/PhD applicants
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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
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Does the school offer (and/or encourage) specialized programs that could
enhance your medical school experience:
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combined degree programs (MD/MPH, MD/MA, MD/JD, etc.)
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research opportunities for medical students (NIH Honors Programs, HHMI,
Sarnoff, etc.)
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international clerkships
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educational and clinical opportunities outside the normal curriculum (humanities
and social science events)
What students should be looking for…
Financial Considerations
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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
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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
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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)
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Strongly motivated students, who understand why they are applying
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Students who can clearly express themselves both in writing and orally
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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…
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For PhD applicants, superior preparation in the discipline for which the
student is applying
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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
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Total Number of MD Applicants
MD/PhD Applicants
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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*
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Total:
MD & MD/PhD
18,665 (43.6%)**
MD/PhD
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612
(3.2%)
By Gender:
Male
Female
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Underrepresented students
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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
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□ 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
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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*
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Biology
minimum 6 semester hours
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English
minimum 6 semester hours
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Inorganic Chemistry (with lab)
minimum 6 semester hours
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Organic Chemistry (with lab)
minimum 6 semester hours
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General Physics (with lab)
minimum 6 semester hours
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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
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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…
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Be sure to take the MCAT examination in your 3rd year
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It is strongly recommended that you take a MCAT prep
course before taking this exam
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Apply to schools through the AMCAS process at the earliest
possible date (~1st Monday in June)
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If you receive a Secondary Applications, be sure they are
resubmitted ASAP
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Be sure to have people who know you well write letters of
recommendation for you
Strategies…
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If you have had some academic problems request that those individuals
writing your letters of recommendations address these issues in their letters
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Apply to schools that may know you (from summer programs, where you
have volunteered, where you have carried out research, etc.)
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Apply to a sufficient number of schools (10-15) that are in a range and that
you are competitive for
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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
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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
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Age
Gender
Race or Ethnicity
Marital Status
Financial Status
What Do I Do if I Don’t Get Accepted to
Medical School
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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
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American Association of Medical Colleges: http://www.aamc.org
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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
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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.
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