Remaining Schools

I’ve had to reexamine a lot of my priorities over the past month or so and have had to realize that if I wanted to do the kind of program I’m interested in, I needed to reevaluate a few things. To that end, I sort of altered the way I had been looking for schools to apply to.

I’ve concluded that I’d like to do a PhD in computational biology or biostatistics, depending on the school. I’d like to integrate my interest in math, programming, and quantitative science into medicine. I’ve come to realize that this makes me somewhat incompatible with a significant number of MD / PhD programs. So to maximize my chances of getting an acceptance somewhere, I screened schools in the following way:

  • I created a sortable list of all 130 medical schools in the US and removed all that were in areas I really didn’t want to live for 7-8 years.
  • I went through the MD / PhD program websites and looked to see which had progras in computational biology, bioinformatics, or something similar. I feel compelled to point out that the quality of medical school websites varies greatly. Some are fantastic and give you a great sense of what they’re about. Others, not so much.
  • Some schools make it abundantly clear that they are only interested in the ‘basic sciences’. I’ve learned that this is code for the Holy Trinity: biochemistry, neuroscience, and molecular biology. Once I concluded I wasn’t going to find a home there, I removed them from the list.

That leaves 18 schools, which I’ve listed here. I’ve arranged them in relative order of perference, but until I do more research, I’m not sure which ones will be at the top of my list:

University of Washington School of Medicine
Harvard Medical School
University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A Carver College of Medicine
University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine

Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine
Wake Forest School of Medicine of Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine
Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Baylor College of Medicine

Indiana University School of Medicine
University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health
University of Michigan Medical School
University of Minnesota Medical School
University of Colorado School of Medicine
University of Virginia School of Medicine

I don’t intend to apply to all of these schools, but I have no idea how competitive I will be for these programs. My undergrad GPA is atrocious and I don’t have a tremendous amount of medical research experience under my belt.

I was shocked to find that Harvard made its way onto my list – but programs like mathematical biophysics have a way of snagging my attention. Anyway, thoughts on any of these?

Death by a Thousand Deadlines

My committee letter application for my post-bacc institution is due this Friday at 5:00 PM.  I was chatting with a buddy of mine earlier tonight and told him how much work I still had left to do on my application and he mentioned how he hated deadlines.  I started to realize that, among the many things I have to look forward to, meeting deadlines is going to characterize the next ten years of my life.  There are deadlines for application.  Deadlines for secondaries.  Deadlines for deciding on where to go if I’m accepted.  Deadlines for everything in graduate school, I’m sure.  Deadlines.  Deadlines.  Deadlines.

I’m glad I see this now and have started learning how to be organized, otherwise I’ll be going insane a few years from now.

Thoughts on Schools

Hey everyone.  Hope you guys are all well.

I’ve started down the path to selecting medical schools to apply to and I figured that I had winnowed the list to a thin enough crew to warrant asking for some of your thoughts on schools.  I don’t know a lot of people in the non-blogosphere that go to any of these schools, so I’m hoping you guys can give me some additional insight.

The initial criteria for me is location – if I’m going to live in one location for 7-8 years, it needs to be someplace where I’m not going to go crazy.  I’m not going to live in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment deep in the heart of NYC and I have no plan on living in the deep south.  The Dr. Lady, who has a heavy influence here, has helped me reduce the list of places to apply to the following locations:

Stanford University
University of Colorado
Loyola University
Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine
University of Kansas
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
Mayo Medical School
Creighton University
University of Nebraska
Darthmouth (she is really not a fan of this one)
University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
Duke University
Oregon Health Sciences
Meharry Medical College
Vanderbilt University
University of Utah
Baylor College of Medicine
University of Vermont
University of Washington
Medical College of Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin

I’m strongly considering a dual MD / PhD degree and I would really like to wind up working in academia after I’m finished with everything. I’d really appreciate your thoughts on these locations. Some of these places I’m familiar with, but others are a complete mystery to me. Dartmouth, Duke University, and Vanderbilt are all places that look to have fine academic programs, but I have no idea what life is like there. What do you guys think?

Apparently the MCAT is Important

The head of the premed committee at my institution had quite a few things to say to me earlier this week. He seemed to think that a big MCAT score on the board was something of a gamechanger and altered the way that I should look at schools. Apparently, my exam score, GPA, letters of recommendation, and research / work experience give me a very strong application and, assuming I don’t tank my interviews, he felt confident I was going to have my pick of several offers next year. When I asked about schools he was thinking would be wise to apply to, he started spouting off places like UCSF, UCSD, Stanford, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and so forth. I was really taken back because for the last two years I’ve know him, every time I walked out of his office I felt like he thought I was a joke. His inability to tell people what they want to hear is legendary. This time I went to see him, I heard phrases like “Run like the wind” quite a bit. From his perspective, I have a significant opportunity here which a lot of people don’t normally have.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking with the physican I’ve been doing research with. We were talking about some of my goals in medicine and I told her that I really wanted to wind up at an academic institution, with a significant amount of teaching and collaboration. She asked me if I had considered the MD / PhD route. I remarked that I had considered a PhD several times since I graduated and that I had turned it down because I felt that it really narrowed ones focus and that sort of turned me off to it. In her opinion, that is a flawed understanding of the way that the dual-degrees function in medicine. In the medical field, the dual-degree functions in a somewhat different manner than it does in the hard sciences and doesn’t necessarily constrain someone to one very narrow slice of the profession. Additionally, from her perspective, dual-degrees among the faculty of most institutions is becoming more the rule rather than the exception. This of course got me thinking, because every one of my professors and classmates has asked me why I’ve not considered the dual-degree. Well, now I am.

This is all rather strange for me. Up until now I’ve been thinking of myself and my candidacy for medical school from the perspective of an underdog. I think that may be a bit of a mistake – if there is an opportunity here, I don’t want to waste it.

With that as a bit of prologue, I have a couple of questions that I’d like to crowd-source some advice on.

  • Is a dual-degree (or an MD with a post-doc or fellowship) more or less the standard approach for a person with my goals?
  • What are the most important aspects of a combined program to consider?
  • Are there limits on what fields a person is able to pursue their PhD in?
  • In general, what advice would you give to someone in my position looking at selecting schools to apply to, both for MD and MD-PhD programs?

If any of you guys have some advice, I’d love to hear it. Thanks.

Today, Life is Good

I’ve spent the last 30 minutes at work pacing the hallways sending out zillions of text messages to everyone I know.  The Doctor Lady is on a plane back from a conference, so she will unfortunately be the last to know.  Thanks to all of my friends out there on the internet and everywhere else for your encouragement – reading about your success and reminded that there is light at the end of the tunnel was invaluable.

Enough gilding the lily.  Here they are everyone:

Physical Sciences: 14
Verbal Reasoning:  11
Writing Sample: Q
Biological Sciences: 14
Composite Score: 39Q

I know this is just a step along the way – granted, a big one – but I’m going to try and remember today.  Today, life is good.

More Search Terms..

The search terms for today were rather humorous, so I figured that I would share.

undergrade majors for med school

There are many. If you’re going to spend four years in college studying something, you should study something that you actually enjoy. Just a thought

average engineering mcat

Not as high as physics.

organic chemistry medical school

Probably important to biochemistry, but the applicability of things like the Diels-Alder reaction are somewhat limited in medical school. But you never know…if I’m ever an attending, I totally intend to pimp my residents on the finer points of acid-base chemistry.

how hard is it to get into medical school

If I’m accepted into medical school the first year I apply, it will have taken me longer to get into medical school than it will take me to complete medical school. So, yeah. It’s hard to get into medical school.

medical school is not hard

How nice for you. I’m sure others do not share your sentiment.

why is medical school so hard

Probably because you don’t study the right way.

who gets into stanford medical school

Interesting question. I have a friend that is attending Stanford right now and had below average MCAT and GPA, but was accepted there and many other places. You spend five minutes in a room with the guy and you can’t help but wish he was your physician. He’s the proof that grades and MCAT are not the only things important in the med school journey.

And my personal favorite….

address of edward cullen residency

Seriously?!?  This linked you to my site?  How on earth could I possibly be related to a bunch of loser vamps drenched in sparkles?!?

I’m deeply offended that this somehow linked you to my website. Go watch some Buffy or Angel. If you really want to scratch the vampire itch, try watching Supernatural. This Edward Cullen business makes no sense to me.

Anyway, I’ve got a bunch of work-related stuff to take care of this week, but I’d like to post something about MCAT preparations this weekend.  Stay tuned.

AAMC Full-Length #11 – Last Practice Exam

Took the last practice exam last night:

Physical Sciences: 11
Verbal Reasoning: 10
Biological Sciences: 12
Comprehensive: 33

I do all of my practice exams at the office since it’s air conditioned, quiet, and there are no distractions.  That’s never been a problem until yesterday.  I had just finished reading the first passage and was getting started when my boss and some other people showed up.  I work for a really cool guy and he knows about my intent to go to medical school, so I didn’t feel like I had to hide or anything like that.  It still distracted me quite a bit and I paused the exam for a couple of hours and did some work-related stuff until he and the others left.  When I got started again, I had a hard time getting my timing down, which is weird because timing has never been an issue at all.  I wound up not finishing the physical section on time and making several calculation errors, none of which had happened before.  When I finished up with that section, I knew I probably hadn’t done well.  All things considered, scoring an 11 isn’t ‘tanking’ the section, but it’s still not what I want to see.  The physics section has been my best section by far.

One of the challenges I’ve noticed is that, after doing so well on the PS section until now, I feel like I have to double and triple check every answer.  There were a couple of sections on the exam that tested things I’m not too familiar with and I really let that get me sidetracked.  I spent at least 5 minutes trying to figure out a problem on stress and strain.  That’s a big mistake – on the real exam, if I get stuck like that, I need to make my best guess, mark it, and then come back to it at the end.  That’s much wiser than burning a bunch of time trying to answer a question on an unfamiliar topic.

Ultimately, I’m not going to let a bad performance (33 is bad?) get me discouraged or anything like that.  I’m going to review that exam this afternoon, work some problems on the topics this exam stumped me on, and then call it a night.  It’s hard to just let it go and I still feel like I could have studied harder or better, but it’s too late to do anything about it.  I’ve scored at and above my target score, I’ve freaked out on some sections and learned how to relax, and I know that if I do my best, I’m going to be fine and will be pleased with my results.  Now, just need to tie up a couple of loose ends and relax.

In other news, the lady is coming over this evening – I’m introducing her to the Alien franchise.  Chestburster is going to freak her out something fierce.