Questions About Other Degree Programs
Question: I think I want to get an MPH and work in public health after I graduate. I'm only a sophomore now so I have a lot of time to decide. I'm going to do the Global Health certificate and keep thinking about it. What I'm not clear on is what I'd actually do with a degree in public health? And how does that differ from getting an MD/MPH? Thank you.
Answer: An MPH leads to a wide variety of career options, so wide that students often ask this question or something similar because the opportunities seem ill-defined. The best place to start researching career options is WhatIsPublicHealth.org, where you'll see, among other things, that an MPH leads to work in environmental health, biostatiscs, health administration, nutrition, epidemiology, health education, and more. Many of the pre-health students we see at HPA elect to go for the joint MD/MPH degree because they want to study health as it pertains to larger populations and cultures (public health) while still treating the individual (human medicine). A background in public health can benefit nearly any doctor in his/her desire to treat the "whole" patient. For a list of joint MD/MPH programs and other information, check out the Association of Schools of Public Health, and AMSA also has some good info. ♦
Applying to MD/MPH Programs
Question: Dear HPA: I know that I want both an MD and an MPH, but I don't know if I do a joint program what the applications are like. I will be applying to medical school next summer, I think. Do I have to fill out separate applications? How does it work? Thanks.
Answer: When you apply next summer you will complete the online AMCAS application and will be given the option of choosing joint degree programs at your schools. Once you've checked the joint "MD/MPH" boxes for the schools you've chosen, you have alerted the medical schools of your desire to apply to their Schools of Public Health. However, they have separate application processes. In some cases, the medical schools ask that you wait until they admit you before you complete a separate application for the School of Public Health, but in many, if not most, cases, you will want to complete your MPH application during the process of review by medical schools (in other words, early next fall). Most Schools of Public Health now use a centralized application service kind of like AMCAS, called SOPHAS (go to http://www.sophas.org/). The schools not participating in SOPHAS will ask you to complete their own individualized application. Generally, you will want three letters of recommendation; these can be written by the same individuals who recommend you for medical school but they should be revised to talk about public health and your interest in the MPH; these letters go to SOPHAS or to the individual schools on their own, without coming into our office. Most MPH programs accept your MCAT as the required standardized test.
There are two adequate lists of MD/MPH joint degree programs:
The list compiled by the American Medical Student Association (AMSA): http://www.amsa.org/cph/mdmphlist.cfm
Applying MD/PhD and MD Only?
Question: Hi HPA. It’s OK to apply to both MD/PhD programs and MD Only programs at the same time, right?
Answer: We do not recommend it. While the fact remains that many medical schools will consider you for the MD Only if you’re turned down from their more competitive MD/PhD program, applying to a combination of types of programs from the outset tends to look to schools like you’re indecisive (at best), or you’re lacking commitment to either path (at worst). Come talk with us at HPA about whether or not you’re a good candidate for the MD/PhD. If you are, then go for it—100%! ♦
Question: I don’t know but I think I might be interested in doing a joint MD/MBA. Do you have any information about what programs exist and whether or not I should do it?
Answer: The first place to go is the section on the AAMC website that provides information on combined degree programs. Go to: http://services.aamc.org/currdir/section3/start.cfm. On the AAMC site, choose your combined degree and get a list of links to schools offering that combo. Make sure you also check out the Curriculum Directory, which is a useful tool—fairly well updated—for researching different medical programs. You should also look at http://www.md-mba.org/, the site for the National Association of MD/MBA Students, but approach the advice here with some perspective—the site is run by students, not admissions personnel and not faculty. Lastly, you might search for Princeton alumni who hold both degrees, and talk to them about the advantages and disadvantages of their chosen path. Career Services has an alumni database called ACN (Alumni Careers Network) where you can look for alumni holding certain advanced degrees, then contact them with questions. Go to: http://web.princeton.edu/sites/career/Undergrad/Start/connect_with_alumni.html. ♦
MD/PhD Joint Degree
Question: Hi HPA. What's involved in getting a joint degree like MD/PhD? I'm thinking it might be the route I want to take. And also how can I learn more about different schools and whether or not they offer the MD/PhD? Thanks!
Answer: Many medical schools in the U.S. offer a joint MD/PhD. Approximately 40 of these schools call their MD/PhD programs "MSTP" programs, for "Medical Scientist Training Programs," and have complete funding by the NIH. All MD/PhD programs are extremely competitive to get into, and the Princeton students who have had success in this endeavor have had numbers well above the averages for applicants accepted to straight MD programs. Above all, however, they have deep and continuous research experience. We have collected some useful resources to explore this option on our website (see MD/PhD). Another very good site is MDPhDs.org. Originally set up by an MSTP student at UC-San Francisco, this site offers "reviews" of various programs by current students and applicants, as well as a long, detailed FAQ section. Particularly useful - should you get as far as applying - are the insights into the application process. This site also includes a list of MD/PhD programs available to international students. ♦
MPH to Prepare for MD
Question: I’m a current senior and I know that my science GPA is not reflective of my ability, so I want to do more course work before I apply to medical school to become a more competitive applicant. I’ve heard that doing a Masters in Public Health is a good way to get preparation that’s relevant to being a doctor that will give me an edge in medical admissions. Is that true?
Answer: The best evidence for ability in the sciences is taking additional, advanced courses in the sciences and doing well (hopefully also securing letters of recommendation that speak to your ability). An MPH degree is not going to provide access to these kinds of advanced science courses. The academic record enhancer post-baccalaureate programs are more specifically geared toward students in your situation. Many of them allow you to take the same courses that first-year medical students are taking, so if you do well in them, it’s showing that you’ll also be able to do well in medical school. We have a handout and some sample programs listed on our website under Record Enhancement Programs. Of course, if you’re interested in community and public health, it’s a great career path for which pursuing an MPH could be a next educational step, but doing an MPH shouldn’t be seen as a stepping stone to medical school admissions. ♦
Question: Dear HPA - I've heard of DO's but I don't know much about it. Is it as hard to get into DO schools as MD schools? What are the differences between DO’s and MDs? Is it a legitimate thing to do?
Answer: Yes, becoming a D.O. is a “legitimate” thing to do! The American Osteopathic Association has a lot of good general information on their website, www.osteopathic.org, including a section called "What Is a D.O.?" Also, the association of D.O. schools publishes an information booklet describing the 20+ programs in the country, which can be found in the HPA library. You should also look through the bins in our office labeled "Osteopathic Medicine," and spend some additional time at http://www.aacom.org/. While the “numbers” need for admission to osteopathic medical schools tend to be somewhat lower than those for MD programs, you must show a clear strength in the sciences and a record of academic achievement overall (and yes, you still need to take your MCAT). It is also crucial to have shadowed or interned with a D.O. so that you have some credibility when you say you know what osteopathic medicine is.
Similarities between D.O.'s and MD's:
- Both complete a 4-yr medical education
- Both can specialize
- Both are found in private practice and hospitals all over the country
- D.O.'s practice a 'whole person' approach, regarding the body as integrated whole
- D.O.'s emphasize preventative medicine
- D.O. training includes extra work in the musculoskeletal system and in manipulative treatment
Osteopathic medicine can be a viable alternative for those who are interested in a holistic approach to medicine and also for those whose 'numbers' may prevent them from being competitive at allopathic (MD) programs. ♦
Question: Hi! I received a mailing from the AACPM, the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine, and I'm really not sure what to make of it. What is podiatric medicine, and is this something I should consider?
Answer: According to the AACPM, www.aacpm.org, an association of 8 podiatric medical schools, and about 200 hospitals, "Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPMs)strive to improve the overall health of their patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing, and treating conditions associated with the foot and ankle. They treat a variety of conditions and employ innovative treatments to improve the well-being of their patients." Applications to podiatry schools have been on the rise in recent years, and average GPA and MCAT scores for those accepted to DPM programs are somewhat lower than those for medical school. Most importantly, you might consider pursuing a career in podiatry if you've spent time with someone who practices in this field, and if you believe that the approach to the patient and the lifestyle is consistent with your interests. Getting exposure to a wide range of medical practices (as a volunteer, doing "shadowing," or in the course of clinical research) is the best way to assess which specific direction makes the most sense for you. HPA at Princeton sees many more students interested in allopathic medicine than podiatry, or osteopathic medicine, but we do have information about all the health professions (including dentistry and veterinary medicine) in our new office at 36 University Place. We hope you'll come to take a look at the resources soon. ♦
Question: I am considering applying for the Master's program in Biomedical science at UMDNJ. My motivation for doing this specific program is that I want to enhance my academic record, so that I can be a better candidate when I decide to apply for medical school. Plus, I am a resident of NJ and would pay in-state tuition if I am admitted. What is your advice for students strongly considering these master's programs? How important is the reputation of these schools to medical school admissions committees? Do you have any impressions of the program at UMDNJ or perhaps know an alumnus who has gone through the program and may have some insights about it? Any advice would be much appreciated.
Answer: Depending on your academic record (your GPA mostly), doing a post-bacc program is a great idea. They do tend to increase one's success at finding admission in medical school. The UMDNJ program is fine, from what we've heard - in answer to your question about the reputation of the program, we have never heard anything negative about it. You want to look for programs affiliated with a medical school, and the UMDNJ one certainly is. Ideally, you will take classes alongside current medical students, or at least take some of the same courses even if they are taught at a separate time or location. It is also important to look for programs that offer advising from the faculty. Alumni are welcome to come back to the HPA office for help when applying to medical school, but you will also need some good on-site advising while you are in the program.
Most programs can put you in contact with alumni from your college if you call them and ask. There is a chance that we don't have any Princetonians in the program at present, but if you're persistent they should provide you with alums who have done the program in the past.
The most comprehensive lists of post-bacc programs in the U.S. can be found in two places. 1) The Assoc of American Medical Colleges has a fairly up-to-date list where you can search by state and type of program - go to http://services.aamc.org/postbac/index.cfm 2) Syracuse University has a wonderful resource at http://hpap.syr.edu/LISTPB.HTM - listing programs according to three main types, those for students with no science background, those for graduates with a pre-med background in college but non-competitive credentials, and those designed for under-represented minorities.
Question: I am a sophomore and a varsity athlete. I’m in MOL 214 and have already taken both semesters of chemistry. I am split however, between two paths. One, I could take organic chemistry this summer, physics and a statistics class next year, and then be more on track towards medical school in a quicker fashion. Or the other path, I could finish molecular biology this year, try to get a research position/medical internship this summer, and do a post-bacc after gradua-tion (hopefully). The reason for my hesitation between these two is that my science grades are less than perfect in my pre-med classes and I don't wanna dig myself into a deeper hole with more mediocre science grades, and a post-bacc could help in this regard, as I won't have to wor-ry about sports on the side and the balancing act between the two. I was wondering if you had any thoughts with either of these two options or your history with students who have forgone each path and their likelihood of getting into medical school. Thanks a lot.
Answer: The main drawbacks to doing a post-bac program are cost and time. You’ll be paying for an extra year of school, and it’ll lengthen the amount of time before you’re ready to apply to medical school. And, when I say the amount of time is longer before you’re ready to apply to medical school, it could be that going the post-bac route ends up being shorter rather than long-er, in that taking the courses here and not doing as well as you need to in order to be competitive for medical school admission may just result in taking advanced course work before you apply anyway. In other words:
Scenario 1: keep taking sciences here, make the necessary sacrifices to improve your GPA, apply to medical school without post-bac work.
Scenario 2: keep taking sciences here,” dig yourself into a hole” gpa-wise, requiring another year of advanced coursework as a post-bac student.
Scenario 3: stop taking sciences here, take the year of premed pre-requisites as a post-bac student.
Scenario 1 may just be unrealistic, which is not uncommon, especially with the demands of division 1 varsity athletics, and the fact that the Princeton science curriculum is competitive and incredibly rigorous. Scenario 1 may well turn into scenario 2, and have the side effect of making you dissatisfied with your overall undergrad experience.
If you are comfortable with potentially having to take on some student debt, and extending the amount of time you’re in undergrad course work, then Scenario 3 (the pre-reqs as post-bac route) can be a great one for the reasons you state: more time to focus on sports and other activ-ities while you’re here, and then spend a year focusing solely on the science course work.
As far as student success, it really varies by student, and it’s a much larger conversation than just grades and test scores. We have had students from Princeton excel as post-bac students, to be sure. Some of the most popular options with our students who are taking the pre-reqs after graduation are listed on our website.
If you decide to go with scenario 3, I’d recommend dropping the MOL 214 now and picking up another course instead. A statistics course like PSY 251 might be a good substitute, or really anything that’ll help you settle on a potential major.
This is a pretty complex issue to just lay out in email, so don’t hesitate to come by and talk further! ♦
Question: Hello, I am interested in becoming a dentist after college, not a doctor. What does your office do for pre-dental students?
Answer: Good to hear from you. If you are pre-dental, make sure you email Jennifer at HPA@princeton.edu and let her know, since the first thing we do for pre-dental students is maintain a separate email list in order to keep you notified of any academic or application-related information pertaining specifically to you. Most commonly, we answer pre-dents' coursework questions and help you complete the requirements for dental school. When the time comes to apply to dental school, we do the pre-application interview, help you compile a list of schools, and write the letter of evaluation for you that goes with your letters of recommendation to dental schools via the online application service called AADSAS. In the meantime, please come by drop-in hours so we can check on your progress through the pre-dental curriculum; also, while you're here, make sure you read through the "ADEA Official Guide to Dental Schools" and verify that you're completing the requirements for any dental school you aspire to attend. ♦
The Pre-vet Student
Question: Dear HPA, I’m a junior who has always been interested in becoming a veterinarian. I’ve always thought that HPA was for pre-meds only, but a friend just told me that they work with pre-dental students. What can your office do for pre-vets? Is there anything I should know about being pre-vet? I don’t know what I’m asking really, I just thought I should check in with you.
Answer: We are very glad that you did check in with us. There aren’t many pre-vet students on campus, but those of you who are interested in entering veterinary medicine definitely need to let us know you’re out there. It sounds as if you haven’t been on our email list for pre-vet students—better now, as a junior, than never! Email Jennifer at HPA@princeton.edu and ask that she put you on the pre-vet email list for your Class year. Most often, we answer pre-vet students’ questions about coursework and about applying to vet school. You’re always welcome at the programming we offer for pre-meds, such as the Interviewing Info Session or the session we do on writing a personal statement for your application, since the vet school application process is very similar to the med school one. There are some differences, however. For one thing, your letters of recommendation are handled differently. When the time comes for you to apply to vet school next year (or whenever), you will have 3-4 individual recommenders complete forms via VMCAS, the application service that most (but not all!) vet schools use, and then our office will also interview you and write a committee letter which will be mailed to your vet schools directly. By all means, come to Drop-In Hours as soon as you can, so that we can make sure you’re progressing well through the pre-vet curriculum and also gaining the necessary clinical work. The required courses for vet school are very similar to the ones for med school, but there are a few anomalies at certain vet schools; we have copies of Veterinary Medical School Admission Requirements at HPA, which we urge you to look through sooner rather than later, to find out about any unusual requirements at a vet school you might want to attend—then discuss everything with an adviser at HPA. We would like to meet you, so please, don’t be a stranger! ♦