Tuesday, September 15, 2015

MD-PhD Advice from '15 UVa Alum

"If you are interested in science, medicine, research, learning, helping other people or some combination of these, hopefully someone has told you about the opportunities available for MD/PhD students and graduates -- often called medical scientists or physician scientists. With only a quick exposure to the career path, it is easy to be discouraged by the required time investment or even by the admission statistics. Don't let that keep you from exploring MD/PhD programs!

The best way to figure out if MD/PhD is right for you is to... 

Find good mentors (yes, more than one). This is key -especially if you can find a "real life" MD/PhD to get to know, shadow, or work for. Observing and asking about what MD/PhDs do on a daily basis is critical. Additionally, your professors (MD, MS, PhD, what have you) are great resources. Many professors (whether they teach undergrads, grad students, medical students, etc.) are more than willing to talk with you for a few minutes to help you discern your best path in science and medicine. 

Get research experience...even if you're not sure its for you or if you're scared or if you've never done it before! We all have to start somewhere, and you never know until you try. Work hard, contribute meaningfully, and you'll walk away with more wisdom, knowledge, experience, and insight than you thought possible (regardless of whether your project "worked").

Consider what you imagine a day in your future professional life to be. If any part of that includes:
  • research (clinical, basic science, or even something more "atypical")
  • working in a large academic hospital
  • educating future generations of physicians and scientists,
then keep exploring MD/PhD. This training is all about teaching, preserving and applying knowledge, educating future professionals, conducting research to improve health, and serving patients. 

Talk to your peers and students who are a few years ahead of you. This goes without saying. We've all had the same questions, fears, excitement, and concerns. Don't be afraid to ask or share!"


Carey Stewart Jansen graduated from UVA in 2015 with a double major in Global Public Health and Biology - Distinguished Majors Program. This fall, she matriculated to Emory University's Medical Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD). Carey is happy to accept inquiries from fellow Wahoos about the journey to a MD/PhD program. She can be reached at carey.jansen@emory.edu. 


For more information on medical scientist career paths and training, see the AAMC MD-PhD website.