Appalachian Trail thru-hiker turned MD/PhD Hopeful- looking for guidance!

Hi everyone! I’m a new binge-listener to the Old Premed podcast and am so grateful to have found this community because I recently experienced one of those serendipitous moments of clarity that I want to pursue a career as an MD/PhD. I have a strong background in basic research, but want to work more translationally with patients and to directly see the impact of the research I’m doing. I am currently studying and planning to take the MCAT in April of 2019 with the intention of applying to MD/PhD programs in June 2019. I feel okay with my academic standing, I graduated in 2017 with a 3.7 GPA (cumulative and science) with a degree in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. I just started my MCAT studying and got a 501 on the Next Step Diagnostic test. Now, I feel more comfortable knowing the content I need to prioritize in terms of re-learning. I am currently continuing on my research-heavy path as a full-time research technician at Tufts University.

I was inspired to pursue a career as an MD/PhD when I received exemplary care after shattering my ankle that ended an Appalachian Trail thru-hike this spring. When reflecting on all of the people who helped me get off the trail, to the hospital, through my surgery, and now well into recovery, I am so grateful. It planted the seed that has made me want to use my energy to care for others while tackling the important research questions that will leave a lasting impact on the field of medicine. Now what I need is to figure out how much I need to do in order to have a strong application….

My biggest concern at the moment is that because I never had any intention of going to medical school, I don’t have any shadowing hours and my “clinical” experience is limited to being a Wilderness First Responder in college. I worked for the outdoors program where I led backpacking/kayaking/rock climbing trips and was medically responsible for the participants. I’ve handled a few minor incidents on these trips, but mostly it was taping up blisters on people’s feet. I was wondering how MD/PhD programs look at clinical vs research experience. I still think I need experience in a hospital setting, but I’m unsure on how it differs between an MD/PhD program and other med school applications. I am sure that I could find opportunities for shadowing/volunteer clinical hours through Tufts or other Boston hospitals, but I need to schedule it in between work/MCAT prep, etc. Do you think that trying to accomplish all of these things would be too much of a rush job to get all of this in for applications next spring? Any thoughts/help is appreciated!!

Personally, no. I think the misconception is that you need to have (x) amount of hours doing this or that but any experience would be better than none! But I have to say that the Wilderness First Responder job that you had sounds like you worked with patients and would be a hell of an experience to talk about in interviews!

I agree, it is not too much to do before June 2019. You don’t need several different types of shadowing opportunities. Focus on getting a weekly or biweekly shadow schedule with 1 or 2 doctors. So that you can learn more about the profession and get strong letters of recommendations.