At a crossroad...


I’ve been browsing this forum for some time, and it’s encouraging to see people following their dreams and working their non-trad butts off to make the dreams reality… Perhaps I’ll join their ranks

Here’s my backstory: I’m currently 29. I had an atrocious first half of undergrad and had to work hard to get my BCPM GPA to a 2.9. Yikes. Did a masters in health science and earned 3.5 GPA (A- in biochem felt great). Worked 2 years and am now in a second year of a PhD program in an allied health field.

Research has always been my strong point, but even my research journey has been disjointed. In undergrad I worked in 2 neuroscience labs, won some competitive national awards, did an honors thesis, and presented at multiple conferences. For my masters, I switched to a molecular physiology lab bc I wanted to learn more wet lab techniques. After my masters I went to work at an Ivy League neuroscience lab, got several publications and several presentations out of it. At this time I also shadowed an ER DO and got a rec letter out of the experience.

Before starting grad school, I did an internship to work with a neuroscience lab that studied astronauts. Pretty cool stuff.

For my graduate work I study neurovascular patients. In my first year I won another prestigious research funding award. However, during this time I’ve come to realize I actually do not like the research process or environment enough to want a research career. In fact, the thing I like most about research is the subject/patient interaction. Hence now I’m thinking about leaving the program with a masters in pursuit of applying to medical school (or PA school). Even if I complete the PhD and earn a clinical degree, I don’t want research as a big component of my career. In fact, the biggest benefits about my training is that I’m building a reputation with the neurologists in general; have made arrangements to shadow the 3 neurologists on my studies; and have become a buddy with one of the department chairpersons (who is a big name at my university and sits on the med school adcom).

My strengths: research (awards, publications); 7-8 very strong letters of recommendation (1 DO letter; at least 1 MD letter but possibly an additional 2 MD letters); service/volunteering

Weaknesses: horrible gen chem/orgo grades; worked in numerous laboratories

Wildcard: MCAT

Here’s where I’d appreciate your input:

1.) I took gen chem 11 years ago and finished my masters in 2009, so I’m not sure if my science classes have an “expiration date” in regards to applying to medical school.

If there is an expiration date, is there a list of which med schools require retakes or a list of when science classes expire for med schools?

2.) Would adcoms want to see a rec letter from every PI I worked for? Or would the pre- committee letter suffice?

3.) Anyone else here know of people who stopped PhD training to pursue a clinical degree? Or completed the PhD program and then went on to a clinical degree afterwards?

I appreciate any input, and I wish all of you the best on your journey!


You and I have similar backgrounds (except for the prestigious awards thing )I went all the way to the PhD and even did postdoc.

To help answer your question, I don’t know of any list, what I know is that most school want your pre-reqs to be less than 10 years old. That being said, I think is best for you to make a preliminary list of schools you are interested in and research them individually and even call them with your questions. This is what I did and found that only one school in my state did not have limits on how old the courses were and in general DO schools seem to be more flexible in this regard.

I think you will do great, the ADCOMS I don’t think will look at the variety of labs you’ve been in. I think your grades, MCAT, LORS, your strong research background, shadowing and extracurriculars, more or less in that order is what they will focus on.

Best of Luck!!

Your story is eerily similar to mine, except that your GPA is waaaaaaay better. And my current standing is similar. I’m in a fascinating PhD program, but the real value in terms of medical school is being in a department with a lot of clinical application and making some great contacts.

Pre-requisites: I’ve heard a ton of different rules of thumb. Make a list of 5-10 schools you think would be on your short list. Doesn’t matter if they’re perfect, you just want a representative sample. Say that you’re a non-traditional applicant working on a PhD, and you’re quite a few years of from your prerequisite coursework. See what they say. In general you won’t need to worry about biology. If you’re working on a neuroscience degree, I’m assuming you’ve taken some sort of biology course recently. Schools won’t make you take BIO-201/202 over again. That said, you should find out about the rest from the horse’s mouth.

Letters: Your committee will give you guidelines and advice. Follow them. Also, I know in Pharmacy, it’s standard practice for the individual letters sent to your committee to be sent along with the committee’s letter. Medical school apps might go the same way. Perhaps someone else can chime in on the matter.

Finishing your PhD: You should be cautious about not finishing your PhD. Especially after getting a great funding award, leaving your program partway through will raise the question with an ADCOM of whether you really know if medical school is what you want, or if it’s just the next fad that you’ll be interested in for a year or two before deciding that’s not what you want either. You need to submit an application that makes it perfectly clear that you want to be a physician, that this is a fully considered choice you’re making, and that you’re ready to commit to a lifetime of patient care. Ask yourself: how does your decision to leave your PhD program reflect upon that? You’re going to interview for you, not me. You need a strategic plan in which this is a feature, not a hurdle.

I don’t think that not finishing your PhD program will necessarily raise a red flag with admissions committees, especially if you leave with a Masters in hand. If you already know that you want to pursue a MD then why waste more time in a PhD program, especially if you are not enjoying the research component? Just my two cents. By the way, I finished my PhD, did a prestigious 2-year post-doc and landed a coveted tenure-track assistant professor job, which I have been at for 3.5 years now. Like you, however, I am finding the research component less enjoyable than I had anticipated. So I am seriously contemplating resigning my position and returning to school for a MD.

“Finish what you start.”

Depending on how much extra time till you apply I would strongly recommend finishing the PhD. With the trend at med schools toward wanting more research in their applicants leaving a research position would be a hard pill to swallow for them.

The thing is if you quit your PhD what proof do med schools have that you won’t quit med school, residency… Not saying you would but it’s all about showing a trend.

With such a major decision I would spend some money and get the paid advice of the advisors on here.