Research VS. Clinical

Hey Guys,

I love the community here, so I thought I’d try out a specific question. Can anyone speak to the balance of research vs. clinical for applications? My main application weakness is GPA. I have not taken the MCAT, but a lot of research experience and plenty of volunteering as well. I was wondering if working in research full-time would help alleviate the GPA negative, or do schools not care that much about research unless you are competitive enough for the major research institutions (vs. more forgiving DO schools and less competitive MD)?

I am currently working in a biomedical research lab full time, have been for a year, but wondering if I would be better off taking classes full time for GPA repair and getting a health care related job (EMT, scribe etc)?

(From previous post: UG GPA 2.6, Masters GPA 3.8, taken 9 units of DYI post bac at a 3.6 right now).

What do you guys think?

I’ll start with the disclaimer that I’m a premed like yourself and have not gone through this process yet.

Based on what I’ve gathered from various websites (all anecdotal and unverifiable but useful information nonetheless), and given your UG GPA, my personal opinion is that more research experience is not going to do much for you. Even the non-research-oriented MD schools tend to be hung up on GPA even with a good MCAT. DO schools will probably be more forgiving if you have better recent grades. You have a year already in research, and in my opinion, more is not going to do much for you.

In my opinion, I think you’d be better off taking more classes (even if part time) and hitting a good postbacc GPA, like to the tune of 30 credits. I believe there are schools such as Wayne State, and maybe Tulane, who will disregard UG GPA and instead look at only the most recent 30 UG credits for GPA. I don’t know of DO schools that have listed this as policy, but probably some do it.

From your menu of choices, I vote more UG postbacc classes. This is my premed personal opinion. Wait to hear from Kennymac and Gablerman before you do anything.

I’ll take that as a compliment, but honestly my information is just as anecdotal as yours…

As someone who had no research and minimal clinical experience when I applied to medical school, I would probably agree with Dull on this one. I think research is one of those “icing on the cake” kinda of things, while GPA is going to be compared against everyone across the board. Some of the big academic centers really do look highly of solid research, and it may help offset GPA a little, though I think it’s more of an differentiator among 2 people with similar GPAs in most cases. You seem like you’re off to a good start with the DIY post bacc. If you cured cancer, they would probably want you in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, though, a lot of medical school is how quickly you can learn and how well you can do on tests. Grades and standardized test scores are a good indicator of that. People can mature, grow, and improve, and it seems like you’ve done that. Be sure you can explain (not make excuses for) what didn’t work for you in the past, what you’ve changed and how these improvements in your performance is your new norm.

I don’t know that there is a magic number of credits/GPA for a post-bacc program once you’re pretty far removed from the actual undergraduate program. You seem like you’re at least a few years from college, and showing that you’re capable of making decent grades now while working looks pretty good. Some schools will subjectively value recent credits over overall GPA, but it’s such a crapshoot as to which school does what. If there are any schools you absolutely want to attend, you should email their admissions offices and see what they think about your academic history.

What’s your masters degree in? It doesn’t matter for uGPA calculation, but it does look pretty good to have an advanced degree with strong performance.

As far as research is concerned, working in research < published in small journal < published in large journal. I’m sure presentations at national conferences ranks pretty high too. For some places, if you aren’t published, it never happened (though I’m of the mindset that finding things that don’t work is a positive contribution to science too). Be sure you can talk intelligently about the research you’ve done…

Clinical experience is a must. It doesn’t have to be a paid position, and it seems like shadowing counts as clinical experience. Also, shadowing is a written and/or unwritten requirement for some places. That being said, working at a hospital/clinic does not necessarily equal clinical experience. Scribing/EMT will definitely fit that requirement though. Just keep in mind that those positions will not guarantee you anything as far as medical school is concerned. If you have a paid gig with research, it wouldn’t hurt to stick with it if you can fit in some shadowing on the side. I think you should focus on dragging up the GPA, but not at the expense of your ability to function in life (ie work, pay the bills, not hate the world, etc).

Thanks for the advice! My Master’s is an MS in Environmental Health… Which is another thing that makes me unsure about how to evaluate my chances of getting into schools. It’s a Master of Science degree, but it was within a school of Public Health. So it was probably not quite as rigorous as a traditional hard science MS, it also was more rigorous than an MPH (I took classes in toxicology for example). Not sure how much it helps or hurts-- I took two semesters of stats, two toxicology classes, and two epidemiology classes along with others.

For my DYI post bac. I have re-taken O’chem 1 and 2 and took Linear Algebra (I had tested out of a lot of math in college and wasn’t sure about the graduate stats classes counting, so I was covering my bases there, I took AP Calc in Highschool and a semester of multivariable calc in UG). Planning to take Biochem and Pathophysiology this term.

Just note that no one really does grade replacement per se, so your GPA will reflect all attempts at classes.

I finished an MBA program, and most interviewers either made note of it or just ignored it altogether. I had one guy ask me literally 3 times why I got an MBA. That turned out to be the school I got into, go figure.

I think masters programs are more for the experience than the GPA. Schools are on a “diversity” kick right now, including a diversity of student backgrounds and education. A 3.8 masters degree isn’t going to hurt you by any stretch of the imagination.