How to Write Successful Md-PhD and Significant Research Experience Essays

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MD-PhD Essay

The MD-PhD Essay is a straightforward “ Why essay ” — in other words, admissions is hoping to learn why you’re pursuing the combined MD-PhD degree. This essay is limited to 3,000 characters, which comes out to about 500-600 words or one page single-spaced. 

In order to submit a winning MD-PhD essay, we recommend getting creative. Since these essays are so straightforward, it’s very easy for them to read as dry and impersonal. See if instead, you can tell admissions a story that will both answer the question, “Why are you pursuing a combined MD-PhD degree?” and reveal more information about yourself.

Maybe you want to open your essay with an anecdote from your dinner table in the late 90s, when you took your first stab at Operation (pun intended). Or perhaps your story starts at a cabin with your favorite relative, who encouraged you to find meaningful, rewarding work that serves your community. Regardless of where your story begins, try your best to frame it as just that: a story.  

Significant Research Essay

In addition to the MD-PhD Essay, you are required to write an essay that is frequently referred to as the Significant Research Experience Essay, which — you guessed it! — describes your noteworthy research experiences. In this essay, AMCAS asks applicants to specify their research supervisor’s name and affiliation, the duration of the study, the nature of the issue examined, and their specific contributions to the research effort. This essay is limited to 10,000 characters.

If your research resulted in a publication of which you were an author, you will also be asked to enter the full citation in the Work/Activities section of your application.

The Significant Research Experience essay is about as academic as they come, and for that reason, we advise you to stick to the facts. If you have notes, now is the time to reference them. If your research experience is lacking, use any extra space you have to focus on why the research experience was significant to you, and how you might continue to research this problem or event in the future.

Ultimately, like with all admissions essays, your goal for both of these assignments should be to give admissions a clear understanding of your background and the next steps you will take if you are accepted!

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Tags: MD-PhD essay , med school , med school admissions , medical school , medical school applications , medical school secondaries , Significant Research essay


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If you can’t imagine a medical career without helping patients and participating in research, you’ve probably considered the MD-PhD track. Learn all about applying to MD-PhD programs and get our expert tips for strengthening your application.

Is an MD-PhD Program right for you?

The MD-PhD is a dual doctorate degree program for students who are interested in careers as “physician-scientists." By graduation, you’ll have fulfilled requirements for both the MD and PhD degrees. The MD-PhD takes about 8 years to complete during which you receive medical training AND become an expert in a specific research field. The program also requires dissertation research in your field of graduate study, which can range from biomedical laboratory disciplines like biochemistry or genetics to fields like economics, sociology, or anthropology . After graduation, MD-PhD students usually work as researchers or as faculty members at medical schools and universities.

Learn more about MD combined degree programs .

md phd programs

What are Medical Scientist Training Programs?

Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTP) are MD-PhD programs that are funded by the National Institute of Health. Students who are admitted to these highly-competitive programs receive full tuition coverage, living expenses, and a stipend. There are currently 45  NIH-funded MSTP programs .

Are all MD-PhD programs free?

Over 60 medical and osteopathic medical schools  maintain their own MD-PhD or DO-PhD programs that are not funded by the NIH. Depending on the school, these programs offer full or partial financial support for their students.

Applying to MD-PhD Programs

Nearly all MD-PhD programs use the same application process as MD admissions—via the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) application . One key difference? MD-PhD applicants submit two additional essays: the MD-PhD Essay and the Significant Research Experience Essay:

  • The MD-PhD Essay asks you to explain your reasons for pursuing the combined degree program.
  • The  Significant Research Experience Essay asks you to describe your key research experiences, including your research supervisor's name and affiliation, the duration of the experience, the nature of the problem studied, and your contributions to the project.

Read More: Guide to Your Med School Applications

Do you need to take the GRE Test to apply for the Md-Phd Program?

Programs have different policies, so some schools may require both the MCAT and the GRE for combined degree applicants. For example, an MD-Phd in Anthropology at one school may require the GRE, while the MD-PhD in Immunology may not. Check with your prospective med schools to make sure you’re covered.

Timeline for MD-PhD Admissions

The MD-PHD application timeline is virtually the same as for MD admissions. (Remember you are using the same application service!) Here are the important dates for MD-PHD admissions:

  • Early May: AMCAS opens and begins accepting transcripts
  • Early June:  AMCAS begins accepting application submissions
  • October–March: MD-PhD applicant interviews
  • December–March: Admissions decisions sent to applicants
  • March–April: Md-PhD applicants make their final decisions
  • June–August: MD-PHD programs begin!

Tips for Boosting Your Md-Phd Application

Competition for MD-PhD applicants is fierce. After all, you have to convince medical schools to invest significant time and financial resources in you. Of the total 1,936 MD-PhD applicants in 2016–17, only 649 matriculated in a U.S. med school. Here’s what you can do to strengthen your overall application.

1. You need strong MCAT scores and a high GPA

If your grades and scores aren’t where they need to be, address it before you apply!  Check out these admissions stats for MD-PhD matriculants to U.S. medical schools from 2016-2017:

SOURCE:  Association of American Medical Colleges

Make a smart MCAT prep plan and retake the exam if necessary. Consider completing additional grad school work to raise your GPA and take advantage of our online tutors for pre-med requirements!

2. You need sustained research background + a clear picture of your future in research

3. you need the right recommenders.

Most letters of recommendation should come for your research mentors, professors who run the labs you work in, and the postdoctoral fellows you work with. Make sure your recommenders know that you are applying to MD-PhD programs as this will affect the letters they write.

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md phd essay

Reviewed by:

Luke Hartstein

Former Admissions Committee Member, NYU Grossman School of Medicine

Reviewed: 4/25/22

Suppose you’ve decided that pursuing the MD PhD dual degree is right for you. In that case, you may have noticed that the application process is slightly different than applying to MD programs at allopathic medical schools. Namely, besides submitting the required application materials through the AMCAS, MD PhDs must also write two additional essays: the MD PhD essay and the significant research experience essay.

Today’s guide will review what an MD PhD is, what you can expect from MD PhD dual degree programs, and how to apply to MD PhD programs in the United States. You will also learn how to write compelling MD PhD essays by utilizing our tips for making your essays stand out. 

Are you ready to succeed? Let’s dive right in.

Get The Ultimate Guide on Writing an Unforgettable Personal Statement

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What is an MD PhD?

An MD PhD is also known as a physician-scientist or a medical scientist. An MD PhD holds both the Doctor of Medicine degree (MD) and the Doctor of Philosophy degree (PhD) in scientific research. 

The difference between MDs and MD PhDs is that while MDs are typically in medical school for the traditional four years, MD PhDs must complete four years of medical training in addition to three to four years of training to become physician-scientists. 

In total, MD PhDs complete their dual degrees in seven to eight years, making their pathway long and challenging but ultimately rewarding for those who are passionate about conducting biomedical scientific research. 

In short, MD PhDs combine clinical medicine with scientific research and have comprehensive knowledge of important topics in medicine. According to the AAMC , physician-scientists research various topics in the following disciplines:

  • Biochemistry and Macromolecular Biophysics
  • Bioengineering and Biomedical Imaging
  • Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Chemical and Physical Sciences
  • Computational Biology and Bioinformatics
  • Microbiology and Infectious Disease
  • Molecular Biology and Genetics
  • Neuroscience
  • Pathology and Mechanisms of Disease
  • Pharmacology
  • Public Health, Epidemiology, and Preventative Medicine
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

What are MD PhD Programs?

MD PhD programs are dual degree programs that allow students to obtain their MD and PhD degrees simultaneously. The MD PhD curriculum is continuous, meaning you will work on both degrees throughout your medical and graduate school education. The following infographic provided by the AAMC breaks down what a typical MD PhD program looks like:

TimelineDescription automatically generated

Of course, there may be variations depending on the school’s curriculum, so be sure to check with the programs to which you apply to learn more about year-to-year coursework, training, and research. 

Currently, there are over 100 MD PhD programs in the United States, and over 40 programs are partially or fully funded by training grants known as MSTPs (Medical Science Training Programs). Because of these grants, most MD PhD students complete their dual degrees with very little or zero student debt. 

To decide which MD PhD program is right for you, you will have to do some preliminary research. Use the following checklist of questions to determine which program is a good fit:

  • Does the program have ample funding?
  • Is the location of the school desirable?
  • Is there a good balance between clinical training and research?
  • Does the school have a reputable history of strong publications and research?
  • Is the program multi-disciplinary, and will it provide plentiful topics to research?
  • Is clinical training introduced early in the program?
  • Are there mentors available to oversee research projects?
  • Are current MD PhD students satisfied with the program?
  • Are the school’s alumni performing high-level research and frequently publishing?
  • Does the program’s mission statement/culture align with your academic and career goals?

How to Apply to MD PhD Programs

Take a leaf out of Patrick's book: he got into six fully funded MD/ Phd programs with our help! 

The application process for MD PhD programs is similar to applying to MD programs. For most allopathic medical schools, you will use the AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service). 

Of course, not every medical school uses the AMCAS—osteopathic schools use the AACOMAS (American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine Application Service), and Texas medical schools use the TMDSAS (Texas Medical & Dental Schools Application Service). Be sure to verify that you are using the correct application service for the school to which you’re applying.

So, let’s revisit the AMCAS, as that will be the main application service you will use to apply to MD PhD programs. In the AMCAS, you must select “MD PhD” as the program to which you’re applying.

There are nine sections that you must complete in the AMCAS: ‍

Sections 1, 2, and 3

The first three sections in the AMCAS are where you will enter your basic information such as your name, background information, biographical information, identifiers, and the previous schools you have attended.

In section 4, you will enter all your information about course requirements (prerequisites) and school transcripts. 

In section 5, the AMCAS work and activities section, you will enter your relevant extracurricular activities , work experience, and hobbies . Strong extracurricular activities include, but are not limited to, clinical experience , medical shadowing , and volunteering .

However, the most important extracurricular you can participate in before applying to the MD PhD program is research . This goes without saying: You must showcase substantive research experience to gain a competitive edge over other candidates. Gaining substantive research experience requires some effort and commitment on your part. 

You should aim to have multiple summers of research experience throughout your undergrad program, and it is beneficial to have at least one year of continuous research experience. This may mean that you take a gap year before applying to the MD PhD program, but it will be well worth it to boost your application and show admissions officers your dedication and passion for research.

In section 6, you will upload all of your letters of recommendation . 

In section 7, you will select that you are applying to the MD PhD program. You will also enter any other information about the school, such as whether you’re applying for an early decision.

In section 8, you will enter your personal statement . For the MD PhD program, you will also submit two essays in addition to the personal statement. They are the MD PhD essay and the significant research experience essay. 

Section 9 ‍

In section 9, you will enter all information about standardized test scores, such as the MCAT .

How to Write Your MD PhD Essays

Tips to write MD/PHD Essays

The overall purpose of the MD PhD essay is to answer the question, “Why did you choose to apply to the MD PhD combined program?”

The MD PhD Essay

  • Demonstrates your reasons for pursuing the MD PhD dual degree program.
  • Focuses on why the combination of research and clinical medicine is right for you. (In other words, you can’t see yourself having just an MD or just a PhD. To feel the most fulfilled, you must combine both.) 
  • Shows that you are prepared for the rigors of both research and clinical medicine, not just one or the other.

Admissions committees want to ensure that the applicants they accept into the MD PhD program are devoted to the field. After all, why would anyone spend seven to eight years in research if they didn’t absolutely love it? 

To that end, the MD PhD essay must convince the admissions officers that you are passionate about research and can’t imagine doing anything except the work of a physician-scientist. 

To structure your MD PhD essay, follow academic and professional standards of writing. There should be a consistent format of an introduction, body, and conclusion. View the table below for a general outline of the MD PhD essay:

image of general outline of the MD PhD essay

A strong introduction immediately pulls the reader in and briefly summarizes your motivations for pursuing the MD PhD program. You can achieve this with a personal anecdote that neatly ties in your experience and goals. 

The body paragraphs are the meat of the content. You should detail how you prepared for a career as a physician-scientist by demonstrating your clinical and research experiences. Because of limited space, you should aim to write about two to three substantive experiences that showcase your strengths and what you learned. The body paragraphs should focus on quality rather than the number of experiences. The body paragraphs should also reinforce why the MD PhD path is right for you.

Finally, a strong conclusion leaves the reader with the impression that you are a strong candidate for the MD PhD program. You can achieve this by reiterating your motivations and goals, calling back to the introduction/personal anecdote, and concisely tying together your experiences. 

The Significant Research Experience Essay

The purpose of the significant research experience essay is right there in the title—to provide details about your significant research experiences. 

The significant research experience essay . . .

  • Provides details about your research projects and contributions.
  • Describes what you investigated and learned.
  • Discusses the durations of your research experiences.
  • Includes information about your mentors, such as their names and affiliations.

For the format of your significant research essay, you can structure it as a narrative that adheres to a general introduction, body, and conclusion. Or, you can structure the essay in entry format where each research experience has a subheading that includes identifying information about the research projects, mentors, and affiliations.

For example:

1. Professor X, MD/PhD, Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, February 2019 – March 2021

[Enter details about the experience here.]

If you prefer the entry format for your essay, it’s still a good idea to write one or two introductory sentences and a strong conclusion to tie everything together. Just because it is in entry format doesn’t mean it should be overly technical or indifferent. You should still aim to tell a compelling, unique narrative.

Tips for Making Your MD PhD Essays Stand Out ‍

To make your MD PhD essays stand out, use the following tips for success:

  • Be specific, not generic. While you shouldn’t weigh down your essays with overly technical jargon, it’s important to be specific in what you learned in terms of lessons and skills.
  • If you faced challenges, don’t write about the negative aspects, but emphasize a growth mindset and what you did to overcome the obstacles. 
  • According to the US News & World Report, very few MD PhD applicants identify a medical problem that they want to solve with their research. Use this to your advantage to stand out—admissions officers want to see a level of maturity and sophistication from applicants. It would go a long way if you described research experiences about a medical issue that you have personal connections with and aspire to solve with research.
  • Show, don’t tell. For example, instead of saying, “I improved my critical thinking and analytical skills while completing X research project,” demonstrate what that project was, your process of investigation, the outcomes you learned, and your flexibility in absorbing new information. If you show interesting narratives rather than tell, your essays will leave a lasting impression on the admissions committee.

1. What is the best pre-med major for MD PhD programs? ‍

Surprisingly, there is no best pre-med major for MD PhD programs, as medical schools do not have requirements for majors. Students are encouraged to pursue their passions and unique interests, even if that means majoring in non-science subjects (such as the liberal arts or the social sciences). That said, the most popular undergrad majors are in the biological sciences.

Whether you choose to major in the sciences or not, the only requirement you must fulfill is completing all prerequisite coursework. Every medical school has its own prerequisite coursework requirements, so verify that you are on track to complete all coursework, including labs. If you are unsure or need help with building your course schedule, speak with a pre-health advisor. 

2. Does it look better to have numerous research experiences? ‍

Yes and no. Find a balance. While you should have multiple substantive research experiences, the emphasis should be on “substantive.” In other words, aim for quality over quantity. What you learn and gain from your research experiences is more important than the number of experiences you have. 

Furthermore, having quality research experiences will make it easier for you to network with supervisors, mentors, colleagues, and peers. You can tap into this support system when you ask for letters of recommendation for your med school application. 

3. Can I have someone look at my essays before submitting them through the AMCAS? ‍

Yes! We strongly recommend that you spend time crafting your essays. Don’t simply type your essays in the application service and hit send. Write your essays over time, and expect to revise your drafts. Ask trusted peers, mentors, friends, or colleagues for their objective feedback. You can also consult with our team of experts.  ‍

4. What should I avoid in my MD PhD essays? ‍ ‍

  • Avoid clichés. You want your essays to be memorable to admissions committees who read thousands of these applications every year. Use language that’s compelling, descriptive, and tells a story. Make connections from your personal and professional experiences to the MD PhD program.
  • Avoid restating what’s already in your CV. You only have 3,000 characters, so every word counts. 
  • Avoid writing about negative experiences. Focus on positive reasons for pursuing the MD PhD and show a growth mindset. 
  • Avoid using a casual tone or language. Your essays should be academic and professional. 

5. Do I need to have publications before applying to MD PhD programs? ‍

Publications are not required for MD PhD programs, but having publications gives you a competitive edge over other candidates. Admissions officers are aware of how difficult it is to publish so early in your education, but if you do have publications, be sure to list them in your application. 

Also, keep in mind that regardless of your current contributions in research, whether or not you have publications, you must be knowledgeable about your research topics and have substantial research experience.  ‍

6. How many research experiences should I write about in my research experience essay? ‍

You should aim to write about two to three significant research experiences. This will give you a good balance of different research experiences to discuss, including what you learned and your contributions. Writing about two to three experiences will also ensure that you remain within the essay length requirement of the AMCAS, which is 3,000 characters.

Conclusion ‍

If you’re passionate about scientific research, the MD PhD dual degree is a great way to combine your love of clinical medicine and research. For most MD PhD programs, you will apply using the AMCAS. 

The application process is similar to traditional MD programs, but with the MD PhD, you will have to select that program within the application service. Additionally, you will have to write two essays specifically for the MD PhD program: the MD PhD essay and the significant research experience essay. 

To write strong, compelling MD PhD essays, persuade the admissions committee of your reasons for combining clinical medicine with research and why it’s the best pathway for you. Demonstrate how your research experiences have prepared you for a rewarding career as a physician-scientist. We wish you the best of luck as you pursue your MD PhD.

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The Complete MD/PhD Applicant Guide pp 61–65 Cite as

The Significant Research Experience Essay

  • Jonathan Sussman 4 ,
  • Jordan Setayesh 5 &
  • Amitej Venapally 6  
  • First Online: 23 September 2020

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One of the most unique and substantial parts of the MD/PhD application is the significant research experience essay, which is a part of the primary AMCAS application. In this essay, applicants describe their research positions, projects, and accomplishments in detail. This chapter explains how to structure and write this essay in terms of the scientific method. It is important for applicants to demonstrate involvement in every step of the scientific process, from designing the experiments to communicating the results. However, this essay serves as an excellent medium through which applicants can explain how their research interests have evolved over time and the most important lessons they learned through research. In effect, this essay can be viewed as a technical-based personal statement.

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Sussman, J., Setayesh, J., Venapally, A. (2021). The Significant Research Experience Essay. In: The Complete MD/PhD Applicant Guide. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-55625-9_8

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MD-PhD Programs: The Definitive Guide

Including a full list of all md-phd programs in the us and canada.

MD-PhD Programs

Your answer to the question “ why do you want to be a doctor? ” can help you determine whether MD-PhD programs are right for you. MD-PhD programs accept exceptionally bright and motivated applicants interested in becoming physician-scientists – this means that instead of focusing your time and efforts on clinical work, you will commit your life to scientific innovation and research. In addition to the demanding curriculum and extended period of study (7-8 years!), MD-PhD application procedures typically involve additional components and supplementary interviews.

Whether you are applying through AMCAS,  TMDSAS , or  OMSAS , you will be required to submit additional essay components explaining why you are the right fit for the MD-PhD program of your choice along with your  AMCAS personal statement ,  AMCAS Work and Activities , or TMDSAS application. In this blog, you will learn everything you need to know about MD-PhD programs, including a list of schools that offer MD-PhD programs, how to apply, and 5 tips to get accepted!

>> Want us to help you get accepted? Schedule a free strategy call here . <<

Listen to the blog!

Article Contents 17 min read

What is an md-phd program.

If you are contemplating between MD PhD vs MD , it's important to know what the MD-PhD programs entail. The MD-PhD program allows you to obtain a dual degree in both medicine and research to become what is known as a physician-scientist or medical scientist. After graduation, students will receive a combined MD/PhD degree with advanced, hands-on research training and expertise in a particular field of their choice.

Struggling to decide between MD-PhD and MD programs? Check out our video below!

The MD-PhD program is definitely not an easy one, it is designed for exceptional students who have a true interest and commitment to a career in medical research. If you're only interested in becoming a practicing physician, that doesn't require a PhD, so the MD-PhD program is not the right choice for you.

When considering if this program is well suited to your strengths and interests, ask yourself a variety of questions. Are you fascinated by the unknown? Do you find yourself asking why and how? Are you interested in a disease or condition that is commonly treated by physicians? Do you want to make new discoveries and implement what you've learned? Do you want to combine scientific research with medicine?  What is your greatest weakness ? If research is not your forte, perhaps MD-PhD programs are not for you. However, if you feel a definite drive and determination to pursue medicine and research at the same time, the MD-PhD program is a perfect option.

Does my PhD have to be in laboratory research?

PhD programs on offer vary from school to school, therefore, depending on the school you apply to, you may not necessarily have to train in laboratory research. The vast majority of MD-PhD students obtain their PhD in biomedical laboratory fields of study. This includes genetics, neuroscience, and immunology. However, some schools offer research in fields outside of the laboratory in fields such as economics, public health and sociology.

Although each program has its own curriculum, all MD-PhD programs train students to become competent physicians as well as skilled scientists. Most students complete the degree within 7 to 8 years. The length of your degree will depend on several factors, like your clinical requirements, PhD requirements, progress of your research, and the time needed to develop into an independent investigator, which is the primary goal of the PhD training. Typically, students can choose to divide their training into 2-3-2 track or 2-4-2 track. You start the program by mastering basic science courses as an MD student for 1 or 2 years, followed by an intense period of PhD research for 3 or 4 years. The PhD period is very demanding because you must complete your research, thesis writing, and defend your work within this short timeframe. The last 2 years are dedicated to clinical training.

This is a general outline, but each program may have its own approach. For example, there may be more research integrated into your first two years of study. Some programs may require you to participate in research labs during the summer between first and second years to get acquainted with programs and departments related to your research interests. Depending on your research, you may be required to start clinical training during your PhD component.

The general timeline of completion is as follows:

2 years of clinical training to prepare you for residency. After clerkships, you will complete the USMLE Step 2 exam and any other MD requirements of your program. "}]">

MD-PhD programs are not just a combination of two separate degrees. During your studies, you will be exposed to unique activities and training designed specifically for MD-PhD students. These will include courses and workshops, seminars dedicated to research and professional development, and sessions where you will be able to present your research. You will also be able to join your colleagues in student retreats and conferences designed specifically for this combined degree.

Having an MD PhD vs MD degree allows you to enjoy a career that combines both research and medicine. You have the opportunity for exploration, scientific discovery and medical intervention. Most MD-PhD graduates work in medical schools, research institutes or teaching hospitals, but there is also the option of working in public health, for pharmaceutical companies and even running your own lab.

How can I afford this program?

If a school is offering an MD-PhD program, they are very aware of the difficulty in training to become a doctor and researcher at the same time. They value physician-scientists highly and fortunately, most programs offer some sort of funding opportunities to students. This can include tuition waivers and a stipend to help cover the costs of living expenses. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) provides funding to 49 MD-PhD programs through the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). These programs are extremely competitive as the funding offers a tuition allowance and a basic stipend, with most institutions supplementing the stipend.

Want some more tips on how to pay for medical school? Check out our guide below:

Which schools offer the MD-PhD/MTSP program?

MD-PhD programs are not a prerogative of those seeking the easiest medical schools to get into . While their number is growing all over Canada and the US, here I've included an up to date list, which is also available on the AAMC website. In addition to this guide, the AAMC website is a great resource where you can find a variety of other helpful tools for MD-PhD prospective students.

The following tabs show the list of schools that offer the MD-PhD/MSTSP program in the US, organized state-wise and alphabetically. Please use the right and left arrow to navigate to more tabs.

Applying to an MD-PhD program is essentially the same as applying to an MD program. If you haven't already done so, you will have to write the MCAT. Check out our blog for the current MCAT test and release dates . Almost all programs use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) where you have a chance to apply as an MD-PhD applicant. As with MD programs, some will require a CV for graduate school , along with a statement of purpose . The only difference is that for MD-PhD applicants, you will be required to provide two additional essays: the first should answer why you want to pursue MD-PhD training, the second should showcase your research experience. There are a few programs that are using an alternative service for accepting applications, so be sure to check which service your program is using.

MD-PhD Program Requirements


MD-PhD programs require the completion of a four-year undergraduate degree and background in the following disciplines:

This can include general chemistry, organic chemistry, as well as biochemistry. "},{"number":"4","title":"One year of Physics","comment":""},{"number":"5","title":"One year of Math","comment":""}]" code="timeline2">

These medical school prerequisites are the baseline. Your academic record should demonstrate that you have taken a variety of science and non-science courses. Admissions committees will note the difficulty levels of your coursework and your academic improvement over time. Make sure to check with your program of choice for any specific course requirements, i.e. advanced placement classes, online courses, etc. The most important prerequisite for MD-PhD programs is your research background and your experience in the lab.


According to the latest AAMC statistics, the average GPA of MD-PhD matriculants is 3.8, while the average MCAT score is 516. These are very impressive numbers and you must strive to at least meet these averages if you’re planning to apply. If your academic record does not reflect these numbers, you need to get your grades up. To improve your GPA, re-enroll in classes you performed poorly in and get a higher grade. Not only will this increase your GPA, but it also demonstrate your dedication, patience, and desire for improvement. Ask your instructors and teaching assistants if you can do anything for extra credit. Find a tutor or a study buddy to help with disciplines you struggle with the most. You can also plan your school schedule to include courses in disciplines you ace. If working on your GPA is not a priority for you, find out how to get into medical school with a low GPA .

Your MCAT score is an important indicator of your academic prowess. Before you take the test, make sure you know what is a good MCAT score and when to start studying for the MCAT . Give yourself ample time to prepare. Start by taking an MCAT practice test to figure out what areas of knowledge and concepts you need to improve. Create an MCAT study schedule that incorporates a variety of active and passive study strategies. Keep taking practice tests to see if you’re improving. If you consistently score at the 90% percentile in your practice tests, you can start planning to take the real MCAT. Remember, take the test only when you feel ready. If you’re still wondering “ When should I take the MCAT ?”, read our blog to get some tips.

Are you thinking of retaking the MCAT? Check out our tips below:

Altus Suite

Firstly, research whether your schools require the completion of the entire Altus Suite, or whether it's one of the medical schools that require CASPer only. If your schools require the completion of the entire Altus Suite, you will also need to complete the Snapshot interview and the Duet profile. It's challenging to prepare for all three Altus Suite components, but CASPer remains the most intimidating.

The CASPer test is an online situational judgment test that claims to assess the professional suitability of students applying to professional schools, including medical schools. The entire test is written on a computer and the students only receive their percentile scores. The test is comprised of 15 scenarios dealing with real-life situations. You are asked 3 follow up questions based on the scenario observed. The questions will ask you to answer how you would deal with the situations you witnessed. In the first section of the test, you are given 5 minutes to type your answers for those three questions. In the second section, you will be given 1 minute to record your answer to each of questions. The format is a challenge, so that's why it's so important to make sure you know how the CASPer test is scored .

You have probably heard that it is impossible to prepare for CASPer. It is indeed difficult, but there are important approaches that you can implement to ace your CASPer test! The key is to know what categories of questions are typically included in a CASPer test and to have a concrete answer strategy for each question category. This means that even though nobody knows what exact questions you are going to get on your test, you will have an approach for answering any questions that may come your way. Make sure you know how to prepare for CASPer and go over our CASPer practice questions to ace your test!

You will need to submit a total of three essays for the MD-PhD program if you’re applying through AMCAS. On top of your AMCAS personal statement, you will need to submit two additional essays: the significant research experience essay and the MD PhD essay . If you’re applying through TMDSAS, you will need to submit the Dual Degree essay along with the other essay application components.

While your medical school personal statement answers the question “Why do you want to be a doctor?”, the MD-PhD specific essays must demonstrate your research expertise and answer why you would not be satisfied with a career pursuing only one of the two programs. The significant research experience essay must outline the most valuable research experiences you’ve had. You will have 10,000 characters, including spaces, to give detailed accounts of your research projects: the nature of the problem studied, your role and contribution, duration of the project, and the name of your principal investigators and their affiliation.

Your AMCAS MD-PhD essay must be no longer than 3,000 characters long. The TMDSAS dual degree essay is limited to 5,000 characters including spaces. These essays must convince the admissions committees that you would be the right fit for the combined degree and how your experiences have led you to apply to it. Your MD-PhD essay should tell the story of how you became involved in scientific research and how you want to apply your research to medical practice.

Remember, in this essay, you must link your passion for research to clinical practice. Adcoms need to see that you can be both: an expert researcher and a competent MD. You must demonstrate why you are an ideal candidate for the combined program, so do not simply focus on your research background. Showing interest in research alone may eliminate you from the applicant pool – adcoms will think that you can simply pursue a PhD. While focusing only on research is great for the significant research experience essay, your dual degree and MD-PhD essays must be crossovers between your scientific research and the experiences you had working with patients and physicians. Ideally, you will be able to show how your research interests are inspired by clinical experiences or patients you’ve had a chance to work with.

Want to know how to write the MD-PhD essay? Check out our video below!

Research Experience

As an MD-PhD applicant, you must have substantive research experience. Having a quality research background will indicate to admissions committees that you understand what you are getting into and that you have been exposed to research methods and techniques. Ideally, your application will demonstrate that you have been involved in multiple research projects, including thesis research. Your application must show that you have dedicated a substantial amount of your undergraduate degree to scientific research, otherwise the adcoms might wonder why you are pursuing a research-oriented program.

What is most important in your research background is the quality of the experiences. You do not need to get involved in hundreds of research projects to make a great impression on the adcoms. Even one valuable research project can demonstrate your curiosity and commitment to scientific research. Having spent an extended period of time on a research project showcases your dedication, genuine interest, and high level of expertise in a research field.

Make sure you can identify what you have learned from your research experiences – you will have to outline valuable lessons and skills you acquired in multiple parts of your MD-PhD application and interviews. Ideally, you can discuss the relationship between your research experience and the medical field. Remember, you do not need to have an extensive background in medical or clinical research. Laboratory skills are transferable from discipline to discipline. However, even if you have little to no clinical research background, you must show that you have reflected on the relationship between your own research experiences and their application to the medical field. An MD-PhD application is a tough balancing act: you must always remember to honor the integral relationship between research and clinical practice.

If you’re looking to bolster your research background, try looking for research assistant positions on campus. Talk to your instructors and teaching assistants to find out if they are involved in research projects and whether they need help. Keep your eyes out for any research position postings on your school’s website or around science departments. If you’re no longer a student on campus, reach out to your former instructors and ask about research opportunities. You can also contact physicians you volunteered with or shadowed, to find out if they or their clinic are involved in research projects. Even if they are not, physicians can often recommend some names of organizations and other medical professionals who are research-oriented.

Keep in mind that if you apply to research positions, you will need to assemble a strong application, including a research assistant cover letter and CV. If academia is your passion, then you might want to look into special master’s programs . These graduate degrees are specifically designed to build-up students’ medical school applications and may help you improve the quality of your research background.

Are you looking for research positions? Check out our tips below:

While it’s true that MD-PhD applicants highly value research and progress, you do need to demonstrate to MD-PhD admissions committees that you have clinical background. It is one of the key extracurriculars for medical school , so having no clinical background will significantly decrease your chances of acceptance to an MD-PhD program. You must provide evidence to justify your suitability for both research and medicine and that you have taken the necessary steps to test drive your future career.

Remember to emphasize quality over quantity – you do not need to have an extensive clinical background to impress the adcoms. Choose to volunteer or work with organizations and institutions that would further inform your decision to apply to MD-PhD programs. Patient care is at the heart of the medical profession, so it is vital for MD-PhD applicants to get exposed to patients, who are after all the greatest inspiration for medical research and progress. Apply to work and volunteer in clinics, hospitals, and hospices. Apply to volunteer in long-term care and retirement homes. Gain clinical experience by working as a health professional’s assistant, become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), or a volunteer emergency medical technician (EMT), a medical scribe, or a personal caretaker.

Shadowing a physician can also greatly inform your knowledge of clinical practice. As a passive observer, you will get to see the everyday responsibilities of a practicing physician. Take note of memorable lessons you learn – they may prove to be invaluable sources for your MD-PhD essays. Make sure you know how many shadowing hours are required for medical school to fulfill the requirement and how to ask to shadow a doctor . Remember, committing to a clinical setting or shadowing a physician will provide you with an opportunity to reflect on how research can improve medical practice. Without clinical background, your perception of the medical field and medical research will not be complete.

MD PhD Program Statistics

Average mean statistics for MD-PhD matriculants in the US:

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Residency Options

You might be wondering what kind of residency options MD-PhD graduates have after so many years of rigorous training. Just like the rest of applicants, you will need to use the ERAS application to apply to American residency programs and CaRMS to apply to programs in Canada.

First of all, you must know that as an MD-PhD graduate you will need to do a bit more research into residency programs than regular MDs. This is because not all residency programs focus on the research side of medical training. If you want to further your scientific as well as your clinical education, you will have to do a little more work to figure out which residencies will allow you to do so.

Start by speaking with your program mentors who can suggest residencies they know to be particularly research-friendly. You can check programs' research track records to see if they value research and what kind of opportunities there are to shorten the residency for research-track trainees, such as the Accelerated Research Pathway (ARP), Integrated Research Pathway (IRP), and other physician-scientist track programs.

Look for residencies that have been specifically developed to foster the training of physician-scientists by fully integrating research into the clinical training. These programs usually offer shortened residency (specialty) training by allowing students to shorten their training by 1 year, depending on the specialty. Make sure that the residency offers their trainees to start research right at the beginning of the program, rather than choosing a full-time lab later in the process. Find out if there is any special financial support for graduates of the combined programs.

To learn more about opportunities for physician-scientists, check out the American Physician Scientist Association list of residencies. Be aware, that if you decide to pursue clinical practice rather than research after your graduate from MD-PhD, you can still pursue residency in any specialty you choose.

1. Gain extensive research experience.

Admissions into MD-PhD programs are highly competitive, and your research experience is essential to your success in gaining entry into the program. You must be able to demonstrate a longstanding commitment to research. Be sure to start gaining experience as soon as possible and try to diversify that experience. For example, you could work in a medical laboratory, research hospital and for a pharmaceutical company. While it is a start to work as a lab tech, the majority of your experience should be focused on hypothesis-based research. The admissions committee will be interested in your ability and experience in developing a hypothesis into a research problem, testing that hypothesis by conducting research and generating a report to document your findings. Try to tailor your research experiences to the field in which you want to pursue, experiences in the biomedical sciences are very useful but not necessarily required if you'll be studying in fields outside of the laboratory.

2. Contribute to publications.

Try to publish your research findings or contribute to publications to help demonstrate the active role you played in conducting research. This can be a great way to give you a competitive edge as not all candidates have been published or have contributed to publications. If you have been published or contributed to a publication, even if you only played a small role, be sure you are very familiar with the paper and major details surrounding the research. During your interview, the admissions committee will ask you questions about the research you participated in and will want to see your thorough understanding of that research. In a previous blog, we discuss some of the hardest grad school interview questions and answers, as well as common medical school interview questions be sure you review these to help you prepare for your interview.

3. Develop good relationships with your research mentor.

It is very important to develop good relationships with your research mentors straight away. When you apply to MD-PhD programs, you'll have to provide letters of recommendation and the best recommendations will come from a mentor who has spent a long time with you, has been able to directly assess your research skills and has a strong relationship with you.

4. Gain shadowing experience.

Gaining shadowing experience is important for students applying to an MD program so it's no different for those interested in MD-PhD programs. Remember, you are not only demonstrating your passion for research, you should also be interested in becoming a clinical doctor. Shadowing is a great way to learn quickly in a medical environment and gives you excellent experiences that can be discussed in your application or during your interviews.

5. Volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities.

Community projects and extracurriculars for medical school are a great way to demonstrate a variety of skills desired by the admissions committee such as leadership, teamwork, commitment and problem-solving. Whether you are a tutor, a teaching assistant, or are even part of a debate club, your experiences and what you gained or learned from them are essential. Check out our blog on volunteering to find out how many volunteer hours for medical school you need, as well as the best type of volunteer activity to make your application stand out.

While research is going to be the major focus of the MD-PhD, you must still have sufficient clinical and shadowing experience to assure that medicine is also a desired component of your career. If you do not have clinical and patient experience, the admissions committee will question why you’re applying to the combined program, rather than simply a PhD.

Most applicants do not have master’s degrees. However, some students pursue graduate education to bolster their MD-PhD applications. For example, some students choose to complete special master’s programs to gain valuable research experience.

There is a possibility that your school of choice will forgive a lower GPA if the MCAT score is high. Likewise, if an MCAT score is lower than the school’s typical average, the GPA may compensate for it. However, due to their highly selective process, MD-PhD programs take only the best. Try to ensure that your GPA and MCAT score meet the averages of the schools to which you’re applying. Remember, your GPA and MCAT are not the only components of your MD-PhD application but they are often used to weed out students from the application pool.

While most programs require only the MCAT, some programs may ask you to submit GRE scores as well. Check with your program to make sure.

A good research experience provides you with the opportunity to conduct hypothesis-driven research. You get the chance to develop this hypothesis into a research problem, conduct research to test the hypothesis, and then report the outcome and significance of this research. You do not need to have research experience in the medical field to qualify for MD-PhD. Many research skills are transferable across disciplines. As long as you learn valuable research skills and understand the process, your research experience can come from any field you like.

The quality of your research experience is more important than its amount. Your application can be strong if you convey genuine interest and experience in only one research project. Your progress and commitment to a specific research area demonstrates expertise and dedication. It is not necessary to be involved in dozens of research projects or make any ground-breaking scientific discoveries to enter the MD-PhD program. In your application, focus on what you have learned and accomplished and don't be afraid to discuss your setbacks in addition to your accomplishments.

If you have publications, make sure to include them in your application. Having published research can give you a competitive edge as not every applicant will have this experience. Keep in mind that you must have an in-depth understanding of this research because you will be asked about it during your interviews. However, for the most part publications are not necessary. Many students apply directly out of undergrad and admissions committees understand that it is difficult to contribute to publication at such an early stage in your education.

Early applications are highly encouraged since most programs have rolling admissions. Most MD-PhD programs are affiliated with the AMCAS where you apply through a primary application and then complete a MD-PhD program-specific secondary application. The AMCAS application site opens in early June; most programs suggest that your application be submitted and completed before September.

Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) is an MD-PhD program that has been awarded a training grant (T32) from the National Institute of General Medical Science that financially supports trainees in the program. There are currently about 49 MD-PhD programs that have T32 awards. Non-MSTP MD-PhD programs also provide environments where students obtain outstanding dual-degree training.

Each institution has a financial package. Most programs offer a monthly stipend and a full tuition scholarship for the length of the program. Check with your program of choice.

It takes 7 to 8 years. You must complete both MD and PhD degree requirements to graduate. Typically, you start the program by mastering basic science courses as an MD student for 1 or 2 years, followed by an intense period of PhD research for 3 or 4 years. During the PhD period, you must complete your research, thesis writing, and defend your work. The last 2 years are dedicated to clinical training.

These programs aim to train physician-scientists, but other research-oriented career paths are also possible. Graduates of MD-PhD programs often go on to become faculty members at medical schools, universities, and research institutes such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Ideally, at least one of your writers will be the head of a research project in which you participated. It is important to have a person who can speak to your research skills and progress. Other writers can include professors and instructors, volunteer and work supervisors, athletics coaches, or a physician you worked with or whom you shadowed.

It is completely normal to change direction in your research throughout your studies. Many students change their research fields after they gain more research experience. Rather than setting in stone what you are going to study, your application is meant to demonstrate the quality of your experiences and whether you are ready for the rigors of MD-PhD training.

It is certainly possible to become a physician-scientist without obtaining an MD-PhD degree. However, if you are lucky enough to know that you want a career based in medicine and research, the joint program is the most effective way to become a physician-scientist. You can complete an MD first and obtain a PhD afterward, or you could complete a PhD first and obtain your MD afterward, however, the disadvantage is that this route takes much longer. Some schools will let you transfer into their MD-PhD program if you've completed a year or two in a medical or graduate school program at their school. If you are a few years into a medical or graduate school program at a different school however, most schools will not accept your transfer, although it can happen on rare occasions.

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June 17, 2022

An Admitted Johns Hopkins MD/PhD Candidate Reflects on His Journey

Student Interview_Luke Tomasovic_Johns Hopkins

Learn how real students and recent grads have navigated their way through the medical school admissions process and med school itself with our  What is Medical School Really Like?  series .

Meet Luke, an incoming MD/PhD student at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Luke, thank you for sharing your story with us!

Let’s start at the beginning… Where did you go to undergrad and what did you major in?

Luke: I went to the Georgia Institute of Technology and majored in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering. This certainly isn’t the most traditional premed major, but I’m glad I chose it for many reasons (the main one being that I can always find a job if this whole medicine thing doesn’t work out).

What was your inspiration or epiphany for deciding to pursue a career in medicine?

Luke: It was definitely more of a slow boil rather than an epiphany. At the beginning of undergrad, I really enjoyed the basic science research I was doing, so I planned on eventually applying to PhD programs. 

Cue the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first summer of the pandemic, I had the chance to do research in a lab that was developing antibody-based therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2. It was a frenetically-paced 3 months, but the timing of this experience helped me realize that research can meaningfully respond to changes in society and doesn’t have to be limited to a lab bench. As I reflected on this internship, I realized that I was most excited by translational, patient-focused research. Applying to MD/PhD programs seemed like the most logical next step.

I also had the good fortune of meeting some fantastic physician-scientist mentors along the way. During informal conversations with each of them, they consistently spoke to how they would do it all again despite the challenges and lengthy training timeline. From then on, I knew it was the right career path for me.

During the application process, were you also working full-time? What did that look like and how were you able to balance it all?

Luke: Yes, I took one gap year so throughout the application cycle I was working full-time as a research assistant in an academic lab. As an MD/PhD applicant, this was the ideal position for me because it allowed me to do research full-time (which isn’t possible during undergrad) and provided a flexible schedule for applications and interviews.

Whether applicants are working full-time or still in school, applications will consume a lot of your time and energy, especially during the summer (secondaries) and fall (interviews). They are definitely manageable, but it’s important to outline expectations with your professors, PI’s, or supervisors ahead of time.

Which “tools” – such as an app, technique, lifehack, website, guide, mantra, or advice – got you through the application process and into your target school?

Luke: As a podcast junkie, I found various podcasts to be helpful when I was first learning about the medical school admissions process. A few of my favorites were: The Prospective Doctor , The Premed Years, All Access: Med School Admissions , and of course, Admissions Straight Talk .

Many applicants would agree that one of the biggest hurdles in medical school admissions is the MCAT. Study tips for this test can be found other places online, so my biggest piece of advice would be to minimize the amount of money you spend on study resources. Outside of AAMC material, most of these are unnecessary and there are plenty of low-cost or free resources on the internet. I’d also like to plug a great initiative, MD Collective , which provides free, personal MCAT tutoring and long-term advising to first-generation and low-income students.

Once you crush the MCAT and submit your primary AMCAS application, secondary essays will become the next big boss you need to beat. The name of the game with secondaries is efficiency and organization. I would recommend making a spreadsheet with deadlines and secondary prompts (diversity, adversity, leadership, etc.). This will help you realize where you can use control-C to kill several birds with one stone.

Aside from these tools, the best “lifehack” for getting into medical school is finding good mentors. Whether they’re current students or attending physicians, they will help you avoid common pitfalls and be great resources for reviewing essays and conducting mock interviews.

Speaking of, the best piece of advice I received from one of my mentors was to take the road less traveled as a premed. This doesn’t mean to go against the grain for the sake of it, but rather to try and carve out your own unique journey to medical school. Some of the most interesting accepted students I’ve met have stories and backgrounds that aren’t “traditional” in premed terms , so try not to lose sight of what makes you different.

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Secondary Application Essay Tips >>

There are so many factors that go into accepting an offer at a med program! Which metrics did you use and what was most important to you?

Luke: Receiving multiple admission offers is a difficult, but good, problem to have. It’s a very personal decision in the end, so I can only speak to what I valued during the decision process.

  • Location Can you envision yourself living in a certain city for 4 (or even 8 years)? Also, medical school is challenging and life will happen along the way, so it can be helpful to be close to your support system.
  • Research opportunities This was more important for me as an MD/PhD applicant, but could be a consideration for MD students as well. While all research-focused medical schools will offer plenty of opportunities, each institution has its strengths. For someone like me, interested in biomedical engineering and cancer immunology, it’s a dream to be at a place like Hopkins .
  • Clinical education I think the preclinical education is fairly consistent across institutions and most medical schools will do a good job of teaching you. What’s important to consider, though, is the environment you’ll be in and the patients you’ll be interacting with during your clerkship rotations. As an example, Johns Hopkins has a very unique and diverse patient population being situated in East Baltimore, and I think that contributes to the quality of its medical training in many ways.

Studying is a huge part of any med school student’s life – and studying truly never ends for medical professionals! What is your approach to studying? What does an ideal study session look like for you?

Luke: The best approach to studying varies between students and is also dependent on the subject matter. For example, my undergraduate engineering curriculum was very problem-solving focused, so it was helpful to study and work through practice problems in a group.

However, the MCAT and most medical school classes require you to study for long stretches and retain vast amounts of information. This is where the Pomodoro method and spaced-repetition flashcards like Anki come in handy.

I’m easily distractable so I typically like to study alone in a quiet library with brown noise playing through my headphones. Of course, a cup of coffee is always within reach.

Med school is intense, to say the least! How has it forced you to get outside your comfort zone?

Luke: Outside of challenging myself academically, I think being a premed made me much more willing to put myself out there in search of new opportunities. In fact, my most formative shadowing experiences, research internships, and mentor relationships came from cold emails.

In a similar way, applying to med school made me much more comfortable with the idea of failure and rejection. Even if you’re a successful applicant with numerous acceptances, there will be a long trail of failures and shortcomings that others don’t see. As someone much smarter than me once said, “the best formula for success is to double your rate of failure.”

Does Johns Hopkins have any traditions or superstitions that med students participate in?

Luke: I’m sure there will be plenty of informal traditions that I’ll learn more about once I start classes, but one thing stands out to me as an incoming student is the Colleges Advisory Program (CAP). During orientation, the entire class is randomly sorted (Harry Potter style) into one of four colleges, each named after significant historical figures at Hopkins. 

The colleges provide an informal environment for students to interact with peers and faculty. They also host a 3-day Olympics each fall with a wide range of activities. I haven’t participated yet, but it seems quite fun.

CAP is symbolic of a larger theme that many might not suspect about Hopkins, which is that it’s a very friendly and collegial place. From my interactions with future classmates, current students, and faculty, I can definitely say that the medical school feels like one, big family.

Where can people follow your journey to get an unfiltered view of what it’s like to be a med student?

Luke: I’m most active on Twitter ( @luketomasovic11 ), where I tweet about life as an MD/PhD student and occasionally geek out on science.

And finally… What advice would you give your younger self just beginning the med school application process?

Luke: Wow, where do I begin? I’ll do my best to condense my advice into three main points:

  • Be kind to yourself It’s easy to fall into the trap of perfectionism along the way, but I can assure you that most things in life tend to work out as long as you make your best effort.
  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint If undergrad felt like a long time, then the application process will feel even longer. Don’t forget to fit the rest of your life into this period, and try to stop to smell the roses every once in a while. You won’t remember whether you got an A or an A- on an exam, but you will remember a weekend spent with friends. The journey is the reward, so take it all in stride.
  • Comparison is the thief of joy An overused quote, but maybe for good reason. One of your goals in the application process should be to reflect on what makes you unique, so comparing yourself to others defeats the whole point. You should be more concerned with being the best version of yourself, instead of keeping up with the Joneses.

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  • How to Write About Your Research Interests
  • What Med School Applicants Must Know About Johns Hopkins , a podcast episode
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Secondary Application Essay Tips

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Why Pursue an MD-PhD?

New section.

Just some of the reasons why people choose a career as a physician-scientist.

  • The career of a physician-scientist is unique. There are few comparable careers that allow one to experience the passion of solving a patient's medical struggles while pursuing research that may define the mechanism of that patient’s disease and may ultimately translate into a clinical cure for the disease.
  • MD-PhD trainees are research scientists who solve mechanisms underlying disease, combined with their passion to treat patients in a clinical setting.
  • MD-PhD training efficiently integrates the scientific and medical education of the physician-scientist.
  • During the PhD training years, MD-PhD students take the coursework and formal training in research methodology that are important for the development of the research scientist.
  • Most MD-PhD programs provide trainees with a stipend and tuition scholarships. This financial support recognizes the time that a student must spend in training for the MD-PhD career. The extent of financial support varies among programs and may only support U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

Areas of Research Interest for MD-PhD Training

  • Most MD-PhD candidates earn their PhD in biomedical laboratory disciplines such as cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, immunology, pharmacology, physiology, neuroscience, and biomedical engineering.
  • Some MD-PhD Programs also allow trainees to do their graduate work in fields outside of laboratory disciplines, including computational biology, economics, epidemiology, health care policy, anthropology, sociology, or the history of medicine.
  • The spectrum of graduate degree programs offered is an important element to consider when applying to specific MD-PhD Programs.
  • @AAMCpremed

Helpful tools and information regarding medical MD-PhD programs.

Information about applying to MD-PhD programs, emphasizing the application process during COVID-19.

Information about MD-PhD programs, emphasizing the career and application process.

Learn about MD-PhD Programs from program leaders.

Upcoming short presentations will describe features of MD-PhD training, alumni careers, and detailed logistics of the application process.

MD/PHD student

Emily battled viral encephalitis for years during college, and now as a MD/PhD student, she reminds premeds that it's okay to ask for help.

MD/PHD student

Cesar couldn't apply to medical school when he first graduated from college due to his undocumented status. Now he's in a MD-PhD program and hopes to practice in the Southwest where there's a high need for Spanish-speaking physicians.


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  1. MD-PhD Programs: The Ultimate Guide (2024)

    We'll provide information to help you decide whether these programs are right for you, strategies you can use should you choose to apply, discussions of the required MD-PhD essays (including examples), and complete lists of MD-PhD and MSTP programs so you can maximize your odds of getting in. ---- Part 2: An overview of MD-PhD programs

  2. MD PhD Essay: The Ultimate Guide

    The MD PhD essay is a unique component of the application process and it's where you'll discuss your reasons behind pursuing the joint program. To understand what admissions committees are looking for in this essay, you need to first understand what kind of professionals they are hoping to train.

  3. See What Excellent M.D.-Ph.D. Application Essays Look Like

    M.D.-Ph.D. applicants should write essays that highlight their scientific curiosity and knowledge. By Ilana Kowarski | May 15, 2018, at 10:21 a.m. (Getty Images) M.D.-Ph.D. applicants are usually...

  4. Section 8 of the AMCAS® Application: Essays

    If you're applying to an MD-PhD program, you must complete two additional essays: the MD-PhD Essay and the Significant Research Experience Essay. To avoid formatting issues, we recommend that you type your essay directly into the AMCAS ® application rather than copying and pasting your essay from other software.

  5. PDF MD-PhD: What, Why, How

    January 12th, 2022 By Nereida Ramirez Harvard Medical School, MD-PhD candidate Outline What is an MD-PhD? Why pursue an MD-PhD? What does it take to get into an MD-PhD program? What is an MD-PhD? A dual degree program that combines medical school (MD) and graduate school (PhD) training Example Timeline:

  6. Application and Interview tips for MD-PhD Programs

    Winter 2020/21 Acceptance Elements of a successful MD-PhD application Holistic review Productive research Integrity and maturity Physician scientist career commitment Strong academics Experience in caring for others Activities and life experiences MD/PhD Application process • Apply via the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS)

  7. How to Write Successful Md-PhD and Significant Research Experience Essays

    Learn how to write successful MD-PhD and significant research experience essays for the AMCAS application. The MD-PhD Essay is a "Why essay" that explains your motivation for the combined degree, while the Significant Research Essay is a "How essay" that describes your research experience. Get tips on structure, content, and examples.

  8. Tips for Applying to MD-PhD Programs

    MD-PhD applicants submit two additional essays: the MD-PhD Essay and the Significant Research Experience Essay: The MD-PhD Essay asks you to explain your reasons for pursuing the combined degree program.

  9. How To Write Your MD PhD Essays

    How To Write Your MD PhD Essays September 5, 2023 Luke Hartstein ‍ Suppose you've decided that pursuing the MD PhD dual degree is right for you. In that case, you may have noticed that the application process is slightly different than applying to MD programs at allopathic medical schools.

  10. Physician Scientist (M.D.-Ph.D.)

    Three (3) Essays . MD Essay - a personal essay on why you want to be a physician. MD-PhD Essay - why you want to pursue MD-PhD. Document life experiences that compel you to strive for a career as a physician-scientist. Significant Research Experience Essay - Describe your research experiences, each in scientific detail.

  11. 7 Tips for Writing Your AMCAS® Personal Comments Essay

    1. Take time to think about the content of your essay before writing a first draft. As you're thinking about the structure of your essay, remember to keep the content general because it will go to all medical schools you apply to. Try not to duplicate information provided elsewhere in the application as you only have about a page to write.

  12. The MD/PhD Essay

    The MD/PhD Essay Jonathan Sussman, Jordan Setayesh & Amitej Venapally Chapter First Online: 23 September 2020 1752 Accesses Abstract The second essay required in the AMCAS primary application asks applicants to articulate why they want to pursue the MD/PhD combined degree.

  13. The Significant Research Experience Essay

    One of the most unique and substantial parts of the MD/PhD application is the significant research experience essay, which is a part of the primary AMCAS application. In this essay, applicants describe their research positions, projects, and accomplishments in detail.

  14. Harvard/MIT MDPhD Program

    A Harvard/MIT MD-PhD Program-specific short essay question; The PhD program type you anticipate applying to: Basic and Translational Sciences or Social Sciences; Your research interests/areas; The research supervisors submitting letters of recommendation on your behalf;

  15. How To Write Your MD PhD Essays

    Einem MD PhD is also known as a physician-scientist or a medical scientist. An PD PhD holds couple the Doctor of Medicine degree (MD) real the Doctor are Philosophy degree (PhD) includes scientific research.

  16. MD-PhD Programs: The Definitive Guide

    Your AMCAS MD-PhD essay must be no longer than 3,000 characters long. The TMDSAS dual degree essay is limited to 5,000 characters including spaces. These essays must convince the admissions committees that you would be the right fit for the combined degree and how your experiences have led you to apply to it. Your MD-PhD essay should tell the ...

  17. PDF Sample Essays for The Health Professions Committee Application

    Sample Academic Accomplishments (4) Sample MD-PhD Essays (3) Sample Competencies Essays (3) Office of Pre-Professional Programs & Advising 3400 N. Charles St., 300 Garland Hall Baltimore, MD 21218 410-516-4140; studentaffairs.jhu.edu/preprofadvising I was born and raised in a suburb located about 25 miles east of Manhattan.

  18. An Admitted Johns Hopkins MD/PhD Candidate Reflects on His Journey

    The journey is the reward, so take it all in stride. Comparison is the thief of joy. An overused quote, but maybe for good reason. One of your goals in the application process should be to reflect on what makes you unique, so comparing yourself to others defeats the whole point.

  19. Applying to MD-PhD Programs

    The MD-PhD dual degree training prepares you for a career that is busy, challenging, and rewarding, and offers opportunities to do good for many people by advancing medical science, developing new diagnostics and treatments for diseases, and pushing back the boundaries of the unknown. How do I know if a combined program is right for me?

  20. PDF Guide to Creating Effective Personal Statements

    MD/PhD candidates: must submit two additional essays ("MD/PhD Essay" and "Significant Research Experience Essay"). SPECIFICS OF THE AADSAS ESSAY / PERSONAL STATEMENT Your personal statement is a one-page essay that gives dental schools a clear picture of who you are and, most importantly, why you want to pursue a career in dentistry.

  21. Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)

    Welcome to MSTP at UIC. The University of Illinois College of Medicine Medical Scientist Training Program educates exceptional students for careers as physician-scientists. MD/PhD graduates are positioned to bridge the basic and clinical sciences, and to pursue interdisciplinary approaches to important biomedical problems.

  22. What To Write About in the MD/PhD Essay : r/mdphd

    Writing the MD/PhD essay was the bane of my existence about this time last year. I feel like most premeds have a decent idea as to what kind of material belongs in the personal statement, but I couldn't seem to find any similar consensus about what should go in the MD/PhD essay. I apparently managed to produce something acceptable so I ...

  23. Why Pursue an MD-PhD?

    MD-PhD trainees are research scientists who solve mechanisms underlying disease, combined with their passion to treat patients in a clinical setting. MD-PhD training efficiently integrates the scientific and medical education of the physician-scientist.