Med school after PhD

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Med school after PhD

Postby K. Rao » Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:44 am


I am a post-doc who wants to switch gears and enter med school. I am also an international without a green card. Does having a PhD (Immunology) help in getting admitted to Med school? Are there any fellowships? Can I get financial aid? Has anyone done this before? Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Med school after PhD

Postby Derek McPhee » Fri Mar 23, 2007 10:54 am

Most US universitites do not accept non citizens/non permanent residents (your "green card" holders) as a matter of policy (some schools even have limited admission for out-of state citizens and green card holders too), and those that do may have very restrictive policies, liking requiring "proof of capability to pay" or payment in advance for the four years of med school tuition and living expenses. There are some exceptions, mostly tied to specific scholarships. The situation in Canada is pretty much the same. There is a fairly recent (2005) list of these policies at specific schools (including Canadian ones) at
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Med school after PhD

Postby K. Rao » Sat Mar 24, 2007 12:09 pm

Hi Derek,

Thank you for your response and the link that you sent. It is quite a comprehensive list of Med Schools and I was able to identify some that accept international students.

Thanks Again!
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Med school after PhD

Postby Emil Chuck » Sat Mar 24, 2007 5:01 pm

I'm going to amend Derek's statementa little. US med schools will accept non-citizens, but there is a real issue of financial aid eligibility. Most non-citizens do not qualify for federal assistance.

That said, the rest of your concerns: people have gone into med school with Ph.D. or masters' degrees before. Does it matter that you have a Ph.D? Actually it matters only in that you have had additional scholarly training, but it is not necessarily a predictor of how well you will do in medical school. Med school education is not at all like graduate school, and you really have to be personally prepared for the change.

Moreover, clinical experience is still important! You may have worked in a research lab in a hospital, but that's not the same as working in a clinical ward. You still ought to shadow a physician to get a better idea of what your life will eventually be like, that you can be emotionally prepared for the training, and that you really want to go into debt and pay it off for years.

To that end, you still must take your MCAT's. You might have to retake science prerequisites since it may have been a while since you took general chem or physics or organic. Most med schools won't take your grades unless they are taken within the last five years.

There is one exception: the New England College of Optometry has an expedited track for postdocs in the life sciences to pursue an OD degree (optometry). This Accelerated Optometry Program is the only such program I have seen advertised which specifically caters to postdocs and may be a nice subject for a Science Careers article (if it has not already been written).
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Med school after PhD

Postby Ike » Sat Mar 24, 2007 9:51 pm

Short advice is to really sit down and think deep and hard about the decision to go med school in the US. It is EXTREMELY expensive to go to med school in this country. The average new doctor owes around $100,000 - $150,000 in debt which they end up paying off for anywhere from 10 - 20 years depending on a number of factors. It will be years and years before you can make any serious money. Four years med school, plus another 3 years for internship and residency before you can practice as a full fledged physician. If you have any plans to be a specialist, factor in another 2 - 7 years depending on specialty ranging from internal medicine to cardiothoracic or neuro-surgery (you have to do a 4 or 5 years general surgery residency plus another 2 - 3 years neurosurgery fellowship). From the time you enter med school to when you start making real money, its an average of 8 - 13 years. For all practical purposes you will be going in like you just finished college (like all other med students). This means there is no real credit for having a PhD. Medical studies are unlike grad school because things are more didactic and hihgly structured and of course a lot of it happens in a hospital setting - clinical experiences.

You may have to take the pre-requisites (biology, chemistry, physics and math; humanities and social sciences) in addition to getting a good MCAT score. Med schools like to see community service, extra curricular experiences and some experiences shadowing practicing physicians.

Now the issue of getting in is a serious one. There are 126 med schools in the US and roughly half are public and the other half are private. They all cost a ton to attend (although public ones cost less than the private ones). Contrary to what you have been told, its actually very difficult to be accepted in a US medical school without being a citizen or permanent residence (only about 50 or so will accept foreign students). There are a average of 45,000 - 50,000 applications each year for roughly 17,000 spots. This is primarily due to the high expense and the inability of such people to access financial aid in form of grants and loans as result of ineligibility.

Unlike grad school where fellowships and assistantships can help fund your education, its near impossible to find that kind of financial support to attend med school, even for Americans.

The other option is to attend an off-shore med school in the Caribbean (do a google search to find them), and do your clinical rotations and residency in mainland USA. They are relatively easier to get into and financially cheaper but still expensive for most foreigners.

Sit down and really think hard if you want to give this a try. This will sound harsh, but your chances are not that good. Hopefully you are independently wealthy as your immigration status render you ineligible for any grant or loans.

At Yale, a Special Note to foreign Students Intending to Study Medicine, can be found at also find more information on this issue at
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Med school after PhD

Postby John B. » Sun Mar 25, 2007 9:31 am

Here are a couple of options (US and foreign). I believe the U. of Miami, and also an osteopathic school in Des Moines, Iowa (don't recall the name), had M.D. programs for Ph.D. holders (BioMed Sciences, I believe) where you could earn the degree in 1.5 to two years. The U. of Mexico had a similar program though I'm not sure if it was taught in English. Another option would be to attend medical school in the Philippines. They teach in English and the cost of tuition, and living in general, is only a fraction of the US. Also, I suspect that many Philippine medical schools would welcome foreign applicants because they are having problems finding qualified students because the best and brightest are now going into nursing so they can graduate and get good paying jobs overseas; current MDs are even becoming nurses for this reason. I have been quite impressed with Filipino MDs and have observed that doctors here have much more time to spend with patients and are not forced to prescribe expensive, and often unnecesary, evaluation procedures as in the US where physicians are forced, by law, to prescribe these procedures or face the risk of being sued for malpractice. If I were thinking of going to medical school I would seriously consider attending one of the better schools in the Philippines.
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Med school after PhD

Postby Jean » Mon Mar 26, 2007 12:40 am

If your undergraduate degree is not from a US or Canadian university, you will have difficulty applying to medical school in the US. In my experience most of them do not accept foreign qualifications even if you have good grades and MCAT scores, and a Ph.D. and grades from grad school even if it was in the US contribute little to the application. Carribean schools accept foreign qualifications, are maybe a little easier to get into, and the quality fo the education is good, but this is actually a pretty expensive option with little financial aid available. Another consideration, some US residency programs are reluctant to accept foreign medical graduates.
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Why the MD??

Postby D.X. » Mon Mar 26, 2007 2:51 am

The MAJOR question to ask yourself is why the MD?? Do you understand that basic science researh and medical training, provide completely different, if not non complementary eduction? The are many questions to ask your self..i.e. what are your long term goals? Do you know what practicine medicien REALLY Is?? Do you have comprehension of patient outcomes and how to messure/quantify such outcomes? do you have interpersonal skills?

AS a PHD holder I have found the idea of pursuing an MD degree to be a waste of my time and financially detrimentally to my future. It IS an expensive venture for what? As a 30 something, and PhD holder I LOVE my job as an MSL and LOVE MY SALARY!!!! I make more than any resident and i'm making my $100K+ Salary well before any MD will start making any salary and I don't have any 2 to 300 thousand dollar loans and I have a great 401K!!

So as a PHD at the age of 30 I have no incentive to do an MD and I hold a job where MDs are competing to to get into which shows that the MD degree, like the PhD degree is only as good as the person who holds the degree!!!

You can be an MD and be a MORON!!! and not get my position (and have thousands of dollars of dept). On the other hand you can be a PHD and leverage that AWESOME education and experience and get a awesome job that can lead to great financial security and job satistifaction earlier....rather than later!!!

Take it from MSL who deals with basically ONLY MDs..and who would NEVER..EVER..EVER ...EVER!!!!! consider doing a MD because 1. I make good money ....2. I love my job..and 3. I AM ....really I AM MORE competitive than ANY MD who will try to enter my field, because I have experience..and 4. I HAVE NO educational debt...and 5. I'm 3O!!!!!! and make over a 100K a year!!!! Yeah me!!! What will an MD do for me now..absolutely nothing!!!!!

So think about what I've said and ask why woul you want to do a MD degree? if its for money..well look at me..I'm ahead of the game...., if its for prestige..well look at me..I hve the title of "doctor"..which I NEVER use..and if its for dealing with patients..I say....screw patients.. me the valuable skill sets and professional development that is COMMERCIALLY VALUABLE!!!

In the long term, I'll be on top. 4 more years of making 0 is STUPID in my opinion (from a financial view) and a MD degree is useless to me..especially since I NEVER EVER EVER will care about interacting with patients.

However my job allows me to understand what patient outcomes, clinical development, marketing strategy, adverse events, positioning, etc. without the need for me ever going for a MD degree!!!!!!

So my point is ...think a MD degree usefull? If you have a SUCKY personality..then maybe thats your only hope of seeing any form of really money in your life (after you pay your depts). But if you can take what you have, a PHD and spin it properly...LIFE IS AWESOME!!!! I don't need no stinking MD degree..I'll be on top..ALWAYS.

So...point is...why BOTHER with the MD degree..when you have something that in my opinion is more powerful!!!!

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Why the MD??

Postby Hugh » Mon Mar 26, 2007 8:45 am

I don't want to get into this too much, but while D.X. has found extreme personal career and financial satisfaction (great, awesome man) without an MD, you could generally make a better financial case for getting the MD, as despite an initially large investment, the return is far greater than a PhD. One evidence supporting this is supply/demand issues for jobs - shortage of MDs in general in this country and limited supply (med schools) versus glut of PhDs (the pipeline, etc) and limited/finite demand (rationale in part for this science jobs forum). This is a general comment, and as D.X. indicates it plays out on an individual basis. Aside from $, an emotionally, etc rewarding career could be satisfied by either career direction, dependent on the individual. Also, a little over the top using terms as "Stupid", "Sucky", "Moron", and especially "Screw the Patients". As a PhD, MSL or whatever, patients are The priority. I understand you were making a point.
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Why the MD??

Postby Emil Chuck » Mon Mar 26, 2007 8:55 am

Following up on Hugh (as I was thinking of my response):

Getting a degree after getting a Ph.D. is not a small feat. Lots of people with Ph.D's ask about getting MBA's and JD's on this board a lot, and certainly the payback from adding those degrees is huge. However, you have to recognize exactly why you want to get those degrees. Same thing with getting a medical degree after a Ph.D. There is an impending shortage of MD's or DO's and a current shortage of "clinical physicians" in an MD/PhD situation. There is also a very real need for DMD/PhD (dental school/PhD) researchers and faculty members since most dentists go into private practice. (I've already mentioned the OD 27-month program for postdocs.)

The major issue with K. Rao is that I still haven't heard a convincing reason that works for the poster about "why the MD?". It's my job to meet with the admissions deans now, and we all talk about what the admissions committees look for, even for people with Ph.D.'s.
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