2018 Medical Student MPHS Graduate
Cynthia Wang, MPHS
MD Class of 2018, Washington University School of Medicine
What would you say to someone considering the MPHS program?
I would highly recommend doing the MPHS alongside a research year. With the obvious exception of MD/PHD students, formalized training in research methodology is not incredibly common in physicians. Even though I still have much to learn and I certainly do not claim to be an expert, I already feel like my knowledge of research methodology and statistics probably exceeds many residents, simply because most residents have not gotten any formalized research training at all. I believe that performing dedicated research for a year and learning through the MPHS classes will make you stand out in future applications and will also equip you with the skills to perform research independently throughout your career.
What advice would you give to someone in medical school about clinical research?
Throughout this year, I have learned about epidemiology and research methodology. I have come to the realization that there, unsurprisingly, there is an abundance of clinical research out there with flawed methodology. I would recommend to all students to get formalized training in statistics, or at least really read up by themselves so that they can critically evaluate their study design and analysis. I would also suggest to students interested in performing clinical research that they identify a mentor who is experienced with and dedicated to mentoring students. The importance of a strong mentor-mentee relationship cannot be understated. I have a wonderful, supportive mentor who I feel would advocate for me if it came down to it. I would also emphasize quality over quantity. Getting yourself peripherally involved in many different projects can pay off if you’re lucky, and you can end up with 5 easy publications, but it often does not turn out how people may hope (i.e. you can end up with nothing). As a medical student, I would suggest dedicating yourself to one or two significant projects that you know backwards and forwards versus getting distracted by ten less meaningful projects.
How has your MPHS degree impacted your medical school degree, and future work?
The MPHS degree has had a significant impact on my medical school experience, and I would definitely do it again. It has made me evaluate the available research I read with a critical eye and helped me better understand the methods that are used. The skills that I have learned through the classes have greatly helped with my own research projects and enriched my connection with my desired field (dermatology).
2015 Medical Student MPHS Graduate
Nicole Benzoni, MPHS
MD Class of 2018, Washington University School of Medicine
Why did you choose the MPHS program?
Understanding how healthcare works at a population level interests me because many healthcare systems, particularly underdeveloped ones, can greatly benefit from consideration of how effectively public health interacts with individual patient care. I'm interested in applying those concepts through academic medicine and international research but decided that to be effective, I wanted to first receive training in research methodology and statistical analysis. The MPHS program offered a variety of quantitative coursework, faculty who seemed engaged and the recommendations from previous students were overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
What has your experience been in the program?
Some of the biggest strengths of this program are its flexibility and its practical, skill-based coursework. Classes allow you to tailor what is taught to your own research goals and current projects. Professors acted not only as lecturers but as advisers and mentors who were happy to advise on the appropriate techniques and approaches to use in research I was actively conducting. Another opportunity that is particularly beneficial for medical students is the opportunity to work alongside residents, fellows and faculty as classmates. This allows you both the chance to become engaged in their research, but also to learn about their viewpoints on different specialties and receive valuable mentorship and career advice. It's an entirely different setting than what medical students experience in either the pre-clinical or clinical years.
What are the biggest things you’ve gained/learned by getting this degree?
How will you use what you’ve learned as you finish medical school, enter residency, and beyond?
Since the classes were so focused on practical outcomes, translating the skills learned in class to use in research (or the clinic) is seamless. Evidence-based medicine is something that's taught briefly in medical school, but not emphasized. This is a great chance to analyze it and learn how to apply it in the clinical setting.
What advice do you have for other medical students considering an MPHS degree?
It can initially seem intimidating to take a different path through medical school, but every student I've asked has found the MPHS incredibly helpful and has said the additional year is well worth the time. Whether you think you want to work in academia, hospital-based systems or private practice, the MPHS teaches you how to truly understand and critically analyze evidence-based medicine rather than being a passive consumer. Which can only translate to making you a better clinician and ensuring your patients have better medical care!
2012 Medical Student MPHS Graduate
Leisha Elmore, MD, MPHS
Resident, Department of Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine
Experience in the MPHS Program
As a medical student, I feel like there is an unofficial curriculum of sorts completely separate from the coursework. Through the program, I have the opportunity to interact with several of the clinicians enrolled in the program. I have received invaluable career advice and mentoring, which has contributed immensely to my personal development. There is a breadth of research opportunities available through the university. However, I find that the classroom-based approach to research provides an important foundation for successful research. While working with a research mentor provides excellent practical knowledge, applied coursework teaches you the nuances of designing, conducting and analyzing data from a research project that may not be obtained in the typical mentor-mentee research partnership.
Advice to Medical Students
I highly recommend taking a year to pursue a degree program as a medical student. The additional year is a unique opportunity to further explore career interests and establish relationships with those practicing in your field of interest. It also helps establish an important foundation for conducting research as a resident and attending physician. Even if you do not plan to conduct research as a part of your career, it is important to be able to critically analyze literature in your field. The MPHS teaches you a systematic way to approach and determine the integrity of existing literature. Lastly, the skill set you develop through the MPHS program makes you a unique applicant for residency.