Abby Rosenberg

MD Class of 2019, Washington University School of Medicine

Why did you want to become a physician?

Like many aspiring physicians, I came to medical school hoping to become a life-saving, science-loving superhero. When I began to explore my clinical and research interests, I realized that what truly drew me to medicine was not so much the potential to snatch patients from the claws of death but the desire to provide people with relief in some form. That could mean laying out a plan to fight advanced-stage cancer or catching a premalignant lesion early in its course, but it could also mean caring for someone with a bothersome benign condition like eczema that might not always be taken as seriously.

Why were you interested in the MPHS program?

After participating in the summer research program as a first-year medical student, I was pretty sure I wanted to continue doing research, but I did not feel confident in my ability to design a study from scratch, perform biostatistical analyses, or fully digest papers in the medical literature. I kept hearing great things about the MPHS curriculum and faculty from older medical students, so at the end of third year I decided to take this opportunity to build practical knowledge and research skills I could use later in my academic career.

How has your MPHS degree impacted your medical school degree, and current or future work?

During my MPHS year, I confirmed that research was not just a checkbox to fill but something that I found genuinely gratifying. In addition to my MPHS coursework, I was working on several research projects with my dermatology mentors, and I found that the content of the courses was often directly applicable to those projects. In several classes, we designed theoretical studies that sometimes morphed into real ones. In one case, an attending who was in my class gave a presentation that interested me, and by reaching out I was able to get involved in that project, which has since been published. In another class, I wrote a mock grant proposal for a clinical trial that I would love to actually pursue someday.

How do you feel the MPHS degree will impact or has impacted your residency applications?

The MPHS degree was brought up during every single one of my interviews, and I believe it was one of the main factors that set my application apart. In addition, spending a year in the MPHS program gave me time to work on my own research, and I have no doubt that the publications that resulted from that extra year were an important addition to my application.

What advice would you give to someone in medical school about clinical research?

Even if you don’t think research is your thing, I highly recommend giving it a try! When I was in college I used to think of research as something I just had to do to get into medical school, but once I got involved in clinical research here at Wash U, I discovered that I actually enjoyed it—I simply hadn’t been involved in a project that truly interested me before. Clinical research can be a great way to explore your potential career interests as well. As a medical student, the majority of the time I spent in a dermatology clinic was facilitated by my clinical research, and these experiences definitely played a role in my specialty decision.

What would you say to someone considering the MPHS program?

I think just about anyone can benefit from the MPHS program, but it’s a particularly strong fit if you are interested in an academic career path and/or a field that emphasizes research. Of course, you also have to be willing to delay graduation by a year, and I remember feeling a little bit torn about that, but it has become so common for medical students to take a year off that you will certainly be in good company. Looking back, I sincerely feel that my MPHS year was a worthwhile investment, and I am happy to talk to anyone who is considering it!

When she completes her medical degree in May, Abby will join the dermatology residency program at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Her match was especially exciting “because there are so many people here that I look up to professionally, both within and outside of the Division of Dermatology.” Down the road, Abby hopes to practice dermatology at an academic medical center, “where I can mentor students and continue to be involved in clinical research focused on understanding and improving patient quality of life. I also hope to play a role in public health efforts targeting tanning bed legislation, skin cancer awareness, and access to dermatologic care.”

Ryan Kronen

Ryan Kronen, MD/MPHS

MD Class of 2018, Washington  University School of Medicine

Why were you interested in the MPHS program?

There were several reasons I chose to enroll in the MPHS program. First, I was interested in getting a more in-depth education with regard to evidence-based medicine and how to better interpret and utilize the existing medical literature. Second, I wanted to become more actively involved in research while simultaneously giving myself more time to explore different medical specialties and potential career paths.

How has your MPHS degree impacted your medical school degree, and future work?

The MPHS program gave me the opportunity to explore my interest in Infectious Disease and clinical research, both through direct research activities and through developing mentorships. During the year I was also able to publish several articles which made me a more competitive candidate for residency programs. Most importantly, though, I developed a skillset through didactic courses that I will be able to continue to build on throughout my career.

How do you feel the MPHS degree will impact your residency applications?

I believe the MPHS degree made me a more unique and competitive applicant for residency programs. Not only did I have the extra degree and experiences to talk about during interviews, but I was also able to add several publications to my CV.

What would you say to someone considering the MPHS program?

I think it’s a great opportunity and something definitely worth doing. A year can seem like a long time at this level of training but in the scheme of things it’s a relatively small sacrifice to make for a jumpstart into a lifetime of clinical research and work.

What advice would you give to someone in medical school about clinical research?

Get involved! Wash U is unique in the number of opportunities available to students and it’s never too early to get involved. Clinical research is a great way to solidify your interests, build your CV, and find valuable mentors all at the same time.

Sirish Veligati

MD/MPHS 2019 graduate, Washington University School of Medicine

I was interested in the MPHS program because I wanted an extra year to freely explore my research and career interests without having to worry about the rush of clinical rotations and residency applications. The classwork during the MPHS was very manageable, and provided a great deal of flexibility to let my curiosity guide me work. The lack of a final thesis requirement was especially freeing because I didn’t feel pressured to pour most of my time into a single publication. Instead, I was able to easily move my attention from one topic to the next, exploring for curiosity rather than for prestige. Some of the topics I studied include mindfulness practice, well-being interventions, personality research, instrumental variable analysis, latent variable analysis, cannabis epidemiology, and recent advances in psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. Several of my colleagues also capitalized on the freedom of the MPHS to get involved in multiple research projects, bulking their CV with more publications and activities. Others spent the time trying to discover which specialty captured their interest most.

As for impacting my future work, the MPHS gave me a solid understanding of the research process: considering a new idea, applying for funding, implementing the study, and revising drafts for publication. For those who are not particularly interested in a career of academic medicine, it certainly helped me become an informed consumer of clinical research as well.

Medical school is busy. There is no getting around it. And clinical rotations place a high demand on students, molding us into future doctors. The MPHS was a chance for me to bring creativity back into my work, a feat that feels nigh impossible throughout the other years of medicals school. If you want the time and space to gain new perspective on your career path, and develop a solid foundation for future research endeavors, the MPHS is a great opportunity. Oh, also, it’s free and that’s really nice.

Cynthia Wang

Cynthia Wang

2018 MD/MPHS Graduate
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). 

Learn more about Cynthia Wang »

Nicholas Karlow

Nick Karlow

2017 MD/MPHS Graduate
Deferred 2019 MD/MPHS graduation
MD Class of 2019, Washington University School of Medicine

Why were you interested in the MD/MPHS degree program?

Staying up-to-date on clinical literature within my field is a key component of the effective practice of medicine. The MPHS program offered a pathway for transitioning from passively encountering the research of others to actively analyzing and critiquing new medical findings for myself. Moreover, the MPHS also provides the additional expertise necessary to one day conduct my own well-designed population-based studies and thereby add to the always growing body of clinical research in my field directly. Given that the MPHS program accomplishes all of this in a single streamlined academic year while simultaneously including abundant applied coursework which allowed me to participate in the clinical research process from day one of the program, pursuing this degree was ultimately a straightforward decision for me.

How has your MPHS degree impacted your career and future work?

Before the MPHS program, I had only a vague appreciation of how the body of clinical research progresses and what qualifies as a sound study or an important result. Not only was this a weakness in my clinical potential, but it also prevented me from appreciating the richness and complexity of the clinical research process and the incredible potential a population health scientist has for improving medical care on a national and/or global level. Throughout my MPHS year, my perspective has changed considerably for the better. Now, when I encounter a new clinical trial or study, I can critically analyze the study methods and form my own opinion about the validity of the author’s conclusions and the relevance of these conclusions to my future patients. Moreover, this appreciation for the intricacies of the clinical research process has ignited within me not just an appreciation for the work of others, but a strong desire to participate in the clinical research process myself, now and throughout my academic career.

What advice would you give to someone in medical school about clinical research?

In today’s era of evidence-based medicine, understanding the basic components of the clinical research process and being able to efficiently apply important results to the care of individual patients are key facets of providing optimum clinical care. Therefore, the choice for medical students is not whether to participate in clinical research in some form, but rather how and to what extent. Naturally, the MD/MPHS program provides an optimum setting for gaining this necessary experience.

What would you say to someone considering the MPHS program?

I have already highly recommended the MPHS program to my friends and classmates. I cannot stress enough how much the MPHS program has changed my perspective on population-based clinical research. Now I feel fully prepared to play an active role in conducting clinical research for the rest of my career. As importantly, when I finish my clinical training I will be much better equipped to confidently translate the latest clinical research into the best possible evidence-based clinical care for my future patients. I see no situation where a physician-in-training would regret gaining the skill set and experience that the MPHS program provides.

Learn more about Nick Karlow »

Nicole Benzoni

Nicole Benzoni Profile Pic

2015 Medical Student MPHS Graduate
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!

Leisha Elmore

Leisha Elmore New Pic

2012 Medical Student MPHS Graduate
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.