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About Chirag Vasavda and Jared Hinkle

Chirag Vasavda entered the MD-PhD program at Johns Hopkins University in 2014. He joined the Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology graduate program and studied under Dr. Solomon Snyder in the Department of Neuroscience. In graduate school, he discovered that the heme metabolite bilirubin binds and activates the orphan receptor MRGPRX4 in itch sensory neurons, potentially contributing to itch in hepatobiliary disease. He also identified that bilirubin is a physiologic antioxidant with distinct redox activity that negatively regulates superoxide signaling during neurotransmission.

Jared Hinkle entered the MD-PhD program at Johns Hopkins University in 2015 and joined the Department of Neuroscience graduate program in 2017. He is conducting his PhD thesis research in the laboratories of Drs. Ted and Valina Dawson and is currently investigating how glial cells respond to fibrillar α-synuclein in Parkinson’s disease.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • MD-PhD programs want to train future physician-scientists—your application should make it clear that you aspire to be one.

  • MD-PhD programs are looking for individuals who have a track record of academic success and who demonstrate intellectual curiosity. They will be looking for a rigorous academic program that is broad but also focused on your specific interests, and they will evaluate your GPA and MCAT scores as part of your application.

  • Admissions committees are looking for applications that express empathy, a propensity toward service, and a sense of duty to care for others.

  • Research is at the heart of a physician-scientist’s career, and your application must demonstrate a serious commitment to it. The strongest applicants have extensive research experiences in which they have made meaningful contributions. You do not have to have publications to demonstrate that.

  • Keep track of research opportunities and supervisors to refer to when you need letters of recommendation that reinforce your promise as a physician-scientist and point to specific experiences and contributions as evidence.

Introduction

Applying to any advanced degree program requires coordinating and juggling a complex set of requirements and deadlines. While some of these requirements are more straightforward and obvious, others may feel nebulous, intimidating, and even exhausting. For students applying to MD-PhD programs, it can feel like the maze of applying to medical school only worsens the complexities of applying to graduate school. Here, we outline what MD-PhD admissions committees look for, so that you can prepare now to build a competitive application in the future. While some programs may value different aspects of the application, we lay out the basic principles of what program committees seek in their future students. Essentially, MD-PhD admissions committees are guided by a clear mission: to train future physician-scientists. Accordingly, they are looking for evidence that you can live up to that charge. We also recommend you read Chapters 6 and 7, on the building of your application and the application process, to get a better idea of how the efforts described here ...

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