Thursday, December 27, 2012

MiM Mail: MCAT prep; osteopathic vs allopathic schools

Hi MiM,

I am currently a 25 year old physician assistant that is planning to apply to medical school this spring. I had chosen to became a PA initially thinking that this career path would led to a better work-home balance. And while I do enjoy my job and a great schedule, I yearn to learn more and take on more responsibility. I would appreciate your advice on a couple of things:

1. There are A LOT of MCAT prep materials available!! Does anyone have recommendations that worked well for them? Especially considering I have not had bio, chem, physics, etc for a number of years?

2. I really enjoy the osteopathic philosophy of holistic medicine and patient centered medicine and seem very open to non-traditional students. I have met well-trained doctors from both osteopathic and allopathic schools. However, there seem to be fewer residency programs making it less likely that I would be near family for support. I would really appreciate hearing from you ladies about your opinion on osteopathic versus allopathic!

Any advice on these topics would be appreciated! This blog serves as an inspiration to many including myself and I sincerely thank you for any advice you can share!


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  2. I am currently in a similar situation as you; however, I’m a little older and a little further along on the process. I worked as an oncology clinical research coordinator for about 4 years after college (and a couple of other jobs). I pretty much knew within a month of working with patients that I wanted to go back to school for two reasons. I wanted to know as much about oncology as possible, and, secondly, I wanted to be able to make decisions about the care of my patients.
    I am currently in a Post-Bacc program at an osteopathic school that happens to be 15minutes from my home. I have friends in the Post-Bacc program who were planning to apply to an allopathic school who have changed their minds after learning more about osteopathic medicine. MD’s can learn the osteopathic manipulations, so it is really up to your personal preference if your grades are high enough. The DO school I’m at has an average gpa of 3.61 and MCAT of 25. Also, Osteopathic students have the option of working in an osteopathic or allopathic residency program.
    On MCAT, I’m writing this as I procrastinate from my morning MCAT studies routine, as I’m planning to take the test January 26th. I am currently using ExamKrackers and Princeton Review. I haven’t taken physics in 10yrs, and I really feel like the Princeton Review has been very helpful. I guess I won’t know for sure until I get my scores back.
    I’m just curious; do you already have children? Good luck to you!!

  3. Starting in 2015 the allopathic and osteopathic matches will be combined, so every residency program in the country will be open to you. These days there is becoming less of a difference between MDs & DOs, so choose a program you like in a good location for you. Unless you want to do a super competitive specialty (neurosurg) then I wouldn't worry about it. I'm finishing DO school this year and have no complaints.

  4. As far as MCAT training, I recommend the Exam Krackers series of books, along with Audio Osmosis if you can get your hands on it. Then just lots of practice questions and tests. Good luck!

  5. Any inkling of what field you might be interested in, or what type of career you want to have? I'm speaking from the vantage point of pediatrics, caring for the underserved, medical education, and academia. It's hard to know how to counsel you for osteopathic vs allopathic, because you can foster a holistic (will also say patient and family centered) practice from either tradition. Particularly in pediatrics. And "non-traditional" applicants are welcome at both types of schools (and we're all non-traditional in some way, eh?). In addition, more and more medical schools are redesigning their curricula (for the better, we hope).

    There are fewer pediatric DO residencies (i.e. participating in the AOA match), but I believe that students from either DO and MD schools can enter the NRMP match.

  6. I wrote a rather blunt post on my own blog about the DO vs. MD choice:

    Might be worth going through some of the 80+ comments to see what people had to say. Some of them didn't like me very much.

  7. Thank you to everyone for their comments! Ktbirdvt, I actually am not a mom yet! T, like you, I also love pediatrics and I also Love emergency medicine. Working with kids brings me joy and while I enjoy the fast paced nature and variety of ER, I ultimately forsee myself in peds.
    I see that LECOM now offers a 3 year PA to DO program. While this seems like a great option for pa's, I worry that residency programs may not be receptive to this shortened program. And since the program is fairly new, LECOM is unable to provide stats on the success of this program and residency match.
    Fizzy, I love your blog. You are straight shooter which I can appreciate.

  8. The hospital where I work has DO students rotate through. This DO school is a new one, so I hope that other DO schools are superior. I am horrified by their inferior education in their clinical years. No residents, no interns, no tertiarty care center cases, no grand rounds, no large M&M's. Other docs and I shake our heads and wonder if a good residency can make up for what they missed.

    My other experience is where I shared a pediatric rotation with a DO anesthesia residency. They were surprised by the kind of cases we were exposed to. A PGY3 resident said he had only done a hand full of arterial lines. Typically you get more than that your first month of PGY2 year at the program I trained.

    That being said, one of my partners is a DO who trained at a good MD residency. He is an excellent physician and I have requested him for my family above MD's. I absolutely loved my DO doc when I needed Maternal Fetal Medicine doc, and I plan to go back to him.

  9. As a graduate of a DO program, I have to say I think DOs have a disadvantage when applying to MD residencies, and that will just get worse once the match is combined. As it is now, at least DOs have a good shot of getting into DO programs, even if the doors are closed at many MD programs. Once MDs and FMGs can apply to DO programs too, DOs will have even less spots that favor them. This will not encourage MD programs to take them more. They already can apply to MD spots.

    I know it's common for people to say it doesn't make a difference, but there are plenty of programs that have zero DOs in their faculty and zero DOs in all of their years of residents. Yes, I am bitter about my match experience, but on paper with grades, scores, (including USMLE, not just COMLEX), leadership and research experience, I was a great candidate. I got a 99 2 digit score on my USMLE step 2. I didn't even get invited to interview at most allopathic residencies where I applied. With more and more graduates vying for the same amount of spots, it's just another reason to pass over a candidate.

    I don't mean to be so negative, but this is a reality. I think my education was fine. I just think there is a bias against DOs that people like to pretend is gone, but it's not. There is a local hospital with a DO IM residency and a DO ER residency that will not give privileges to a DO surgeon or OB. My hospital has a DO IM residency and a DO FP residency, but an OB here told one of the DO interns that DOs aren't real doctors. And these are hospitals with DO residencies in house!

    I went in thinking that there wasn't a difference any more. There is. Sorry.

    That being said, good luck, and make the most of what ever comes your way!

  10. Momstinfoilhat, I really appreciate your input. I live in a big city and when I did my rotations for Pa school I found very few and in some places, no DOs whatsoever especially at the teaching hospitals. I only really encountered DOs at very small community hospitals. While the actual cirriculum does not seem different, the difference really seems to come in terms of rotations and residency available to DOs. I have heard similar comments before and I will see how I fare with allopathic schools first.

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  12. I am a third year DO med student currently deciding where to apply to residency programs. I have the option of applying to either osteopathic or allopathic residencies, and while there are definitely allopathic programs that don't generally take osteopathic students, there are plenty that do, and some that even reserve spots for DO's so that they have a mix of residents with different training-- but even then, the training in osteopathic vs. allopathic schools is essentially the same, with the addition of the osteopathic manipulation training you'll get in DO school. Yes, there is still a bias in some areas of the country, or at specific hospitals, but there are plenty of places you can go where the only different between MD and DO is the letters that spell out the degree. I would recommend applying to both types of programs and see where you get interviews. You're already a strong candidate having a PA background.

    1. Thanks, Meredith. I appreciate your advice! I have met wonderful DO and MD students, residents, and doctors. I think that the bias against DOs has decreased but in some areas of the country there is a need to catch up. The curriculum really seems to be the same and as one DO told me, osteopathic "is everything plus more!"


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