Interview #6: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (MD/PhD)
by Lorien E. Menhennett
Since early October of 2013, I have had six medical school interviews. I will write a post about each one. Note: a version of this content was originally posted on OldPreMeds.org.
Given that this was my second MD/PhD interview (the first being at University of Illinois at Chicago), I more or less knew what to expect – LOTS of interview sessions with researchers, and LOTS of questions about my research. Also: Why both degees? And less of an emphasis about the clinical side of things. This pretty much held true at UIUC as well.
A little about this program – it’s different than most MD/PhD programs. Most of them have you do 2 years of med school (the basic sciences), then grad school, then the 2 years of clinicals. UIUC’s program involves all of grad school first, THEN all of med school. This means that you immediately apply to a specific graduate school program. In my case, since I am interested in diabetes/metabolism, it is the Division of Nutritional Sciences (DNS).
First thing in the morning, I had a 30-minute panel interview with both MD and PhD people. Given that this was my sixth med school interview, that wasn’t such a big deal. The rest of the day was (mostly) DNS interviews. I met with five researchers, plus the assistant director of the program, as well as had lunch with DNS students and later dinner at the DNS director’s house. (There had also been a social event with DNS students the previous night.) These MD/PhD interviews are INTENSE, to say the least!
I was very impressed with the administrators of the MD/PhD program – they truly seem to care about their students, and to support them in every way possible. The DNS folks were also quite wonderful. The PIs I talked with are doing some incredible work, and the administrators (like on the MD/PhD side) seemed very supportive and helpful.
One drawback on the MD side, though, is that Champaign-Urbana is a college community (population ~180,000), so the clinical opportunities aren’t the same as they would be in Chicago, for example. A downside on the PhD side is that you have to commit to a PI immediately (rather than do multiple lab rotations, as is done at many institutions).
The admissions process to this program is three pronged. You have to be accepted to the MD/PhD program, to the graduate school program, and to the College of Medicine (which is separate from the MD/PhD program). UIUC and UIC are in the same state university system, and I was accepted at UIC, so the College of Medicine acceptance part is taken care of for me. The other two groups are making their decisions very soon, so I won’t have to wait long to know the outcome.