New Mentor Program for MD-PhD Applicants

Julia Mongo, Staff Writer, GECD

GECD’s Prehealth Advising team has launched a new mentor program for MD-PhD applicants, in collaboration with students at Harvard Medical School. The mentors, most of whom are MIT alumni, are students in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST) MD-PhD program. They are volunteering their time to conduct mock interviews with current MIT undergraduates who are applying for MD-PhD programs at medical schools around the country.

prehealth advising staff and student mentorsThe mentor program was created based on feedback received last spring from students Kaustav Gopinathan ’16 and Eduardo Maury ’16 who had recently themselves applied and interviewed for MD-PhD programs. They wanted to assist the Prehealth Advising team in increasing services for future students interested in pursuing MD-PhD degrees. Now first-year students at HST, they are excited about the potential of this pilot program. “Many of us in MD-PhD programs recognize that we owe a lot of our successes to the amazing mentors we found during our time at MIT,” says Maury. “Our current overall goals are to extend the program to advise students in their early years of MIT on how to prepare for MD-PhD programs and be successful applicants.”

“Prehealth advisors help students to prepare for medical school interviews by conducting ‘mocks’ with sample interview questions and feedback, but students who have actually been through this process are invaluable in providing insights on the nuances,” observes Akunna Rosser, Assistant Director of Prehealth Advising. “The mentors can counsel our applicants on how to navigate the often unknown and varying aspects of the MD-PhD interview, such as how to make small talk while walking to lunch or the next interview, and those random occurrences where a school asks an interviewee to give a ‘chalk talk’ of their research.” 

In November, the Prehealth Advising team reached out to its current MD-PhD applicants to inform them of this mentorship opportunity. MIT prehealth students fill out a Google form indicating their interest in the program. The Harvard-MIT HST students then arrange a meeting with their mentees. Students can meet with their mentor over Skype and practice their interviewing skills in preparation for their upcoming MD-PhD medical school interviews. The mentors will provide their perspectives and also answer any questions students may have on what to expect. The program currently has nine mentors and nine mentees. “So far the program has been met with great enthusiasm by our students,” says Meaghan Shea, Prehealth Advisor. “To be able to speak with students who have been through the experience provides another level of reassurance in the highly selective and unnerving MD-PhD application process.”

 “This is a great opportunity for our current students because the Harvard Medical School students may have conducted similar research and can ask the undergraduate students pressing issues regarding their research,” says Aleshia Carlsen-Bryan, Senior Assistant Director of Prehealth Advising. “Also, no one can better prepare you for an MD-PhD interview than a student who has just successfully completed the process a little over a year or so ago.”

Carlsen-Bryan and Rosser recently met with the mentors to strategize how to coordinate and launch the program. “The mentorship program is still in the beginning stages, however, we are hopeful that this program will grow over time and become an essential resource for our MD-PhD applicants,” says Carlsen-Bryan.