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The Path to Earning a Dual Degree

We sat down with Dr. Jasmin Scott-Hawkins to discuss her personal journey in choosing an MD/MPH program and the 5 stages of the selection process that ultimately took a year to tackle. Similar to the medical school application process, she made a list of schools, networked with current students, spent hours editing her application, waited to hear back and finally made an informed decision about which program she would attend. Read more about her story below and how to break down the application process!

Deciding to pursue a career in medicine is an exceptional feat, while deciding to pursue a dual degree is a slightly different beast with threatening claws and intimidating teeth unique to this creature. I decided to take on the beast, here’s my story.

After graduating from college, I took a gap year to continue my work in the field of clinical research while putting all of my ducks in a row to apply for dual degree programs across the country. I started this process with what I will call stage 1 by creating a comprehensive list of dual MD/MPH programs. I striated this list to include qualities unique to these programs such as duration of training, integrated curriculum, funding, specialty tracks, and other such attributes. I started to gather this data by selecting a text that listed out all of the US medical schools and their program features. After organizing this data, I then began to prioritize which attributes were most important to me. I was most interested in an integrated program that would allow for continuing medical school while completing a second degree rather than taking 1-2 years off of medical school to pursue a second degree.

I wanted the opportunity to pursue a specialty area such as leadership, education, healthcare administration, or epidemiology. I also wanted a curriculum specific to the dual degree program that served to integrate the two
areas of study. Furthermore, geographic location was high on my list of priorities. This drastically narrowed down my list to a few select programs. Knowing how competitive this venture would be, I stratified my list to include reach, safety, and back up programs based on my portfolio including exam scores, extracurricular activities, research, and awards. After taking a few months to leisurely develop a robust list I began to enter stage 2, which involved real time data collection. I reached out to programs that I was most interested in to contact alumni and/or current dual degree students to hear what their experiences were like in their respective programs. If given the opportunity, I visited select programs to get a better feel.

After wrapping up stage 2, I charged on to stage 3, application completion. I worked furiously to draft a strong application that would cater to dual MD/MPH programs. In addition to hours spent alone writing and rewriting my personal statement, and phrasing and rephrasing CV entries, I also recruited editors and mock interviewers to help build my application. I selected 3 people to read through my personal statement, a family member, a mentor in medicine, and an English guru. In addition, I enrolled in a service that would allow for mock interviews with realtime feedback.

After submitting my completed application, I advanced to stage 4, the waiting period. This involved hearing back from programs upon receipt of my application with either denials, requests for secondary applications, or invitations for interviews. As I progressed through this process, I took notes on what I liked and disliked about the programs I was successful with. This helped me to make an informed decision upon entering stage 5, the decision process in selecting a program to attend. Progressing through these 5 stages took about one year. It was definitely challenging, but in the end, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to pursue a dual degree.

About Lucy Dilworth

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