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Successful Applicants—M.D./Ph.D.

Successful Applicants to M.D./Ph.D. Programs

2023 Matriculants


Headshot: Raisa Karim

Name: Raisa Karim
Major: Biochemistry(Thomas Hunter Honors Program)
Overall GPA: 3.906
Graduation Year: 2021
Matriculation Year: 2023

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Scientist Training Program

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: The ability to be involved in all phases of research, clinical care and education influenced me to pursue the MD/PhD path. I want to take part in all aspects of the process, from designing a scientific question, to targeting a specific pathway, to treating a patient, to developing community-wide programs to address healthcare disparities, to improving the current healthcare infrastructure.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A:

  • The Rockefeller University; Research Assistant
  • Dermatology Practice; Clinical Research Coordinator/ Medical Assistant
  • Hunter College Friedman Laboratory; Undergraduate Research Assistant
  • NYU Center for Neural Science Carter Lab; Summer Undergraduate Research Assistant
  • BP ENDURE Trainee
  • Biochemistry Peer Group Leader (2 semesters)
  • General Chemistry Peer TA (4 semesters)
  • Hunter College Dolciani Math Learning Center; Tutor
  • Private Tutorial; Subject Tutor for High School Students
  • East Harlem Tutorial Program; Academic Tutor (volunteer)
  • Hunter College Undergraduate Student Government; Vice President, Senate Chair, Sophomore Senator, Freshman Senator, USG Ambassador
  • Hunter College Pre-Health Organization; President, Secretary, Social Media Manager, Fundraising Manager
  • Malikah; Program Director, Facilitator (self-defense)

 

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: This really depended on the course material and circumstance. I tried to make most of exam study sessions or recitations to identify study targets there and expand on them during independent study. How long I studied depended on whether there was an exam coming up, how well-rested I was to study effectively, and finding the best way to learn a concept.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: Yes, I used the MCATBros comprehensive prep course ($400 at the time). I like to learn in classroom environments, as it helps me stay engaged, focused and accountable for my independent studying. However, a large part of this course is independent studying and I made the most of the free/affordable/AAMC resources available online. Find out what works best for you.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: Yes, I took 2 gap years to study for the MCAT and build both my clinical and research experience. I focused on wet lab research primarily during the beginning of college and planned to fulfill my clinical hours during my last two years. However, due to the pandemic, in-person clinical opportunities were discontinued for several months. Fortunately, right before graduating, I was able to get a position as a full-time clinical research coordinator/ medical assistant at a dermatology clinic. Later on, because I missed the earlier phases of research, I transitioned to wet lab research at The Rockefeller University. Taking gap years was a great way to build my maturity and resolve as an applicant and also gain experience in the “real world” (learning curves are very steep in the work environment so it’s great to get ahead of this curve!).

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: My coursework, research (bench and clinical), and community service allowed me to create a strong narrative for applying as an MD applicant initially. Later on, when applying to Stony Brook’s MSTP (as an M1 transfer), I discussed my research in-depth and connected it to my extracurricular trajectory throughout college.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: I applied to programs on the East Coast.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: As someone who was heavily involved with the Pre Health Organization from my freshman year, I think building strong relationships with the Pre-Health Advising Office and meeting with them regularly to discuss my “premed” progress (even prior to application year) gave them a better understanding of who I am as an applicant. The listserv gave us a plethora of opportunities to apply to and also gave us ideas of how we could craft our application (in terms of extracurricular activities, research and academic endeavors) early on. I was a Committee Letter recipient and this was also a great opportunity to receive tailored feedback on my statements, secondaries and school list from Nina and Kemile. I also had the help of successful prehealth applicants (thanks Nayab Khan, Besmira Alija, Muhammad Nazim, and Pavan Khosla!). It helped me stay on top of deadlines and compartmentalize my time on different parts of the application. The mock interviews were also extremely helpful (helped me realize I have some fidgeting tendencies, haha) and allowed me to work on frameworks for each response.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: Maintain good/strong relationships with professors, school administrators, the Pre-Health Office, “real world” connections, and others. Never be afraid to ask questions and ask for help because eventually you will find the support you are seeking from one source or another. Make sure to apply to anything and everything that interests you even if you are doubting yourself. If you ‘fail,’ it will be a learning experience or you can build a connection/ find a new opportunity, and take small and actionable steps to achieve large goals.


Headshot: Nailya Khalizova

Name: Nailya Khalizova
Major: Biology
Minor: Religion
Overall GPA: 3.64
Graduation Year: 2020
Matriculation Year: 2023

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: I am very eager to do research that can be taken from the bench to the bedside. The ability to not only practice, but to also advance healthcare is what drew me to pursue training as an MD/PhD.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I worked in two different basic research labs at Hunter College while I was an undergraduate student. I also shadowed doctors in different specialties and volunteered in the ER. In terms of non-clinical volunteering, I did the RockEdu program at the Rockefeller University. Following college graduation, I worked as a Research Assistant at the Rockefeller University for three years, volunteered in a soup kitchen, and was a Teaching Assistant in the Biology Department at Hunter College.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: I spent around 20 hours/week

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: Yes, I used the Princeton Review course offered through the Pre-Health Office at Hunter College and highly recommend it!

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: Yes, I took three gap years to strengthen my application and take the MCAT. This proved to be very useful as I was able to become an author on 6 publications and do well on the MCAT during this time.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: My extensive research experience with 7 publications (1 from my undergraduate lab and 6 from my work as a Research Assistant at Rockefeller), a strong MCAT score, and an ability to communicate a clear alignment between my professional goals and the purpose of the MD/PhD training during interviews.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No, I predominantly applied to schools in the Northeast.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health office was extremely helpful. Most of my extracurricular activities came from the listserv that the Pre-Health office sends out. Additionally, the way the Pre-Health office guides its students makes the students extremely qualified to gain admissions to almost any top medical school in the country.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: Don’t stress too much if something does not work out the way you want it to right away. Keep on putting in the work and doing the right things and your day to shine will come as well! Prioritize doing well in classes. You can add on extracurriculars later on in college (or even after you graduate) without any problem. On the other hand, if you put your commitments outside of the classroom above your grades, it will be really hard to fix your GPA after you graduate.


2022 Matriculants


Headshot: Sotirios Drenis

Name: Nada Terra
Major: Biology
Minor: English
Overall GPA: N/A
Graduation Year: 2020
Matriculation Year: 2022

Q: Which school are you attending?
A: Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan Kettering Tri-Institutional M.D./Ph.D. Program.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: Health is so central to one's quality of life. If it is compromised, what can come with the physical symptoms are a negative impact on one’s mental health and ability to participate in normal, everyday life. This is why I am regularly amazed by how many lives medicine has changed for the better. Yet, medicine does not serve everyone, as patients with chronic or terminal illnesses show. I want to be able to use research in a clinically relevant way to help uncover better treatments for these illnesses, while still directly seeing patients and providing them with compassionate care and empathy.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I conducted research at a few different labs within institutions such as Hunter College and Mount Sinai. I also volunteered at the emergency room at Lenox Hill Hospital. Additionally, I volunteered at the Arab-American Family Support Center. I was also a mentor for the Pre-Health Mentoring Initiative and a biology tutor at the Skirball Science Center.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: That’s hard to say! As it changed each week, and those hours definitely shot up the closer it was to an exam… For me, I always focused on the quality and not quantity of my studies. I would rather spend 5 hours deeply trying to understand the material at a foundational level than 20 hours passively reading my notes.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: In the beginning, I used the Princeton Review prep course because Hunter College offered me a major discount on it. It definitely did not suit my studying style, I didn't keep up with it as well as I should have, but the main thing I got out of it was an idea of what type of detail was important to memorize vs. what would likely be provided in a passage. However, I did use the books the course provided to self-study on my own later. Then I used a mix of the Princeton Review practice exams and the AAMC full-length exams to practice!

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: I took two GAP years. First, I wanted to strengthen my application by gaining more research experience, and second, I wanted to make sure I had sufficient time to devote to study for the MCAT and prepare my application. The decision to take the second gap year was actually because of the pandemic. My MCAT exam was cancelled due to the pandemic, and so, for practical reasons and to give me peace of mind, I took the second year, and I’m very happy I did! I walked in more confident and prepared for the application cycle.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I think I came across very genuinely and passionately about why I want to enter this field, and I had the experience to back it up! (And I’d like to think my letter-writers backed me up as well!) I also think my resilience, flexibility, and maturity came across well through my writing and interviews.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: Yes.

Q: How did Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health Office is such an amazing place to ask for advice and guidance. I remember being that shy freshman pursuing pre-med and not knowing how to navigate through this long and rigorous path. I admire how mujch effort each and every advisor puts into wanting the best for their advisees. I'm extremely grateful to Kemile Jackson. She has been such an extraoridnary advisor who would always push me to do more and was overall extremely supportive. I'm also very thankful to Nina Ledis. She provided me with excellent mock interviews, and was my go-to person for personal statement advice.

Q: How to Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
They kept me on track. They really helped me understand what was ahead of me, so that there were no surprises. They made sure I was prepared well in advance of any deadlines for these applications. They were also always there to advise me, address my anxieties, and give me feedback on my essays. I am very grateful for all the help they gave me.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: There are so many things you have to keep track of and do in order to secure a place in your graduate program of choice. I think it can be easy to lose track of why you are doing all those things in the first place. Don’t become a robot that just tries to check a bunch of boxes because you think it’s what graduate schools want to see. Participate in activities that you are truly passionate about, and look at them all as an opportunity to learn more about the career you want. During the application process, how you interacted with these experiences will show in how you write and talk about them. All to say, don’t forget about your passion for the career you are pursuing, and let it thread through the various activities and work you do.

Make sure to also make genuine connections along the way! This includes with teachers, mentors, and your peers! They will all support you in various ways and make this journey a little bit easier and (with the right people) more fun! Not to mention, if you can help support and be there for someone else, do so!

Finally, have some confidence in yourself! This doesn’t mean let your ego run wild, but on the days you feel less than or unqualified, remember that there is no one way to be “successful”. Remember that you will be bringing something to the table with your unique life experiences, passions, and perspectives.


2021 Matriculants


Headshot: Frederick Yen

Name: Frederick Yen
Major: Biological Sciences and Thomas Hunter Honors Curriculum
Overall GPA: 3.94
Graduation Year: 2019
Matriculation Year: 2021

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan Kettering Tri-Institutional M.D.-Ph.D. Program.

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: The ability to ask and to answer questions that impact medical care, both in the clinic and in the laboratory, coupled with my desire to care for others in a personal and sincere manner.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A: I performed multi-year research in labs at The Rockefeller University and Hunter College, I volunteered at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell, I took part in service through Rescuing Leftover Cuisine at Hunter College, as a Peer Mentor and Event Coordinator for the Pre-Health Organization, and as a Representative in the Hunter College Undergraduate Student Government. original research in Labor History.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: Approximately 10 hours per week.

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: Yes, I initially used Princeton Review for the content review and Khan Academy for the Psychology section. I took practice tests from NextStep and did UWorld questions regularly. When it came closer to my test date, I only used AAMC materials (practice tests and question banks).

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: Yes! I did not want to rush and felt that I needed the additional time to strengthen parts of my application. Having an additional two years gave me the opportunity to publish two papers, gain some teaching experience, and spend some more time shadowing.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: My extensive research experience and publications were definite strengths in my application. Additionally, I developed strong relationships with my research mentors, professors, and the physicians I shadowed. Their recommendations were important components of my overall application.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health Advising Office has been an invaluable resource during this entire process. Throughout my time at Hunter and while applying, Kemile Jackson has always been a valuable source of advice, knowledge, and support. When applying, Nina Ledis and Veronica Mitchell helped me put together a cohesive application to MSTP programs and prepare for my interviews through mock sessions. From advising sessions to application editing to interview preparation, the Pre-Health Office was there to support me every step of the way!

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: Finding good mentors and building strong relationships with them has been invaluable during my journey. The amazing advice from fellow peers, research mentors, and advisors has helped me immensely. The entire process can be daunting and stressful, so apply when you are ready and feel that you can submit the strongest application possible.


Headshot: Itzick Nahmoud

Name: Itzick Nahmoud
Major: Chemistry
Minor: Philosophy
Overall GPA: 3.85
Graduation Year: 2019
Matriculation Year: 2021

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: Wayne State University School of Medicine, MD/PhD Program

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: I enjoy working with colleagues and mentors in creative ways to tackle unsolved health problems.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A:

  • Fellow at the BP-ENDURE Research Program
  • Teacher (Crime Scene Investigation) at Citizen Schools
  • Medical Liaison at Cornell's Heart-2-Heart community outreach program
  • etc.

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: Depends on my exam schedule, course-load, etc. But in general, I studied whenever possible. I studied during my commute, during breaks between classes, and even in breaks between workouts (Tip: Not neglecting mental&physical health helps prevent burnout!).

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: No.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: Yes. To take the MCAT exam, apply for schools, and also publish my research.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A:

  • My interviews
  • Significant Research Experience essay
  • MD/PhD essay
  • LORs

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: Yes.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: - Meeting with Kemile every semester kept me on track. And among other factors, she was critical in helping me realize the importance of GPA, MCAT, LORs, and clinical/community service at an early stage in my undergraduate career.

- Veronica helped me craft my application essays. She provided constructive criticism, recommended edits, and was involved in the brain-storming/strategizing process.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A:

  • Don't do it alone! A team of good friends, teachers, mentors and advisors are necessary.
  • Discover how you learn best.
  • Explore beyond the classroom!

2020 Matriculants


Headshot: Tiffany Merlinsky

Name: Tiffany Merlinsky
Major: Bioinformatics
Overall GPA: 3.69
Graduation Year: 2019
Matriculation Year: 2020

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan Kettering Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: In high school, I joined a sciece research program. This was the first time I was able to truly engage in hypothesis-based science. I enjoyed learning new information, asking questions, and exploring those questions through experimentation. My scientific curiosity coupled with my desire to help others drew me to the field of medicine.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A:

  • Research at Memorial Sloan Kettering
  • Volunteering at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell
  • Community service at Heart2Heart and Opiate Overdose Prevention Program
  • Hunter College Dill Cross Country
  • Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field
  • Vice President of Association for Women in Science at Hunter
  • Research Conferences

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: 15 hours on average

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: No. I self-studied using Kaplan and Khan Academy for content review, and Altius, Next Step and AAMC practice exams.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: Yes! I needed time to develop my application. Having an extra year allowed me to improve my GPA and increase my involvement in research.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: Demonstrating a willingness to work hard, the ability to overcome adversity and be resilient, and a substantial commitment during undergrad to research, volunteer work, and physician shadowing. In addition, I don't think one can/should underestimate the importance of letters of recommendation and of establishing good and lasting relationships with professors and mentors.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: Yes, but predominanantly in the Northeast

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health Advising Office has been a source of valuable information and support. In the years leading up to applying, I met with Kemile Jackson to make sure I was on the right track. When applying, Nina Ledis and Veronica Mitchell helped me to prepare for my interviews and put together a cohesive M.D./Ph.D. application.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: It is important to seek out mentors who are at different points in their medical and research careers. I received so much great advice from peers, medical students, practicing doctors, researchers, etc. This process is very challenging and filled with so many ups and downs. Whether it's classes, the MCAT, or the application process itself—you are bound to run into problems. Believe in yourself and find a support system that does too. Good luck!!


2019 Matriculants


Headshot: Rochelle Hecht

Name: Rochelle Hecht
Major: Physics
Minor: Chemistry
Overall GPA: 4.0
Graduation Year: 2018
Matriculation Year: 2019

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: Harvard-MIT HST MD-PhD Program

Q: What drew you to this particular health field?
A: A passion for scientific research, and a desire to care for patients' health in a meaningful, personal, and effective manner.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A:

  • Undergraduate research
  • Physician shadowing
  • Hunter Physics Club
  • Tutoring
  • Pre-health mentoring
  • Volunteer work at TOYS for Hospitalized Children
  • Volunteer work at Footsteps

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: The average increased over my undergraduate years, starting from about 3hr/week until around 15hr/week

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: No.

Q: Did you take a GAP year? If so, why?
A: Yes, a postbac NIH Academy Enrichment Program Research Fellowship, to gain perspective on health disparities and to become involved with research focused on emerging techniques and technologies in biomedical engineering.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: Demonstrating a willingness to work hard, the ability to overcome adversity and be resilient, and a substantial commitment during undergrad to research, volunteer work, and physician shadowing. In addition, I don't think one can/should underestimate the importance of letters of recommendation and of establishing good and lasting relationships with professors and mentors.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: Yes.

Q: How did the Pre-Health Advising Office help you achieve your goals?
A: The Pre-Health Advising Office helped inform me about all of the fine print related to applying to MD-PhD programs. Ms. Kemile Jackson is an incredible resource and advocate who will always speak to you honestly about your options and what you can do to better them. Her experience and advice are invaluable. Ms. Ledis and Ms. Mitchell provided wonderful feedback on my written statements, and helped me prepare for the medical and MMI interviews through mock sessions.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: Seek opportunities, advice, and assistance as early as possible, and be humble and receptive when doing so. Accept that sometimes (read: often) the outcomes from the former may require you to sacrifice some personal fun, but it's a worthwhile investment. Expect that not all things will not go smoothly, but also expect that if you are sincere about what you want and are willing to show that you've dedicated your undergraduate/post-undergraduate years toward achieving them, your commitment will be apparent to the admissions committees and will serve you well.


2018 Matriculants


Headshot: Elizabeth Gorodetsky

Name: Elizabeth Gorodetsky
Major: Biological Sciences, Thomas Hunter Honors Major
Minor: English and Math
Overall GPA: 3.84
Graduation Year: 2018
Matriculation Year: 2018

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: NYU's Medical Scientist Training Program

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A:

  • Pre-Health Organization
  • Peer Health Exchange
  • Pre-Health Diaries
  • Journal of Undergraduate Research at Hunter College

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: 35-60 depending on the week

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: No, I used Berkeley Review and Examkrackers books and NextStep Full-length exams.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: My extensive research background, along with the leadership roles I held.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: I applied mostly to schools in the Northeast as that was where I ultimately wanted to end up.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: Do not apply until you feel ready, and have received feedback from the Pre-Health Office regarding the strength of your application. Participate in activities you are truly passionate about—it will serve you incredibly well during applications and, in particular, your interviews.


Headshot: Stephanie Azzopardi

Name: Stephanie Azzopardi
Major: Biology
Minor: Biology
Overall GPA: 3.78
Graduation Year: 2016
Matriculation Year: 2018

Q: Which school will you be attending?
A: Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan Kettering Tri-Institutional M.D.-Ph.D. Program.

Q: What extracurriculars did you participate in?
A:

  • GlamourGals
  • Habitat for Humanity

Q: How many hours on average did you spend studying for your courses per week?
A: 10 hours per week

Q: Did you use a test prep course?
A: Yes. Kaplan.

Q: What do you consider to be your strengths in your application?
A: I possessed extensive research experience and publications. One of my undergraduate lab internships spanned four years. Additionally I performed two years of full time research after graduation.

Q: Did you apply nationally?
A: No. I applied to schools in New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston.

Q: What advice do you have for others?
A: Be proactive in the application process. After the interview, follow up with thank you emails to your interviewers. Express your interest in the program that is your top choice by writing a professional and meaningful letter of intent.



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