MSHQ 089 : How to Choose Which Medical Schools to Apply To

Session 89

The Premed Years

In today's episode, Ryan and Allison talk about choosing a medical school, the thought processes behind why they chose the schools they applied to, and things you need to consider as you're going through the process of figuring out where to go to.

Medical schools across the United States are excellent and the current average number of medical schools that people apply to is 15. It really doesn’t matter how many schools you get into as long as you get into one. It all boils down into choosing a medical school that best fits you, your preferences, your personality, and your needs.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Ryan and Allison:

Below is a guide to help you narrow down your choices of medical schools to apply to:

State school vs. Out-of-State

  • State schools supply seats for state residents with rules and percentages of seats that go to state residents.
  • If you're an out-of-state resident applying to a state school, you have to have 44 in MCAT, 4.0 GPA, or you need to know somebody who knows somebody, or explain why you're going to stay in that state and practice medicine.

Residency affiliations

Go to medical school with an open mind.

If you're leaning towards a specialty, look for schools that have affiliations with a residency program. This will make it easier for you to get exposed to the people within that hospital and start building relationships.

Know the number of hospitals within the area and which hospital affiliations the medical school has.

Why determining residency affiliations is important:

  • Allows you to get a taste of the patient demographics. Notice the disparity of health care between the the affluent and the low-income brackets and this will widen your experience.
  • Gives you an idea as to where you may end up living and which areas you’ll be rotating.

MD vs. DO

DO schools may not be affiliated with a large academic teaching hospital so make sure to see what is around that school to look for opportunities to do rotations or research or work with people within your vicinity.

Treat MD and DO schools the same. Don't look at them any differently. In the end, you will be treating patients and you're practicing medicine in either of both. MDs treat holistically as well and DOs prescribe medications. So the way they both practice medicine is the same.

There is a growing misconception that DO schools are inferior to MD schools because of the possible reasons:

  • DO application allows for grade replacement on your application so if you took Calculus and got a C and took it again and got an A, the DO application will credit your new score.
  • MD application will get the average of the two and give you a B.

Don't think that just because your grades aren't “good enough” for MD schools, then you should apply to a DO school. In fact, statistics suggests that it's harder to get into a DO school


Be aware of the weather conditions especially if you have a preference for certain types of outdoors (warm or cold). Also, be careful about going to a place that's constantly nice that would give you the urge to go out to the beach everyday. Be in a place where you can be happy but also where you can focus.

Proximity to family and friends

Consider whether you want to be near your family/relatives or you want to get away from them. Some people prefer to be near their family so they can get the support whenever they need it while some prefer otherwise.


You are a lot more than your numbers! When you're going through the MSAR or CIB, what you're seeing there is just a statistics. If your scores are lower than the average of that school, that doesn't mean you can't get into that school. That is just the average. So don't the let the numbers discourage you.

Instead, go to the schools. Look at the environment and the state it's in. Look at the hospital affiliations and the kind of research going on at the school and the class size. But the numbers should not make or break the list.

Links and Other Resources:

MSHQ 051 : The Journey to a Caribbean Medical School

MSHQ 075 : What are My Chances of Getting into Med School?

Poor people with diabetes more likely to lose a limb

Are you a nontraditional student? Go check out

For more great content, check out for more of the shows produced by the Medical School Headquarters including the OldPremeds Podcast and watch out for more shows in the future!

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Listen to our podcast for free at iTunes: and leave us a review there!

Email Ryan at or connect with him on Twitter @medicalschoolhq.

Connect with Allison through email at


Dr. Ryan Gray: The Premed Years, session number 89.

Intro: Hey, this is Z-Dog MD; rapper, physician, legendary turntable health revolutionary, and part-time gardener. And you’re listening to the Medical School HQ Podcast, hosted by the irredeemably awesome, Ryan Gray.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Welcome back, I am your host as always Dr. Ryan Gray, and I believe that competition amongst your premed and medical student peers is detrimental to becoming a great physician. In this podcast we show you how collaboration, hard work and honesty are critical to becoming a superior physician in today’s healthcare environment.

How are you doing? Thank you again for joining us on another wacky Wednesday podcast. If you haven’t yet, if you didn’t know, the MCAT is changing. Tons of great new and exciting things coming on the MCAT. Go to and download our thirty page plus report all about the MCAT and some tips and tricks, and some discounts, and all kinds of other fun stuff about MCAT prep. That’s

Today I have my lovely cohost back in the studio with me.

Dr. Allison Gray: Hello everyone.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Also known as our basement.

Dr. Allison Gray: Oh, I thought you meant me.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Our basement office. No, you’re not the basement.

Dr. Allison Gray: That’s good.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Our studio is the basement office.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yep.

Dr. Ryan Gray: It’s not some lavish studio.

Dr. Allison Gray: No, not as of yet.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Not yet. Soon, maybe.

Dr. Allison Gray: Someday

Dr. Ryan Gray: One day. What are we talking about today?

Dr. Allison Gray: We are talking about how to choose a medical school.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So this is a question that I get a lot; I don’t know if you get this a lot. But the question is, “Why did you go to New York Medical College? Why did you choose that school?” And the joke answer, although it’s kind of serious too, is well that’s where I got accepted, so that’s where I went. But obviously I chose to apply there, and so that’s what we’ll talk about today, is some of the thought processes behind why we chose our schools that we applied to, and what you should be thinking about as you’re going through the process, you the listener, are going through the process and trying to figure out what medical schools that you want to go to. And we’re going to speak some medical stuff, but you can also- if you’re in high school, you can kind of take this and generically think about undergraduate schools as well.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, and plan for the future about how to think about med school down the road.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I think so.

Dr. Allison Gray: And someone just recently wrote in and asked us to talk about this very topic, so if you’re listening out there, this one’s for you.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, if you have any thoughts, questions, ideas about future podcast episodes, we’ve been getting a lot recently. You can email is our website, and Ryan@ and Allison is You can also go to and leave us some information there as well.

Out-of-State Versus In-State Schools

Alright so let’s start by I think talking about one of the more easy ones, and that’s state school versus out-of-state school. Or state school versus private school. This is I think something a lot of students don’t really understand, and it’s probably a source of a lot of wasted money when a state resident for one state applies to many state schools at other- in other states; and I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes that you can make because a state school is there to supply seats for state residents. So it’s important for them, and typically they’re funded to, and they have rules on the numbers and percentages of those seats that have to go to state residents.

So if you’re applying as an out-of-state resident to a state school, you better be a 44 on the MCAT and a 4.0 GPA, or know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody. Because it’s very slim to none that as an out-of-state resident, you’re going to get into a state school.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, and you also better be prepared to tell them exactly why you’re going to stay in that state and practice medicine probably.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, that’s very important. So that’s I think number one, is an easy way to cross off a lot of schools right away. There’s a lot of state schools- and I don’t have all the specific numbers on the number of state schools versus private schools, but that’s an easy one right away to think about.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, and I was just thinking about sort of the opposite situation which is someone who wants to go to a state school within their state but then can’t, so I was just looking again on the list of the California medical schools, because when it came to our medical school class, there was almost like a flock of California immigrants or something, we had all of these students who were from California, and we were jokingly calling our medical school UC Valhalla because the town where our medical school is, is in Valhalla in Westchester, New York. And the reason was that all of these students really wanted to go to school in California, and they were all adamant that they were going to return there for residency, which almost all of them did, but it just goes to show that the schools in California are extremely difficult to get into. So some of the top- I mean you know we talk about in some ways there is no top medical school, they’re really all great in the United States, we’re very lucky to have them. But some of the ‘top medical schools’ if you still want to sort of call it that are in California. So UCSF, UCLA, Stanford, UCSD; I mean the list goes on and on. And so a lot of students really- it’s hard to get into California schools, even as a state resident there.

So what do you do in that situation? Well if you’re a state resident and you don’t have the option for whatever reason; whether it’s your numbers aren’t- or your package I should say isn’t strong enough, or you don’t- you know you want to go somewhere else, you certainly should and can apply elsewhere too, don’t feel like you’re restricted to your own state as a state resident.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Oh, without a doubt. But apply to private schools out of state.

Dr. Allison Gray: Right, well absolutely.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Which New York Med was.

Dr. Allison Gray: I’m just turning it on its side.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And so part of the reason California is so competitive is just it’s a large state and there’s so many premed students.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yes, very true.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s part of the problem.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: It’s not like all the schools are excellent, although most of them are.

Dr. Allison Gray: Most of them are.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Most of them are.

Dr. Allison Gray: But really I will reiterate, I mean- and we’ve talked about this before. But it’s you really can’t go wrong in the United States with medical schools. They’re just- they really are excellent across the board.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yup.

Dr. Allison Gray: Moving on, moving on.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s an easy one.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah.

Residency Affiliations

Dr. Ryan Gray: The next one that I want to talk about is- and I think this is very important, and something I never really thought about, but is residency affiliations. And so the first day you step foot on campus, you need to start thinking about possibly, maybe, what you could be interested in. And we always say go through medical school with an open mind, because you don’t want to go in and shut out all of these other specialties because you’re dead set on one. But if you are leaning towards something, knowing that that school has a close affiliation with a residency program, hopefully at that hospital right there on campus, makes it that much easier for you to get exposure to the program, the program director, the residents, and start getting exposure to those people to start building relationships, to start doing some research, and doing what you need to do to hopefully match in that specialty later on.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, and I think it’s something to just be aware of. There are some schools which are really quite primary care focused, and if you are someone who is dead set on becoming an orthopedic surgeon, or a neurosurgeon, and there are very limited spots in that area of the country, and therefore very limited access to that field, that’s something that you’d want to know about beforehand.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. And we’ll talk about MD versus DO a little bit later as well, and maybe we’ll talk about that next, but I think this is maybe one of the bigger handicaps for DO schools because they aren’t typically affiliated with a large academic teaching hospital right there, whereas most MD schools do have that.

Dr. Allison Gray: Right. Yeah, and so if that’s the case, if you’re at a DO school or if you’re applying to a DO school and you’re very interested in a specialty- a specific specialty, make sure that you look around to see what is around that school because you may be able to do rotations or have opportunities to do research or work with people who are in the vicinity of you, but not directly affiliated with your school.

MD Versus DO Schools

Dr. Ryan Gray: So let’s carry on this MD versus DO, or MD / DO discussion as the next thing to think about. And I want to preface this with at the end of this whole journey, once you graduate, you have the MD, you have that DO, you’re specialty trained; the initials after your name mean nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Dr. Allison Gray: Well they mean that you’re a doctor.

Dr. Ryan Gray: They mean you’re a doctor for both.

Dr. Allison Gray: I know, I’m just giving you a hard time.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Allison Gray: The distinction between them is what doesn’t matter.

Dr. Ryan Gray: The only time it comes up, and it’s a negative for me as an MD, is when a patient comes and asks me, “Hey are you a DO? At my last base, the flight surgeon there was a DO and manipulated me and it was awesome.”

Dr. Allison Gray: You mean like osteo [Inaudible 00:10:49], right absolutely.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. And so that’s when it- that’s really the only time it comes up, is if a patient has had that manipulation from a DO and they want to continue that. But other than that, most patients don’t know.

Dr. Allison Gray: And for those of you out there who don’t know what he means by manipulation, there’s a specific type of therapy that DOs offer called OMT, and you do get trained in this in medical school at DO schools, but you don’t get trained in it at most MD programs. I had actually never heard of it until I started practicing. Anyhow, it’s a very interesting type of therapy, and all based in the holistic view of treating patients which is part of the DO sort of school of thought. But anyhow, Ryan does not mean that they are manipulating people, he means that they are doing a sort of therapy.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So with that in mind, I- if I were going through the process, I would treat MD and DO schools the same. And I’m probably in the minority here, but I wouldn’t look at them any differently because in the end, you’re treating patients, and you are practicing medicine and it’s very similar. Allison just mentioned this holistic mindset, and that’s I think the speak that comes from the DO world, but MDs treat holistically as well.

Dr. Allison Gray: We absolutely do, absolutely.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So I don’t like that argument because I-

Dr. Allison Gray: No, and it’s exactly what I was doing is just pointing to the tradition of the school of thought that they have. But yes, when I see patients in my office as I did today, I look at- I try always to look at what is going on with this human being, with this person, not just what is the specific disease I’m treating. I think the minute you start treating patients as diseases that you’re trying to cure or make better, you’re not doing very well where these are people and we always have to remember that. So yes, I think as MDs it’s super important to look at patients in a holistic way.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. And DOs prescribe medications, just like MDs.

Dr. Allison Gray: True, but I think we also have to be respectful of that tradition, you know because we weren’t- we did not attend DO schools. So you know just as an aside, that I think for some- I’m just saying that some students out there may feel very strongly that they’re very- they feel really glad that they are at DO schools and feel like they’re getting a specialized training that maybe is not present at MD programs; I’m just playing devil’s advocate here. But I think stepping back, what Ryan and I are trying to say, is even though we both were trained at MD programs, we know and have worked with a lot of MDs and DOs, and the way that we see medicine being practiced by all of those folks is the same, I think at its heart. Wouldn’t you agree?

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. That is the ultimate message. So I think that’s ultimate thing there, is understand that at the end of the day, it’s the same. If you’re listening to this and you still have a couple years before you are applying to medical school, the residency programs will be kind of merged; there’s a whole merger of all of the graduate medical education programs and so all of that will be merged, and DOs and MDs are all living happily ever after.

Dr. Allison Gray: The one other thing maybe Ryan, take a minute and tell everyone your stance on some students, what they do when they feel like their package is not strong enough, and so they-

Dr. Ryan Gray: Package, you keep saying package. Application.

Dr. Allison Gray: I know I keep saying package, sorry, application.

Dr. Ryan Gray: It’s an application, yeah. I don’t know-

Dr. Allison Gray: Well because I don’t want to say numbers because we’re not numbers when we apply.

Dr. Ryan Gray: An application.

Dr. Allison Gray: Alright, fine.

Dr. Ryan Gray: The package.

Dr. Allison Gray: So-

Dr. Ryan Gray: So if the- and this is the Student Doctor Network speak, and I think probably perpetrated the worst as premeds. Is ‘my grades aren’t good enough for an MD school, therefore I’m going to apply to a DO school.’ And I hate that. I think that’s- it’s number one, insulting to DO schools because if you actually look at the numbers, it’s harder to get into a DO school, the statistics based on the percentage of people applying and getting accepted, it’s harder to get into a DO school. Where this comes from- and I’ll give you a brief history of it. Where it comes from is the fact- partly the fact that the DO application allows for grade replacement on your application. So that means if I took Calculus as a freshman in college and got a C, and I took it again and got an A, the DO application will see that I got an A. The AMCAS- the MD application, will average the two and give me a B. That’s where a lot of people think, ‘Oh it’s easier, my grades will be better for the DO application.’ And yes, historically the numbers for DO schools, if you look at just raw statistics, the MCAT is a little lower for DO schools, the GPA is a little bit lower for DO schools. But there’s- there are some reasons behind that, but don’t think that just because your grades ‘aren’t good enough for MD school’ you should apply to a DO school, because that’s just- I hate that.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, and so at the end of the day if you’re trying to decide, ‘should I apply to a DO school, should I apply to an MD school, or maybe both,’ you can- and maybe you’ve looked at them and you say, “Hey I’d be happy at any of these, I just want to go to medical school,” then you can use some of these other things that we’ll talk about to try to help you figure out, ‘well where should I apply?’ Because you also don’t want to be applying to fifty schools, it gets really expensive.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Very expensive.

Dr. Allison Gray: Just as an aside by the way, when you think about numbers of medical schools to apply to, because that obviously factors in here when you’re trying to choose a school, you have to know how many you’re going to apply to at the outset. Usually nowadays the average is around fifteen.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, fourteen or fifteen depending on how you round. And that’s the AMCAS averages. I don’t know what the DO average is, I think it’s a little bit higher for DO school.

Dr. Allison Gray: Right, and so I think that’s a good number for everyone, whether you’re someone who has a 4.0 and a 45 on the MCAT, because again we know- in talking to admissions officers and even on our podcast that there are certainly students out there with those numbers who don’t get in. And then there are students who have the opposite. Either way I think fifteen is a pretty good number.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Allison Gray: So what else, Ryan? So what about the weather?

Dr. Ryan Gray: What about the weather?

Climate of the Schools

Dr. Allison Gray: So seems like a silly thing, but it’s actually something you should pay attention to when you’re thinking about where to apply. Some people out there- some students, premeds, may think, ‘Well I would be happy anywhere so that’s great,’ and that is great if that’s you. If you’re happy in sunny, rainy, snowy, you know great, that’s awesome.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Be a mailman.

Dr. Allison Gray: Be a mailman. In all kinds of weather.

Dr. Ryan Gray: You can deliver mail, yeah.

Dr. Allison Gray: That’s like the Florida Gators song, ‘in all kinds of weather we all stick together.’ Okay, so I digress. But really, let me tell you from someone who did go to undergrad in the coldest place on earth. Well not quite the coldest place on earth, but a pretty damn cold place. I went to school at McGill as a lot of you know for undergrad, and I’m not even kidding, when I would go to walk to campus from my apartment in the dead of winter- and by the way in Canada, there are four seasons. Winter, Still Winter, Even Still Winter, and Construction. So just to lay that out there, winter lasts a long time. So when I would walk to school it would be literally, literally with wind chill, negative sixty. Negative sixty. So if you’re in California and you’re used to sunny days and sixty degree weather fahrenheit, that means that you’re-

Dr. Ryan Gray: Sixty fahrenheit in California, people are in parkas.

Dr. Allison Gray: Right.

Dr. Ryan Gray: In California.

Dr. Allison Gray: So in Montreal where I went to undergrad, I was living in 120 degrees colder than that. I would literally get icicles on my eyelashes going to school. So did I love going to school there? Absolutely. But was it cold as all hell? Yes, and that’s something that you want to be aware of because maybe you’re super adventurous and then you get to medical school, and you find that you’re studying all the time, it’s freezing outside, and you’re kind of miserable. You just don’t want to add in things into your life that are going to take away from any happiness you might have. Because let’s face it, as a medical student you’re going to be super, super busy, studying constantly, and you want to have that opportunity to experience the outdoors, whatever kind of outdoors environment you like, if you can in those few moments. So just pay attention to the weather.

Dr. Ryan Gray: It’s an important one.

Dr. Allison Gray: It really is. You might laugh, but it’s important to just take notice of. And also I’ll just add one other quick little thing. Some of the Caribbean students out there, you know we talked to one on one of the podcasts, I don’t remember which episode, Ryan can pull it up for us. But he talked about the sunny weather and everything, and you want to be careful too about going to a place where it’s going to be, you know constantly nice outside potentially and giving you the urge to maybe go out to the beach every day, like in Miami or Hawaii. I mean really I’m not kidding, take serious note of these things, because you want to be in a place where you are happy, but also where you can really focus.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, that was back in episode 51 which you can listen to at, we talked to Jered, so awesome.

Dr. Allison Gray: Alright, yes.

Distance from Family and Friends

Dr. Ryan Gray: So another one that I bring up a lot, and I don’t know if people think about this, but I certainly did. Was do you want to be near or far to family and friends?

Dr. Allison Gray: Mm hmm.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And the ultimate answer for why I applied to New York Medical College, being in Florida at the time- actually I was in Colorado when I applied my second time. Was the fact that I had my whole dad’s side of the family lived in and around New York, and so I thought it’d be cool because I’d never lived near them. I thought it would be cool to be near them during medical school, even though I didn’t think- I didn’t think it through that I wouldn’t have time to spend with them.

Dr. Allison Gray: But you did, we went out there and-

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, we did. And so that’s why I applied to New York Medical College and some of the other schools in that area. So do you want to be near your family? Or are you trying to run away and get away from them? Do you have friends that are also applying to medical school, or maybe are already in medical school, or in undergraduate or post-graduate stuff in an area where you may want to go hang out with them?

Hospital Affiliations

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, and I also applied to New York Medical College because of its vicinity to the northeast. I was really hoping to be- after being at McGill in Montreal, which was about six hours drive from home in Boston, I wanted to be closer to my family who still live in Boston, or right outside Boston. And so that was one of the main reasons that I applied to New York Med.

Another reason by the way, just while I’m talking about this, I was really interested in New York Med because of how many hospital affiliations that the school had. And that’s something that we talked about in terms of residency affiliations, but we can broaden that a little bit. If you- when you look at different medical schools, one of the important things that you should look at is how many- or specifically which hospital affiliations they have. Now this is important for a couple reasons. Number one, it’s nice to get a flavor of where the hospitals are because that will give you a sense of what’s the patient demographic that you’re going to be seeing? The different patient populations? So for example, at New York Medical College we rotated in a hospital in the North Bronx, we also rotated at Westchester Medical Center which is right in the heart of Westchester; extremely different patient populations. In the North Bronx hospital, which was formerly called Our Lady of Mercy and is now Montefiore North, we rotated there and saw some of the worst cases of just completely uncontrolled diabetes, people with- who had had multiple amputations because their diabetes was so uncontrolled, people just with horrible access to healthcare and really, really, really raging medical issues which are really well-controlled in other parts of the country, unfortunately for those patients. And it was really quite sad, it was pretty amazing watching- just seeing the difference. And that compared to then at Westchester Medical Center which is a pretty affluent area, and seeing really pretty- you know, your average Joe, and all of the things that that individual is dealing with, with a certain amount of financial wealth and relatively well-controlled medical problems.

And I just will never forget that really just vast dichotomy between those two patient groups. And having that exposure, and really added to my empathy, my humility, all of these things and taught me about how important it is to help our patients get access to care- to good care, and how to bring that care to these really- these patient populations in need.

So there are just so many lessons in all of that, but the point is that it’s great to have a medical school where there are multiple hospital affiliations. It’s fine if you just have one at your medical school as your just county hospital or something like that, because at some point in residency you will get the exposure likely. But if you can get some exposure to different populations in medical school, that’s great.

The other reason to get to know the different medical school hospital affiliations is you want to know where you’re going to be travelling, and also living. So one of the things that a friend of mine didn’t realize, she went to upstate medical school in New York, and their medical school is based in Syracuse, and so for about three quarters of her medical training she was in Syracuse. What she didn’t know is that after her second year, about half the class- it may not be exactly half, but some portion of the class moved to Binghamton which is sort of out in the middle of nowhere, and it was a big shock to her at the time. And she had no idea where she was going to live, and she had this tiny little mini fridge for like three months.

It’s just those kinds of things that it would be nice as you’re applying to be aware of before you actually get to the school. So I think knowing the hospital affiliations because of where they are, both for your own personal life where you’re going to be living and rotating, but also for all the exposure you’re going to get. And New York Medical College had I think at the time I applied like 27 different hospital affiliations, it was crazy, and it’s only grown. So that was really exciting for me, just that that variety and that was another reason that I applied, too.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So it’s interesting you talked about some of that stuff, because just yesterday I was reading- there was a report or study that was published by UCLA that talked about people with diabetes in low-income neighborhoods are ten times more likely than diabetics from wealthy neighborhoods to get their limbs amputated because of diabetes-related infections.

Dr. Allison Gray: Interesting, yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: And so if you’re going to a school that you know has a good mix of hospital sites and training sites, you can see that mix. And you can get exposure to a wealthier patient who- a more affluent patient versus a lower level of income patient, and you can see those disparities in care, differences in care, and maybe you figure out how to fix that.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, and you know I’ll tell you something else, at some of the hospitals which are sort of served- not served, which are in low-income areas, the volume can sometimes be so crazy that medical students get to do a lot more things. I mean I’m just being completely honest with you here.

Dr. Ryan Gray: There’s also the fact that typically- and maybe this is right or it’s wrong, but typically the higher income patients are a little bit more demanding, and they won’t let medical students do anything, whereas the lower income, they’re thankful for any kind of care.

Dr. Allison Gray: Absolutely, and it’s one of the sad things about our healthcare system, that it’s so- it’s not all the same right, for everybody, not everybody has the same access to care, they’re trying to change that. But yeah, so we had friends in med school who were rotating at Metropolitan Hospital, and they were delivering ten babies, you know even every few days. I mean they were delivering so many babies on their OB rotation. I was able to participate in one, and help to deliver a healthy baby, and that was such a cool and awesome experience I’ll never forget. But just that goes to show right there, I was at Westchester Medical Center which is a high-risk OB environment, meaning that women come who are dealing with pretty significant medical issues, but also patients who are having ‘normal’ pregnancies, healthy pregnancies. But your odds of getting to do- to even participate in a delivery were so slim compared to other hospitals where I mean gosh, it was like they were you know, there was a pregnant woman every five feet or something. So your chances of delivering were high.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That is true.

Dr. Allison Gray: So it’s just one of the realities we’re sharing with you. We’re not saying it’s right or wrong, I mean obviously we all want everyone to have equal access to healthcare, but these are some of the issues that you see when you’re in different patient groups, and the care- the difference in care.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So I think one of the last ones I want to talk about is I think one of the more obvious ones, and that’s GPA and MCAT. You kept talking about packages earlier, trying to avoid this topic, to avoid GPA and MCAT.


Dr. Allison Gray: Well because we’re all more than that.

Dr. Ryan Gray: We are all more than that, and I talked a lot about that in a previous podcast that I have to go find. But I think the- what it comes down to is when you’re going through the MSAR, the Medical School Application Requirements book that the AAMC puts out, or the College Information Book that AACOM puts out. What you’re seeing there with GPA and MCAT for those schools, is a statistic. It’s a mathematical number that is taken from a whole class of people and squished down into one number. And so if you see the ‘average’ of a 33 on the MCAT and a 3.7 GPA, and you have a 30 on the MCAT and a 3.5 GPA, that doesn’t mean you can’t get into that school. That’s an average. And so there are people with better MCATs and GPAs, and there are people with lower MCAT scores and GPAs. And so don’t let those numbers discourage you, that is just one part of the application.

Dr. Allison Gray: And that by the way was episode 75 where Ryan talked about that, about how you are so much more, you know you are who you are, you are not your GPA- was going to say your GCAT, your GPA and your MCAT.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah. So I think that’s just a message that a final kind of motivational thing. When you’re choosing and picking your schools, pick schools that you want to go to because they’re close to family or friends, or far away from family or friends, because they’re in a weather environment that you like, because it’s in in-state that you want to go to. Don’t let the GPA and MCAT make a school not make your final cut on your list.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, don’t let them hold you back.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: What’s the worst they’re going to say?

Dr. Allison Gray: No, and then you could always try again.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Then you could always try again. Or you get into another school. But it’s- so there’s this, I think it’s called the LizzyM Equation, have you heard of this?

Dr. Allison Gray: I don’t think so.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah, I think it’s called the LizzyM Equation. There’s this thing where you put in your MCAT and your GPA, and there’s some multiply by ten and add them together, and blah, blah, blah. And your number should be within four I think of the school that you want to apply to, and if it’s not within four then you shouldn’t apply. I think that’s baloney.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Don’t do any kind of arithmetic when you’re trying to figure out what schools to apply to. Go to the schools, look at the environment that it’s in, look at the state that it’s in, look at the hospital affiliations, look at the kind of research that’s going on at the schools, possibly look at another small thing is class size; is it a huge class, or is it a small class, what type of environment would you like in that sense? There’s just so many other things, and GPA and MCAT shouldn’t be one of those things that ultimately lets a school make or break your list.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah. And I think my parting words are at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many you get into as long as you get into one. Because if you want to go to medical school, and you’re a premed out there, you just need to go to one.

And I’ve been sheepish about telling my part of the story, how I ended up at New York Med, but I’m happy to report- I mean at the end of the day I was waitlisted at Dartmouth and I was waiting to hear back from New York Med, and I got my acceptance from them and I cried the first like tears of joy I think I had ever cried in my life I was so overwhelmed and so happy. And I was still waitlisted at Dartmouth and I was trying to decide at the very end, ‘Well where should I go? Should I hold out for Dartmouth,’ because I think I was like the next in line. I remember calling the office and telling them I really wanted to go. But at some point I had to make a decision because orientation was about to start for New York Med, and I said, “You know what?” I thought about all these things, you know where- location and where I would want to be, and other things that New York Med offered, and Dartmouth was in the outdoors and I’m just really not an outdoorsy person, Ryan can attest to that. My idea of camping is like being at the indoor lodge. Although I do love bears.

But anyway I realized, yeah you know New York Med, it just- it spoke to me, it just was so much more kind of in touch with who I felt I was as a person and I thought it would be a better fit for me, and that’s really- at the end of the day, the most important thing. You know what’s the place that you think will fit you the best? Because that’s where you want to succeed and thrive, and go on and begin your medical career. So I said, “Thank you but no thank you,” to Dartmouth and I don’t know if I ever would have made it off their waitlist, but I said, “Hello,” to New York Med and I’ve been a happy camper ever since, and I met Ryan and I fell in love with neurology, and went on to Mass General and Brigham for my neurology residency.

So I think you know again, Ryan and I both got into one medical school, but it was so life changing for both of us, and obviously it’s how we met too. So I think my major point is that if you can, and you have the grace- not the grace, what’s the word I’m looking for? The luck, the fortune, the success, all these things to be able to actually choose among medical schools, like if you actually get into multiple medical schools and you get to make that decision, and you get to look at things like weather and class size, and how close you are to family and friends, and residency affiliations, great. Use that information, try to become as informed as you can, and certainly when you’re applying in the first place, try to take all these things that we’re- these points that we’re giving you and try to put those into your list. Use them to help you create a list. But if it gets to that end point, and you do have multiple to choose from, yes try to figure out well if you really have a specific key interest in research, or if you really want to be in- you’re very interested in a particular specialty, and you want to be in a place that has that opportunity for you to explore that, absolutely.

But you know what? If you just get into one, it’s really going to be okay, because there are so many excellent medical schools in the United States and elsewhere, but we focus on the US here on this podcast. And you will do great, you will become a doctor, assuming you pass and everything.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Yeah.

Dr. Allison Gray: But really, and that’s it. That’s how you start your medical career. So Ryan and I are proud and happy alums- alumni of New York Med, and that’s where we got in, and that’s really- that’s what it came down to. So good luck to you as you build your list of medical schools, and hopefully these things- these points we’ve had will be helpful to you in creating that list. But getting into one is all you need.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s all.

Dr. Allison Gray: So there’s my long spiel.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Thank you for that.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yes.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, I hope you learned something today about how to start narrowing down the list of a hundred and- I think there’s a hundred- almost 170 now medical schools. DO and MD total. That’s a lot to choose from, please don’t apply to all of them.

Dr. Allison Gray: If you’re in Canada it’s a lot easier because I think there are about seventeen, so you can just apply to all of them.

Dr. Ryan Gray: I don’t even know if there’s that many in Canada.

Dr. Allison Gray: I think the last time I looked there were, but we’ll have to look it up again.

Dr. Ryan Gray: We’ll have to look at it. We need to do more Canada shows, I know there are some of you listening.

Dr. Allison Gray: We do, and yes. We are working on that, we are. Have faith.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Have faith, yeah. So again use this information, you can use it if you’re in high school to choose an undergrad, you can use it as an undergrad as you’re creating your list to apply to medical school. Take it, run with it, let us know what you think. Is there something else that you used, or are using to narrow down your list? Let us know, go to is the special show notes page specifically for this episode, where you can leave us a comment.

I would also love if you’re not on our email list, I’ve been sending out a couple emails about our 2014 survey, our listener survey. I’d love to find out more about you, and how we can help you on the podcast, and elsewhere. If you go to, I’ll leave that survey up for a little while and let you go. It takes a few minutes of your time to go leave those responses, less than ten questions, easy. We almost have 100 people responding already, that’s awesome.

Dr. Allison Gray: Nice.

Dr. Ryan Gray: So we have lots of information to go through.

Dr. Allison Gray: Thank you guys for filling that out, that’s awesome.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Thank you. Another big thank you to several more people that have gone into iTunes and left us a five star rating and review. We have Reviewer IV, or Review Four if that’s a roman numeral, who says, “Great resource, I love listening to this podcast, so much great information,” so thank you to Reviewer IV.

AnAbstraction says, “The definitive premed podcast. A nontraditional student.” Oh this is the one- I have to read this one, I tweeted about this or left it on Facebook or something. So this person, AnAbstraction, I don’t know who this is but if I know you then you have to let me know, or just email me and let me know. So I’m going to read this. “It has clearly made a difference in the decisions I’ve made as I reset my career to do what I’ve always wanted to do.” Awesome, great feedback, right? And then get ready for this. “Ryan and crew are pregnant with knowledge and regularly give birth in each podcast.”

Dr. Allison Gray: That’s pretty cool.

Dr. Ryan Gray: How’s that for a visual?

Dr. Allison Gray: It’s pretty awesome. I mean especially someone who has given birth.
Dr. Ryan Gray: Recently.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yes.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Not during this show though.

Dr. Allison Gray: No but I love that analogy, I think that is so cool. Thank you for saying that, that is- it’s really, it’s an awesome metaphor and the fact that you feel like the knowledge that we are passing on is that meaningful and momentous to you is so awesome.

Dr. Ryan Gray: But then he goes on- or she goes on that says, “If you haven’t subscribed yet, you better click that button, grab a notepad, and hold on to your brain.”

Dr. Allison Gray: Yeah, no I love it. It’s just an awesome review.

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s the best review I think so far. Alright. How are you going to beat that review?

Dr. Allison Gray: Oh, challenge.

Dr. Ryan Gray: Alright, BlakeB232 says, “Helpful and hopeful resource for premeds.”

ZfinNerd says, “Inspiring and helpful.”

And PubHealthAcolyte says, “Great resource.” Says, “Allison and Ryan, you guys are very informative and helpful, both being honest and optimistic. Thank you for taking the time to help aspiring healthcare professionals.” You’re welcome.

Dr. Allison Gray: Absolutely.

Dr. Ryan Gray: It’s what we’re here for.

Dr. Allison Gray: Yup.

Dr. Ryan Gray: We love doing it, and we would love if you would take a minute of your time and leave us a rating and review, an honest one. If it’s five stars, that would be awesome. You can go to to do that.

Any closing remarks, Allison?

Dr. Allison Gray: I hope that whatever you are up to on your journey toward becoming a doctor is going fabulously, and yeah that’s all I got.

Dr. Ryan Gray: As always-

Dr. Allison Gray: As Porky Pig would say, ‘That’s all folks.’

Dr. Ryan Gray: That’s all folks, I like that. I hope you took a lot of great information out of today’s podcast, and always- as always, I hope you join us next time here at the Medical School Headquarters.

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