Postgraduate fellowships are amazing experiences for college graduates interested in gaining a deeper understanding of an academic topic or attaining global research experience.
Premed students typically pursue a postgraduate fellowship during gap years — after they graduate college and before they enroll in medical school. However, it is also an option to apply for postgraduate fellowships while you are a med school student. Four prestigious and popular postgraduate fellowships are the Rhodes, Marshall, Gates Cambridge and Fulbright.
Rhodes scholarship. A Rhodes scholarship is for two years and scholars pursue an advanced degree at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Applicants must have a minimum 3.7 final undergraduate GPA, among other criteria. There are 32 American Rhodes Scholars selected each year from thousands of applicants.
Marshall Scholarship. A Marshall Scholarship is for two years and scholars pursue an advanced degree at any university in the U.K. Applicants must be a U.S. citizen and have a minimum 3.7 final undergrad GPA, among other criteria. Up to 50 recipients are chosen each year and are either one-year or two-year scholars. The latter have more flexibility and can, for example, complete two one-year master’s degrees at one institution or at two different institutions. In one case, a premed Marshall Scholar completed a master’s of science in public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a master’s in anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, also known as SOAS University of London.
Gates Cambridge Scholarship. This program allows a scholar to attain a postgraduate degree such as a Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge. Scholarships last one to four years, depending on the length of the degree. There are 25 Gates Cambridge Scholarships awarded to U.S. citizens each year from the total of 80 recipients worldwide. Selection criteria include leadership potential and outstanding intellectual ability.
Fulbright scholarship. A Fulbright scholarship is for one year and recipients pursue graduate education or an academic research project in a foreign country of their choice. There is no requirement to get an advanced degree. The vision of the Fulbright is “facilitating cultural exchange” through “direct engagement in the community.” Premed Fulbright scholars have pursued research projects in countries such as the Philippines and Peru.
These four postgraduate awards are prestigious and difficult to win. However, with the right planning and advising from mentors, they are fantastic opportunities that interested premed students can consider. Past scholars describe numerous benefits of the fellowships, including:
— Pursuing intellectual interests.
— Getting hands-on global health research experience.
— Gaining a different cultural perspective by living abroad.
— Engaging in global health volunteer work and community projects.
— Surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals and meeting visionary leaders who think critically about how to improve society.
For some scholars who pursued postgraduate fellowships before medical school, their experiences influenced their medical careers and inspired their health care pursuits.
Fellowships Can Inspire Health Care Advocacy
Dr. Jarrad Aguirre studied medical anthropology at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar after majoring in biology at Yale University. He says he saw his time in the U.K. as “room to explore other intellectual pursuits I did not have the ability to in college. I have always been intrigued by the ways we understand health and illness, as well as the way in which culture influences our understanding of health.”
[READ: How to Become a Rhodes Scholar.]
Aguirre adds: “Studying anthropology made me question all my assumptions, including my ideas about medicine. What determines whether we are healthy? What does it mean to be sick? What is the role of a physician?”
He wrote his dissertation on health disparities of Native Americans in the U.S., specifically looking at the historical and societal contexts of addiction among indigenous Americans. He gained a better appreciation of the circumstances that people live in and how their social contexts can be the primary drivers of their health.
Aguirre, who attended the Stanford University School of Medicine, says his Rhodes scholarship experience left him “with an increased interest in reforming medicine. It empowered me to challenge the status quo and think about whether our understanding of how we think about medicine is a product of what’s been done historically and whether we can change society for the better.”
Aguirre has worked to decrease inequities in prostate cancer, endometriosis and uterine fibroid treatments, most recently as head of strategic partnerships and innovation at Myovant Sciences in California. He has an MBA from Stanford and co-founded a new telemedicine company focused on improving access to treatments for cardiovascular health.
“I get my motivation today from looking at the current circumstances that inform health care, questioning how we can better advocate for people’s health, and vying for something ,” he says. “That’s the legacy of my training as a Rhodes scholar.”
Fellowships Can Allow Specialized Medical Research
Dr. Nimi Mastey pursued a Fulbright in India, studying women’s health issues — a passion of hers since high school. When she attended college at Stanford, she was involved in organizations such as the Women’s Community Center and a sexual assault advisory committee.
During college, Mastey watched a documentary about widows in India, which inspired her to conduct ethnographic research to evaluate the health needs of widows in rural India. On her Fulbright, she continued to do research on the vulnerable population. The experience gave her the opportunity to live in different Indian cities for longer periods of time and conduct research.
Mastey says her time as a Fulbright scholar inspired her “to think about what it means to be a person who is empowered. For example, some widowed women left their communities to receive additional job training. I saw a lot of strength and courage in these women.”
After her Fulbright, Mastey attended medical school at Stanford and continued her interests in women’s health and advocacy. She recently completed a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard University Medical School and a Complex Family Planning Fellowship at UC Davis Health.
Mastey, who provides health care through Planned Parenthood, advises premed students to pursue postgraduate fellowships. “It is invaluable in terms of real-world experience and can give you enormous context in medicine. My experiences during my Fulbright always remind me to remember the context of peoples’ lives. Culture, community and society can be an important influence on your patient’s health.”
More from U.S. News
Popular Postgraduate Fellowships for Premed Students originally appeared on usnews.com