Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a list of questions that applicants often ask students during their visit. The answers are from current medical students, and we hope you will find them informative. Many questions can also be answered on the Admissions Office Website. Have other questions about DukeMed? Email eric.mastria@duke.edu and have your question added here!

Admissions

Duke has changed their interview format to the Multiple Mini Interview. What can I expect with the new interview format?
While at first the new MMI format can seem longer and more grueling than the typical interview day, it’s important to remember that more interviews means more opportunities to display your personality and interact with representatives from Duke Med. More interviews also means that making one or two mistakes has less of an impact in the overall process. The actual logistics of the MMI will be thoroughly explained before it’s time to interview. Like any other interview day, give us the best idea of who you are as an applicant and  focus on getting your questions answered about our program.
Hannibal Person, MSIII

Is it possible to apply to the MD/PhD program from the MD program?
Yes, students can apply to the MD/PhD program after they begin at Duke. Usually about one student every year joins the MD/PhD program in this way.
Eric Mastria, MSIII

Is it possible to apply to the Primary Care Leadership Track from the MD program?
Yes. There are a set number of spots for PCLT each year, but sometimes students who are initially admitted into the program do change their minds and choose the standard curriculum for second year instead. In that case, a spot opens up, and applications from the MD program are accepted.
Irene Pien, MSI

Academics

How demanding is the first year curriculum?
First year at Duke is a demanding, rewarding experience. Duke prides itself on the flexibility provided by its unique curricular structure. To enable that flexibility, the traditional two years of basic science is condensed into one school year. Students are selected by the admissions committee based on multiple factors, including ability to excel academically at DukeMed. While first year course-work is intense, it is manageable and the community — both administration and fellow classmates — provides incredible support. Students can and do maintain outside interests and hobbies. While students at other medical schools may engage in research during their pre-clinical years, this is a rare undertaking at Duke as there is less free time. Fortunately, we have the entire third year to more formally focus on an area of interest.
Bill McManigle, MSII

Do Duke students feel prepared to work on the wards in their second year?
There is nothing that can prepare you for the wards as much as being through the experience itself. Through Practice Course and Physical Exam Week Duke formally provides students with the basic knowledge needed for the wards, and from there the skills continue to develop as you go through your clerkships.
Kirema Garcia-Reyes, MSII

Despite the shortened first year curriculum, Duke students are prepared to take on the wards during the second year. I think many of us might go through a few days of not feeling prepared during the beginning of a clerkship, but I know that this is not unique to Duke. Additionally, the residents and attendings understand that there is a steep learning curve and that we will adapt quickly. By the end of a clerkship, students feel that they have been introduced to the basic clinical knowledge for each field and solidified knowledge from first year (which is helpful for Step 1, see below).
Eric Mastria, MSIII

How do you prepare for the boards? When do students at Duke take Step 1?
Students at Duke take Step 1 anytime during their third year.  The advantage at Duke Med is that they take USMLE Step 1 after having spent a year on the hospital wards.  The NBME has recently begun emphasizing clinical content on USMLE Step 1 to a greater degree.  Thus, Duke students have a better basis for the clinical knowledge.  Preparation for the test is generally the same at all schools: you study using practice tests and a standard set of books.  However, Duke has an additional advantage because you are offered freedom during your third year to study for Step 1 as long as you would like.  If you wish to study for a month with protected time and then take it (like most schools), you can.  If you want to study for 8 months while in lab and then take a month for dedicated study time (unlike any school that I know of other than Duke), you can do that, as well.  – Brian Schwab, MSIV

What do students do during their third year?
Students have significant flexibility in choosing their third year projects.  While it does have to be “scholarly” in nature, students’ third years could consist of basic science research, clinical research, a secondary degree (e.g., MPH, MBA), or some combination of the three.  While most students stay in Durham, a large number spend the year in other cities domestically and abroad. Every year, students travel across the world (e.g., Tanzania, Argentina, Bangladesh) to take advantage of Duke’s global health connections.
– Kyle Gibler, MSIII

How supportive are the faculty and administration at DukeMed?
The faculty and administration are quite supportive at Duke Med.  Since I have no basis to directly compare our faculty/administration with any other medical school’s, let me offer some concrete examples.  The CEO/Chancellor of Duke University Medical Center (Victor Dzau) came to talk with our medical student government (approximately 30 students) and had a question and answer session where we could propose any ideas we wished regarding life at Duke.  The medical school dean (Nancy Andrews) has monthly office hours where anybody can come to talk with her about anything you wish (and she pays for your lunch).  The first year students had some issues to discuss regarding the curriculum, so the two most senior curriculum administrators (Vice and Associate Deans of Education) came to talk with the class.  The four advisory deans have open office hours nearly every day (except when they are travelling).  Each group is thoroughly surveyed to see what changes can be made to the first, second, third, and fourth year experiences, the surveys are published for students to see, and the faculty make changes appropriately.  You can pretty much email any faculty person about course content and they are very responsive.
Brian Schwab, MSIV

Where do DukeMed students go after graduating?
Duke graduate tend to do very well in the Match process, matching at the top programs across the country. About 15% choose to stay at Duke to continue their training, and many others go on to Harvard, Penn, UCSF, WashU and other top programs. Read about a recent match day at DukeMed

Student Life

How reasonable is the cost of living in the Raleigh-Durham area?
Cost of living is definitely a strength of the Raleigh Durham area. The fanciest and closest complexes do not cost much over $1,000/month for a single apartment, and it only gets less expensive than that. It is easy to find a nice place to live for $400-$800/month.
Many MD/PhD students find buying a house to be affordable on the monthly stipend.
Eric Mastria, MSIII

What type of housing do most students live in?
Housing in Durham is generally very affordable and very nice, especially if you’re coming from a big city or expensive college town. There is no “on-campus” housing at Duke, however many students choose to live very close to campus in apartment complexes. A few of the apartment complexes most popular among medical students include: The LoftsStation 9,  and Alexan Place.
Whitney Chadwick, MSIII

Do you need a car in Durham?
Yes, you need a car. The public transportation in Durham will not be adequate to get you everywhere you need to be in a timely manner, especially during your second year on the wards. Luckily it is pretty easy to get around Durham with a car
Eric Mastria, MSIII

I’m from a major metropolitan area in another part of the country. How much of a culture shock will I have moving to NC and “the South”?
While moving to NC and “the South” can be a bit of a change if you are coming from a major metropolitan area, many are pleasantly surprised by the wealth of cultural and social opportunities available in the Durham area. Durham and the triangle draws people from across the country who are pursuing work or other academic opportunities, creating a fairly diverse community.  It also has a vibrant art and performance scene, boasting film festivals, museums and many music performance venues. Raleigh, NC (a 40 minute drive from Durham) has a happening club scene, and Durham and other surrounding towns have many fun and up and coming night spots. Durham does not have the quality of public transportation that major metropolitan areas have, and you may notice most people aren’t necessarily on the cutting edge of music or fashion. That being said, this is definitely a place where a more city-oriented person can get an amazing education and still manage to have a lot of fun.
Hannibal Person, MSIII

How diverse is DukeMed?
DukeMed takes diversity, in all forms, very seriously, and it is a place where people’s differences are respected and celebrated. One only needs to look at the diversity in our student organizations to appreciate the different interests and backgrounds of our student population. Our curriculum makes a concerted effort to train us to be providers that are understanding and compassionate towards patients different than ourselves, and working together with classmates of different backgrounds is an important part of us achieving this goal. Ultimately, DukeMed boasts a diverse student population who will be ready and willing to handle the diverse needs of the different patients we encounter in the future.
Hannibal Person, MSIII

How do I get basketball tickets? Is it possible to get into games?
There are two ways to get basketball tickets to the Duke Men’s games. The first, “Campout,” is a tradition at Duke that graduate students participate in to secure season tickets. For one weekend in September, from Friday 7PM until 7AM Sunday, graduate students camp out in parking lots and grassy areas near the famous Cameron stadium. For these 36 hours, there will be random check-ins announced without warning; missing more than 3 check-ins means that you’re out of the running. Each student who completes Campout is entered into a raffle to win season basketball tickets. Med students typically go in as a pool so that season tickets are shared between everyone who completes Campout (average is that 50% will win tickets, although this varies depending on how many complete Campout each year). The second option is to “walk-up” to basketball games, but this method is less reliable, since the walk-up line is only admitted after season pass holders are done filling in the stands.
-Irene Pien, MSI

Are there good restaurants in the area?
The list is long. But check out the NYT’s coverage of Durham’s food scene. If there’s one thing that Durham has, it’s amazing food.
Nazaneen Homaifar, MSIV

What outdoor activities are available in the Durham area?
North Carolina is a great place to experience the outdoors.  The great weather allows for students to take advantage of spending time in the sun virtually year-round.  Within a short walk or drive from school, students can access high-quality running and biking trails, a swimming quarry, two nationally known golf courses, the Sarah Duke Gardens, and many other attractions.  If you’re up for a day trip, you can reach the Smokey Mountains to the West and the beach in Wilmington, NC, in ~2.5 hours.
– Kyle Gibler, MSIII

How close is the beach? How close are the mountains?
There is a really nice beach town, Wilmington, NC, which is about 2 ½ hours from Duke. There are a bunch of other nice beaches up and down the coast as well. My personal favorite mountain city is Asheville, NC which is about 3 ½ hours from Durham. Asheville has great restaurants, Bed & Breakfast-type places to stay, venues for shows and fabulous scenery, hiking, etc.
Whitney Chadwick, MSIII

What is the night life like?
The Triangle area is a great place to be a young adult.  Downtown Durham (5 minutes from Duke), Chapel Hill (15-20 minutes from Duke), and Raleigh (30 minutes from school), all offer plenty of unique things to do.  In addition to many restaurants and bars, you can also take in nationally-touring musicals at the Durham Performing Arts Center and minor league baseball at the world famous Durham Bulls ballpark.  Chapel Hill and Raleigh similarly have many exciting ways to relax with your classmates.
– Kyle Gibler, MSIII

What are the gym/recreation facilities like?
We have 3 gyms available to us through Duke (the main West campus gym near Cameron Indoor, the smaller gym on East Campus, and a hospital gym in one of the parking garages), and most apartments have gyms as well. The West campus gym is the biggest and has a huge weight room, lots of cardio equipment, a climbing wall, and free fitness classes for students. They’re all very nice, clean and well maintained.
Whitney Chadwick, MSIII

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