Dreaming of Doctorates

Testing the waters of an MD-PhD program through interdepartmental collaboration

Potlapalli stands in front of the Old Well

Testing the waters of an MD-PhD program through interdepartmental collaboration

Varun Potlapalli’s plan to pursue an MD and a PhD after graduating from UNC-Chapel Hill emerged naturally. The Carolina senior has always known he wanted to be a physician, and he’s come to view research as a crucial aspect of that venture.

Potlapalli ‘23 spent the summer of 2022 getting his feet wet in MD-PhD studies as part of a collaboration between the UNC School of Medicine’s MD-PhD program and the Chancellor’s Science Scholars program. Potlapalli shadowed doctors, attended rounds at UNC Hospitals, met with current MD-PhD students and prepared a presentation on his own research.

“The opportunities that they’re providing are really crucial because it allows us to see what we would actually be doing as physicians,” said Potlapalli. “Those types of experiences are really important because they help you think about whether this is something you actually want to do.”

The experience as a whole, he said, has confirmed he’s on the right path.

“This summer program has really opened me up to all the different angles possible when it comes to investigating whether MD-PhD is the right dual-degree program for me,” Potlapalli said. “It’s only strengthened my passion for it. It’s a lot more intense than I previously thought it was, but to me, that’s a good thing. I want it to be intense. I want it to be rigorous because I know this is something I want to do moving forward.”

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