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Eight Years and Counting: College of Medicine Grad Student Completes Combined Degree

May 31, 2013

Vlad Ratushny

When Vlad Ratushny started his combined MD–PhD training at Drexel in 2005, Twitter hadn’t been invented, gas prices were outrageously high at $3 a gallon after Hurricane Katrina, Saddam Hussein was still alive and Osama Bin Laden was still hiding.

“I think a lot of people pursuing higher degrees have gotten somewhat comfortable with the idea of delayed gratification. You have to get real comfortable with that idea when pursuing an eight-year double-doctorate degree program,” said Ratushny, who is in the College of Medicine’s Molecular and Cell Biology and Genetics Program.

As part of Drexel's MD–PhD program, Ratushny spent his first two years in medical school before he “switched gears” to completing his PhD in three and a half years. He then returned to medical school for his last two years in the clinic.

He compared his higher education experience to running a marathon and not a sprint, but added, “In a way, I learned to appreciate what I was doing in the moment, whether it was performing an experiment, analyzing data, writing articles, interviewing patients, writing hospital notes, etc.”

He completed his PhD in Molecular and Cell Biology and Genetics in January 2011 after working in the lab of Dr. Erica Golemis at Fox Chase Cancer Center. During his thesis work, he wrote articles in scholarly publications as first author and co-first author. After he defended his PhD thesis, Ratushny received a National Institutes of Health training grant to complete a five-month fellowship studying the mechanisms of skin cancer in the dermatology department at the University of Pennsylvania.

Ratushny says he chose Drexel’s combined MD–PhD program because of the friendliness of the community of faculty and students, as well as the strength of residency matches of Drexel’s students. 

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, Ratushny came to New York when he was 8. He attended the University at Albany SUNY as a computer science major before transferring to a human biology major to pursue the pre-med track. Work experience in hospital and laboratory settings caused him to pursue a combined degree, and he was accepted into seven medical schools, including three combined degree programs, after spending a year as an immunology researcher at Cornell Medical College in Manhattan.

At the College of Medicine’s annual Match Day event, Ratushny was matched to his number one choice, the Harvard Combined Dermatology Residency Program. He said he is not sure where the future will take him but hopes it will involve innovation centered on patient care.  

Following his long-awaited graduation from Drexel’s MD–PhD program in May, Ratushny had another major milestone to look forward to— this past weekend, he excitedly waited at the altar for the arrival of his fiancé, an art therapist and alum of Drexel's Masters in Creative Arts Therapy Program, while standing next to his groomsmen, five of which are his medical school classmates.