MD-PhD Program Structure

MD Program Part 1

Year 1: Medical School Courses and Graduate Level Course

In the summer before the first year, students have the option to complete the first of their research laboratory rotations. While not required, we feel that this can assist the student by allowing him or her to decide on a thesis advisor and laboratory by the end of the second year.

The first year curriculum begins at the end of August and MSTP students follow the same curriculum as first year medical students. In 2009 the College of Physicians and surgeons initiated a new curriculum, which tightly integrates instruction in the first and second years.

In addition to the medical school curriculum, MSTP students will use their elective time during the first year to take at least one of the graduate courses, such as eukaryotic molecular biology. Click for list of other available graduate courses.

The MSTP advisory committee will work closely with the student during this period to help identify appropriate laboratories for rotation and to select courses. There are a number of advantages to offering a graduate school course during the medical school curriculum:

The completion of a major graduate course allows more rapid completion of course work and earlier full-time involvement in laboratory research.

Participation in the course at this early stage allows students to become familiar with members of the graduate faculty at an earlier time than would otherwise occur.

The additional course work can help inform the choice of a laboratory or define a student's interests.

It puts the student into contact with graduate students from the time they enter rather than requiring that they "shift gears" suddenly upon entry to the PhD years.

Year 2: Medical School Courses and Graduate Level Course

The second summer is committed to a laboratory rotation to assist the student in defining an area of interest and selecting a thesis advisor. During the first six months of second year of medical school the MSTP student follows the medical school program. Starting in January of the second year, MSTP students complete two clinical rotations, one or two laboratory rotations, Step I of the USMLE and choose a graduate program.

PhD Program

Year 3: The Graduate Years

The third year begins in the summer after the student takes Step I of the USMLE. Students who have selected laboratories will begin work under the direction of their thesis advisors combining laboratory work with the completion of any remaining course requirements. In addition, the completion of the preliminary examination must occur by the end of the third year. Students who have not selected laboratories will have the option of completing a third rotation in the summer preceding the third year, but are still expected to complete the preliminary examination by the end of year three.

The progress of each student is monitored by his/her mentor, by the thesis advisory committees, which must meet annually, and by meetings with the Program Director and members of the Executive Committee. We expect that the majority of students will have developed a thesis proposal by the end of the first year of graduate work and that the majority of course work will have been completed by that time. It is expected that all of the students will have published a first authored paper and that most students will have defended their theses by the spring of their 4th graduate year (6th year total).

In addition, students will begin their participation in the Clinical Competence Program. Throughout the years in the lab, each student meets a faculty member (Dr. William Turner, Dr. Steven Mackey, Dr. Christina Ulane, or Dr. Paul Lee) in the hospital. They practice history and physical exam skills with the cooperation of one of the patients in the hospital, and discuss the patient's illness in detail. The students also meet once a month in small groups with their preceptor, reviewing the pathophysiology of some common diseases and presentations.

Years 4, 5 and 6: The Graduate Years

During these years, students work on their thesis research under the direction of their advisors. Progress continues to be monitored by the thesis advisory committee, by the director of the graduate program in which the student is enrolled, and by the MSTP directors. Depending on progress, the thesis is written and defended by December of the sixth year, so that the student can return to medical studies by January of the following year.

Starting in the second semester in the lab, the Clinical Competence Program allows students to pick clinical fields that interest them and are assigned preceptors who work in that field. They meet with that attending once per month. Students have accompanied their mentor during office hours, on hospital rounds, in the operating room, at clinical conferences, and at clinical research meetings, thus allowing them to see what the attending's daily schedule is like as well as providing continuing exposure to patients.

Their activities during their last year in the lab are the same as in the first year with respect to the Clinical Competence Program, except that more emphasis is placed on write-ups and presentations when they meet with Drs. Turner, Mackey, Ulane, and Lee.

MD Program Part 2

The Final Year: The Major Clinical Year

The final year of the program is actually 12-15 months long depending on the date of re-entry and includes the major clinical rotations required for the MD degree. This program is tailored to the student and is combined with consultation on the selection of residencies or postdoctoral fellowships. Click here for information regarding the Major Clinical Year rotations.

Medical school graduation is in May of the final year.