M.D.-Ph.D. programs are highly selective but rewarding. Scholars who are interested in both research and caring for patients should explore a joint M.D-Ph.D. program. Through this course of study, students are able to earn a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in a chosen field. With this degree combination, graduates are often classified as research physicians, physician-investigators, or physician-scientists. There are many career paths that can be followed. Such career paths include teaching at medical schools or working at research institutes.
MD PHD Programs
Schools that offer M.D.-Ph.D. programs
There are over one hundred medical schools that offer M.D.-Ph.D. programs in the United States. While expensive, the cost of attending these programs should not deter potential applicants. Many schools offer financial support, tuition waivers, and stipends to students. There are currently about 4,500 students participating in an M.D.-Ph.D. program nationwide. In choosing a school, applicants are encouraged to consider the location of the school, the academic and research environments, the curriculum itself, and whether or not they feel they are a good fit. The Association of American Medical Colleges offers a list of the schools within the United States that offer M.D.-Ph.D. programs on their website. This is a great place to start for a scholar considering this career path.
Requirements for admission
MD PHD Requirements
Schools often seek applicants who have a demonstrated passion for research. Applicants must also have the ability to work well with other people. Strong academic records and MCAT scores are also considered by the admissions committees. Some programs may also require GRE scores in addition to the MCAT. Other parts of the application process include evaluation of letters of recommendation, personal statements, personal experiences, and extracurricular activities. Admission committees will often look favorably on candidates who have pursued several years of research after undergraduate studies.
Preparing yourself for an M.D.-Ph.D. program
Applicants can take many steps to prepare their resumes for the application process to an M.D.-Ph.D. program. Many undergraduate universities and schools offer summer research programs. In these programs, students have the opportunity to conduct research in a laboratory setting and gain hands-on experience. Summer research programs also allow a student to discover areas of interest they have for the research portion of the M.D.-Ph.D. program. This experience will also give students a chance to use the latest technology and interact with experienced researchers. Many of the summer programs will also provide accepted students a stipend for their summer research. Some schools also offer a writing component of their summer program to train students in scientific writing.
The path to becoming an M.D.-Ph.D. takes on average at least seven to eight years to complete. Important aspects from both the M.D. course of study and the Ph.D. course of study are combined to create the curriculum for the joint program. Among the many choices offered for the Ph.D. portion, students may choose such disciplines as Behavioral Science, Pharmacology, Neuroscience, Genetics or Biochemistry. The course of study in the M.D.-Ph.D. program is broken down into three parts: pre-clinical, research, and clinical. The first couple of years are dedicated to pre-clinical studies that include lab rotations. The research portion is next. Here, students earn their Ph.D. by conducting thesis research. Finally, the clinical portion allows students to participate in clinical clerkships and rotations to finish out the program. Afterwards, most opt to attend fellowship programs for an additional four to at least seven more years of specialty training.
MSTP training grants
The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Select medical schools and universities receive grants for this program. Currently, there are 933 trainees that are participating in the training program. There are only 45 medical schools that offer MSTP training grants from the NIH. The program is a great help for many students. It supports students by offering a stipend, tuition allowance, and even funding for equipment and supplies. This support is not exclusive and many students also receive aid from their schools in addition. Unlike a loan, these grants do not need to be repaid; however, these grants are highly competitive. Once a grant is earned, the student must work to keep it by demonstrating excellence and re-applying annually.
Why a joint M.D.-Ph.D. program?
This program is excellent for people who both enjoy performing research and have an interest in caring for patients. By combining the two disciplines into a joint M.D.-Ph.D. program, the cost of obtaining the two degrees is lowered substantially. The lower cost is also funded in part by stipends and scholarships. It is important to note that the time requirements are still substantial with the joint program. Pursuing a joint degree does not necessarily have less time requirements than if a student were to purse an M.D. and a Ph.D. separately. It takes a lot of personal sacrifice and time commitment to study in an M.D.-Ph.D. program. Most people who take on the challenge, however, find this career path intensely rewarding.