An MD-PhD program might be the right choice for you if the question “Why do you want to be a doctor?” leaves you feeling excited but a little unsure. Are you inspired to work in medicine but not interested in concentrating exclusively on clinical work? MD-PhD programs accept applicants who want to become physician-scientists, a career path that focuses on scientific innovation and research. 

In this definitive guide to MD-PhD programs, you will learn everything you need to know about applying, medical schools in North America that offer this program, admission requirements, funding for MD-PhD programs, and tips to help you get accepted!


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List of MD-PhD Programs What is an MD-PhD Program? Is the MD-PhD Program Right for Me? MD-PhD Program Admission Requirements FAQs

List of MD-PhD Programs

Many schools offer the MD-PhD program in Canada and the United States, and the number of available programs is growing. Here is an up-to-date list, which is also available on the AAMC website. Schools funded through MTSP are starred.

Alabama

·      University of Alabama School of Medicine*

Arizona

·      University of Arizona College of Medicine *

·      University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix

Arkansas

·      University of Arkansas College of Medicine

California

·      Loma Linda University School of Medicine

·      Stanford University School of Medicine*

·      University of California, Davis School of Medicine *

·      University of California, Irvine School of Medicine*

·      University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine*

·      University of California, San Diego School of Medicine*

·      University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine*

·      Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine

·      Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California

Colorado

·      University of Colorado Health Sciences Center

·      University of Colorado Denver*

·      Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biological Sciences*

Connecticut

·      University of Connecticut School of Medicine

·      Yale University School of Medicine*

D.C

·      Georgetown University School of Medicine

·      Howard University College of Medicine

Florida

·      University of Florida College of Medicine

·      University of Miami Miller School of Medicine*

·      University of South Florida College of Medicine

·      University of Central Florida College of Medicine

Georgia

·      Emory University School of Medicine*

·      Morehouse School of Medicine

·      Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University

Illinois

·      Loyola University of Chicago - Stritch School of Medicine

·      Northwestern University Medical School *

·      Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science - Chicago Medical School

·      University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine (MTSP) *

·      University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine *

·      Carle Illinois College of Medicine

Indiana

·      Indiana University School of Medicine *

Iowa

·      University of Iowa College of Medicine *

Kansas

·      University of Kansas School of Medicine

Kentucky

·      University of Kentucky College of Medicine

·      University of Louisville School of Medicine

Louisiana

·      Louisiana State University, New Orleans School of Medicine

·      Louisiana State University, Shreveport School of Medicine

·      Tulane University School of Medicine

Maryland

·      Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine *

·      National Institutes of Health Intramural MD-PhD Partnership

·      Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

·      University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Medicine *

Massachusetts

·      Boston University School of Medicine

·      Harvard Medical School *

·      Tufts University School of Medicine *

·      University of Massachusetts Medical School *

Michigan

·      Michigan State University College of Medicine

·      University of Michigan Medical School *

·      Wayne State University School of Medicine

·      Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine

Minnesota

·      Mayo Medical School *

·      University of Minnesota Medical School *

Mississippi

·      University of Mississippi School of Medicine

Missouri

·      Saint Louis University School of Medicine

·      University of Missouri - Columbia School of Medicine

·      Washington University School of Medicine *

Nebraska

·      University of Nebraska College of Medicine

·      Creighton University School of Medicine

Nevada

·      University of Nevada School of Medicine

New Hampshire

·      Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth

New Jersey

·      University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey - New Jersey Medical School

·      University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey - Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

·      Cooper Medical School of Rowan University

New Mexico

·      University of New Mexico School of Medicine

New York

·      Albany Medical College

·      Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University *

·      Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons *

·      Donald and Barbara Zucker School of Medicine at Hofstra/Northwell

·      Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering Tri-Institutional MD/PhD Program

·      Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai *

·      New York Medical College

·      New York University Grossman School of Medicine *

·      Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo

·      SUNY at Stony Brook Health Sciences Center *

·      SUNY Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine

·      SUNY Upstate Medical University

·      University of Rochester School of Medicine *

North Carolina

·      Wake Forest School of Medicine

·      Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University

·      Duke University School of Medicine *

·      University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine *

North Dakota

·      University of North Dakota School of Medicine

Ohio

·      Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine *

·      Northeastern Ohio College of Medicine

·      Ohio State University College of Medicine *

·      University of Cincinnati College of Medicine *

·      University of Toledo College of Medicine

·      Wright State University School of Medicine

Oklahoma

·      University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center

Oregon

·      Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine *

Pennsylvania

·      Drexel University College of Medicine

·      Penn State University College of Medicine *

·      Perelman School of Medicine School of Medicine *

·      Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University 

·      University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine *

·      University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine 

·      Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University Philadelphia, Pa.

Puerto Rico

·      University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine

Rhode Island

·      Brown University School of Medicine

South Carolina

·      Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine *

·      University of South Carolina School of Medicine

South Dakota

·      University of South Dakota School of Medicine

Tennessee

·      Meharry Medical College School of Medicine

·      East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine

·      University of Tennessee, Memphis College of Medicine

·      Vanderbilt University School of Medicine *

Texas

·      Baylor College of Medicine *

·      Texas A&M University Health Sciences Center College of Medicine

·      Texas Tech University School of Medicine

·      University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

·      McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center *

·      University of Texas, San Antonio Medical School *

·      University of Texas, Southwestern Med Center - Dallas *

·      University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine

Utah

·      University of Utah School of Medicine

Vermont

·      University of Vermont College of Medicine

Virginia

·      Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

·      University of Virginia School of Medicine *

Washington

·      University of Washington School of Medicine *

West Virginia

·      Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine

·      West Virginia University School of Medicine

Wisconsin

·      Medical College of Wisconsin *

·      University of Wisconsin Medical School *

List of MD-PhD Programs in Canada

·      McGill University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences Montreal, Quebec

·      McMaster University of Faculty of Health Sciences Hamilton, Ontario

·      Memorial University of Newfoundland St. John’s, Newfoundland

·      Queen’s University School of Medicine Kingston, Ontario

·      Universite de Montreal Faculte de Medecine Montréal, Québec

·      Universite de Sherbrooke Faculte de Medecine Sherbrooke, Quebec

·      Universite Laval Faculte de Medecine Québec, Québec

·      University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry Edmonton, Alberta

·      University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine Calgary, Alberta

·      University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine Vancouver, British Columbia

·      University of Manitoba Winnipeg, Manitoba

·      University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine Ottawa

·      University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine Toronto, Ontario

·      University of Western Ontario London, Ontario

What is an MD-PhD Program?

MD-PhD programs allow you to obtain a dual degree in medicine and research. When deciding between MD-PhD vs MD programs, it is important to know what MD-PhD programs entail. Upon graduation, students receive a combined degree with advanced, hands-on research training and expertise in a field of their choice.

“MD-PhD … students enter their first year of medical school and complete their pre-clerkship years. During this period they are likely exploring what they are interested in, solidifying their focus in research and seeking supervisors. Then they will take approximately 5 years off of their medical training to complete their PhD. They will then re-engage in their medical training completing their clerkship training, which will complete their program. MD-PhD is a rigorous program and the committee is looking for individuals who are academically strong and possess research skills to succeed in the PhD program. Applicants should be strong clinicians, thus having a breadth of leadership, extracurricular, volunteerism and research experience.” - Dr Jacquelyn Paquet, MD


Is the MD-PhD Program Right for Me?

The MD-PhD program is for exceptional students interested in a career in medical research, but you’ll still need to be a well-rounded medical school applicant.

“For the MD-PhD they are wanting individuals to possess additional research skills, however recognizing the unique leadership positions of those with doctoral degrees, they are often situated in academic centers, thus involved in administrative and teaching roles as well! They are still wanting applicants to be strong clinicians, thus having a breadth of leadership, extracurricular, volunteerism and research experience are sought.” – Dr. Jacquelyn Paquet, MD.

Keep in mind that even if you choose not to pursue a dual degree program, MDs can still earn their PhDs—and vice versa!

“I pursued a PhD during residency. I had considered doing a MD-PhD as it would provide more opportunities to focus on research prior to initiating my residency training. I opted to complete my MD first and pursue my MSc and PhD during residency as I was concerned about having 5 years off between my pre-clerkship and clerkship years would impact my clinical skills.” – Dr. Jacquelyn Paquet, MD.

Struggling to decide between MD-PhD and MD programs? Check out our video below!

MD-PhD Program Admission Requirements

The most important admission requirements and prerequisites for MD-PhD programs are your research background and lab experience. MD-PhD programs require the completion of a four-year undergraduate degree and background in the following disciplines:

These medical school prerequisites are the baseline. Your academic record should include a variety of science and non-science courses. Admissions committees will note your coursework’s difficulty levels and academic improvement over time.

Check with your program of choice for specific course requirements.

We’ve compiled a list of our top tips for getting accepted into an MD-PhD program, based on expert advice and experience:

GPA and MCAT

According to the latest AAMC statistics, the average GPA of MD-PhD matriculants is 3.7, while the average MCAT score is 511. If your academic record does not reflect these numbers, you need to get your grades up. Here are four ways you can start to get into medical school with a low GPA.

  1. Re-enroll in classes you performed poorly in and get a higher grade.
  2. Ask your instructors and teaching assistants for extra credit assignments.
  3. Find a tutor to help with areas where you struggle.
  4. Plan your school schedule to include subjects in which you excel.

Your MCAT score is an indicator of your academic prowess. Before you take the test, make sure you know what is a good MCAT score and when to start studying for the MCAT. Here are four strategies that can help your MCAT score.

  1. Give yourself ample time to prepare.
  2. Start by taking an MCAT practice test to determine areas for improvement.
  3. Create an MCAT study schedule.
  4. Take multiple practice tests to monitor improvement. If you consistently score at the 90% percentile in your practice tests, you can start planning to take the actual MCAT.

If you’re still wondering “When should I take the MCAT?”, read our blog for tips.

CASPer Test

If your schools require the completion of the Acuity Insights Suite, you will complete the Duet profile and CASPer test. Preparing for each component is challenging, but CASPer remains the most intimidating.

The CASPer test is an online situational judgment test designed to assess the suitability of students applying to professional schools. The timed format is challenging, so knowing how the CASPer test is scored is helpful. Learn how to prepare for CASPer and review these CASPer practice questions to ace your test!

“Thanks to BEMO I got a 4th quartile on my casper test!!!!! It took me long to understand the BEMO structure but practice and great coaching made the difference. Without BEMO I would of probably gotten a 2. So don’t hesitate signing up with them, if you are committed, you will also get a 4! Also, buy the BEMO casper book!” - Mike, Former BeMo Student


Essays

You will need to submit a total of three essays for the MD-PhD program:

  1. Your personal statement,
  2. The research interest statement, and
  3. The MD PhD essay.

Note: If you’re applying through TMDSAS, you will need to submit the Dual Degree essay along with the other essay application components.

“In your personal statement you want to highlight your breadth and skillset in research and areas of interest. You also want to highlight how completing a PhD will make you a stronger clinician and if you are aware, how you see yourself fulfilling the roles of researcher and clinician.” – Dr. Jacquelyn Paquet, MD.

While your medical school personal statement answers the question “Why do you want to be a doctor?”, the MD-PhD specific essays demonstrate your research expertise and explain why you have chosen to pursue an MD-PhD. The significant research experience essay outlines your most valuable research experiences, including the nature of the work, your role and contributions, project length, and details about the principal investigators. Your MD-PhD essay tells the story of how you became involved in scientific research and how you want to apply your research to medical practice.

“I used BeMo consulting when applying to my MD/PhD programs this year. As a first time applicant to these programs, it can be overwhelming. Luckily, BeMo’s services are helpful and easy-to-use. They have a fast response and helped me greatly in writing my essays." -- Zhinan Liu, former BeMo student.


Want to know how to write an MD-PhD essay? Check out our video below!

Research Experience

As an MD-PhD program applicant, you must have research experience to demonstrate your exposure to research methods and techniques.

Dr. Monica Taneja, BeMo expert and Psychiatry resident at Harvard South Shore, reminds students that it is important to consider your own passion when finding research opportunities, not focusing solely on what you think the admission committee is looking for.

“I definitely felt that public health gave me a lot of unique opportunities to delve into research related to the social determinants of health and health equity. I noticed that research in this area was not as common compared to basic science or clinical research.” - Dr. Monica Taneja, MD, Harvard South Shore – Psychiatry.

 

Make sure you can identify what you learned from your research experiences – you will have to outline valuable lessons and skills you acquired in multiple parts of your MD-PhD application and interviews. To bolster your research background, try looking for research assistant positions.

  • Talk to your instructors and teaching assistants about participating in their research projects.
  • Check for research position postings on your school’s website.
  • Reach out to former instructors and ask about research opportunities.
  • Contact physicians you volunteered with or shadowed to find out if they are involved in research projects. Even if they are not, physicians can often recommend research-oriented organizations and medical professionals.

You need a strong application, including a research assistant cover letter and CV, to apply to research positions. If academia is your passion, you might want to look into special master’s programs. These graduate degrees are designed to enhance students’ medical school applications and may improve the quality of your research background.

Clinical Experience and Shadowing

Clinical experience is one of the essential extracurriculars for medical school, and having no clinical background will decrease your chances of being accepted to an MD-PhD program.

You can gain clinical experience through:

  • Working and volunteering in clinics, hospitals, and hospices.
  • Volunteering in long-term care and retirement homes.
  • Working as a health professional’s assistant.
  • Volunteering as a medical scribe or a personal caretaker.

Shadowing a physician can also increase your knowledge of clinical practice. Take note of memorable lessons you learn – they may be invaluable sources for your MD-PhD essays. Make sure you know how many shadowing hours are required for medical school to fulfill the requirement and how to ask to shadow a doctor.

Dr. Neel Mistry, MD, a graduate from the University of Ottawa medical school and a BeMo admissions expert, says this about his clinical experience:

“These experiences helped solidify my passion for medicine and why I wanted to become a doctor. I was able to draw on these experiences during my medical school application and the interview process.” - Dr Neel Mistry, MD


MD-PhD Residency

As an MD-PhD student, you need to find residencies developed to train physician-scientists by fully integrating research into clinical training. The number of residency programs for MD-PhDs is growing, and a wide range of clinical specialty choices exist. During your dual degree program, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to explore research in different medical specialties.

“By having an area of focus, it allows you to explore if you do want to indeed be a clinician-scientist in the area you have considered or if you have a different scope of the project that might lend itself better to a complimentary specialty. For instance, someone who is interested in head and neck cancers may be quite interested in pursuing otolaryngology however when they focus on their project, they recognize that they prefer the radiology or oncologic treatments and thus pursue interventional radiology, radiation oncology or oncology.” – Dr. Jacquelyn Paquet, MD.

You will use the ERAS application to apply to American residency programs and CaRMS to apply to programs in Canada.

FAQs

1. WHAT ARE MY CAREER OPTIONS WITH AN MD-PHD?

Individuals with an MD-PhD have career options across academia, research institutions, healthcare organizations, and private industry. The versatility of an MD-PhD equips graduates to make significant contributions to medical practice and scientific innovation.

Career paths for MD-PhDs include:

  • Academic careers, working in universities or medical schools, where time is shared between patient care, teaching, and conducting research.
  • Leadership roles within healthcare organizations, directing research programs or shaping healthcare policy.
  • Private industry, such as pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology firms, or healthcare consulting.
  • Government agencies, advancing medical research and public health initiatives.

2. HOW LONG ARE MOST MD-PHD PROGRAMS?

MD-PhD programs can take up to 8 years to complete. Factors influencing the duration include clinical and PhD requirements and research progress. Two common tracks are the 2-3-2 or 2-4-2, involving initial MD coursework, followed by PhD research, and concluding with clinical training.

3. IS IT HARDER TO GET INTO AN MD-PHD PROGRAM?

Getting into an MD-PhD program can be harder because you have to meet the admission requirements for both the MD and PhD programs, and have research experience. MD-PhD programs can be very selective and highly competitive.  

4. ARE THERE ANY FUNDED MD-PHD PROGRAMS?

MD-PhD program funding can include tuition waivers and a stipend to help cover the costs of living expenses. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) provides financial support to dozens of MD-PhD programs through the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). These programs are extremely competitive as the funding offers a tuition allowance and a basic stipend, with most institutions supplementing the stipend.

5. DO I STILL NEED TO GET CLINICAL AND SHADOWING EXPERIENCE IF I AM APPLYING TO THE COMBINED PROGRAM?

While research is going to be the major focus of the MD-PhD, you must still have sufficient clinical and shadowing experience to assure that medicine is also a desired component of your career.

6. SHOULD I GET A MASTER’S DEGREE BEFORE I APPLY TO MD-PHD?

Most applicants do not have master’s degrees. However, some students pursue a special master’s program to gain valuable research experience and bolster their MD-PhD applications.

7. WHAT IS A GOOD RESEARCH EXPERIENCE FOR MD-PHD?

You do not need to have research experience in the medical field to qualify for MD-PhD. Many research skills are transferable across disciplines. As long as you learn valuable research skills and understand the process, your research experience can come from any field you like.

8. HOW MUCH RESEARCH EXPERIENCE DO I NEED TO GET ACCEPTED?

The quality of your research experience is most important. It is not necessary to be involved in dozens of research projects or make any ground-breaking scientific discoveries to enter the MD-PhD program. In your application, focus on what you have learned and accomplished and don't be afraid to discuss your setbacks in addition to your accomplishments.

9. DO I NEED TO BE A PUBLISHED RESEARCHER TO ENTER THE MD-PHD PROGRAM?

Having published research can give you a competitive edge as not every applicant will have this experience. Keep in mind that you must have an in-depth understanding of this research because you will be asked about it during your interviews. However, many students apply directly out of undergrad and admissions committees understand that it is difficult to contribute to publication at such an early stage in your education.

10. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MD-PHD AND MSTP?

Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) is an MD-PhD program that has been awarded a training grant (T32) from the National Institute of General Medical Science that financially supports trainees in the program. There are currently about 49 MD-PhD programs that have T32 awards. Non-MSTP MD-PhD programs also provide environments where students obtain outstanding dual-degree training.

11. WHO SHOULD WRITE MY RECOMMENDATION LETTERS FOR THIS TYPE OF PROGRAM?

Ideally, at least one of your writers will be the head of a research project in which you participated. It is important to have a person who can speak to your research skills and progress. Other writers can include professors and instructors, volunteer and work supervisors, athletics coaches, or a physician you worked with or whom you shadowed.

12. CAN I CHANGE MY RESEARCH INTERESTS DURING MY STUDIES, OR WILL I HAVE TO STICK TO THE RESEARCH FIELD I IDENTIFIED IN MY PERSONAL STATEMENT AND MY MD PHD ESSAY?

It is completely normal to change direction in your research throughout your studies and many students change their research fields after they gain more research experience.

13. CAN I BECOME A PHYSICIAN-SCIENTIST WITHOUT OBTAINING AN MD-PHD DEGREE?

It is certainly possible to become a physician-scientist without obtaining an MD-PhD degree. However, the joint program is the most effective way to become a physician-scientist. You can also complete an MD and PhD separately, but this route takes much longer. Some schools will let you transfer into their MD-PhD program if you've completed a year or two in their medical program.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting


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