So, you've heard about MD-PhD programs but you don't know much about them or even if it's the right program for you. Fear not, you've come to the right place! In this post I'm going to answer some of your top questions and give you my top 5 tips to get accepted. I'll cover:
The MD-PhD program allows you to obtain a dual degree in both medicine and research to become what is known as a physician-scientist or medical scientist. After graduation, students will receive a combined MD/PhD degree with advanced, hands-on research training and expertise in a particular field of their choice.
The MD-PhD program is definitely not an easy one, it is designed for exceptional students who have a true interest and commitment to a career in medical research. If you're only interested in becoming a practicing physician, that doesn't require a PhD, so the MD-PhD program is not the right choice for you. When considering if this program is well suited to your strengths and interests, ask yourself a variety of questions. Are you fascinated by the unknown? Do you find yourself asking why and how? Are you interested in a disease or condition that is commonly treated by physicians? Do you want to make new discoveries and implement what you've learned? Do you want to combine scientific research with medicine? If you feel a definite drive and determination to pursue medicine and research at the same time, the MD-PhD program is a perfect option.
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PhD programs on offer vary from school to school, therefore, depending on the school you apply to, you may not necessarily have to train in laboratory research. The vast majority of MD-PhD students obtain their PhD in biomedical laboratory fields of study. This includes genetics, neuroscience, and immunology. However, some schools offer research in fields outside of the laboratory in fields such as economics, public health and sociology.
The MD-PhD program length varies slightly between schools but is typically 7-8 years. Completing the MD-PhD program is a more efficient way of obtaining both degrees as opposed to completing an MD first and then pursuing a PhD, and vice versa. In the first two years of the program, you'll generally start in medical school training which is largely classroom-based. After that, you'll continue to grad school for research training where you'll complete your PhD thesis. Finally, you'll finish your final year or two at medical school completing clinical rotations. After graduation, you'll train in a residency program and can then be licensed to practice in the field of medicine as a medical scientist.
Having an MD PhD vs MD degree allows you to enjoy a career that combines both research and medicine. You have the opportunity for exploration, scientific discovery and medical intervention. Most MD-PhD graduates work in medical schools, research institutes or teaching hospitals, but there is also the option of working in public health, for pharmaceutical companies and even running your own lab.
It is certainly possible to become a physician-scientist without obtaining an MD-PhD degree. However, if you are lucky enough to know that you want a career based on medicine and research, the joint program is the most effective way to become a physician-scientist. You can complete an MD first and obtain a PhD afterward, or you could complete a PhD first and obtain your MD afterward, however, the disadvantage is that 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 a medical or graduate school program at their school. If you are a few years into a medical or graduate school program at a different school however, most schools will not accept your transfer, although it can happen on rare occasions.
If a school is offering an MD-PhD program, they are very aware of the difficulty in training to become a doctor and researcher at the same time. They value physician-scientists highly and fortunately, most programs offer some sort of funding opportunities to students. This can include tuition waivers and a stipend to help cover the costs of living expenses.The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)provides funding to 49 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.
Over 90 MD-PhD programs are offered by medical schools in the USA and Canada. I've included the full list below which is available on the AAMC website. In addition to this guide, the AAMC website is a great resource where you can find a variety of other helpful tools for MD-PhD prospective students.
University of Alabama School of Medicine Birmingham, Ala.
University of South Alabama College of Medicine Mobile, Ala.
University of Arizona College of Medicine Tucson, Ariz.
University of Arizona College of Medicine - Phoenix Phoenix, Ariz.
University of Arkansas College of Medicine Little Rock, Ark.
Loma Linda University School of Medicine Loma Linda, Calif.
Stanford University School of Medicine Stanford, Calif.
University of California, Davis School of Medicine Davis, Calif.
University of California, Irvine School of Medicine Irvine, Calif.
University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine Los Angeles, Calif.
University of California, San Diego School of Medicine La Jolla, Calif.
University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine San Francisco, Calif.
Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California Los Angeles, Calif.
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center Denver, Colo.
University of Connecticut School of Medicine Farmington, Conn.
Yale University School of Medicine New Haven, Conn.
District of Columbia
Georgetown University School of Medicine Washington, D.C.
Howard University College of Medicine Washington, D.C.
University of Florida College of Medicine Gainesville, Fla.
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Miami, Fla.
University of South Florida College of Medicine Tampa, Fla.
Emory University School of Medicine Atlanta, Ga.
Medical College of Georgia Augusta, Ga.
Morehouse School of Medicine Atlanta, Ga.
Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University Augusta, Ga.
University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine Honolulu, Hawaii
Northwestern University Medical School Chicago, Ill.
Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science - Chicago Medical School North Chicago, Ill.
Rush Medical College of Rush University Chicago, Ill.
University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine(MTSP) Chicago, Ill.
University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine Chicago, Ill.
Indiana University School of Medicine Indianapolis, Ind.
University of Iowa College of Medicine Iowa City, Iowa
University of Kansas School of Medicine Kansas City, Kan.
University of Kentucky College of Medicine Lexington, Ky.
University of Louisville School of Medicine Louisville, Ky.
Louisiana State University, New Orleans School of Medicine New Orleans, La.
Louisiana State University, Shreveport School of Medicine Shreveport, La.
Tulane University School of Medicine New Orleans, La.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, Md.
Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Bethesda, Md.
University of Maryland at Baltimore School of Medicine Baltimore, Md.
Boston University School of Medicine Boston, Mass.
Harvard Medical School Boston, Mass.
Tufts University School of Medicine Boston, Mass.
University of Massachusetts Medical School Worcester, Mass.
Michigan State University College of Medicine East Lansing, Mich.
University of Michigan Medical School Ann Arbor, Mich.
Wayne State University School of Medicine Detroit, Mich.
Mayo Medical School Rochester, Minn.
University of Minnesota Medical School Minneapolis, Minn.
University of Mississippi School of Medicine Jackson, Miss.
Saint Louis University School of Medicine St. Louis, Mo.
University of Missouri - Columbia School of Medicine Columbia, Mo.
University of Missouri - Kansas City School of Medicine Kansas City, Mo.
Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, Mo.
Creighton University School of Medicine Omaha, Neb.
University of Nebraska College of Medicine Omaha, Neb.
University of Nevada School of Medicine Reno, Nev.
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth Hanover, N.H.
University of New Mexico School of Medicine Albuquerque, N.M.
Albany Medical College Albany, N.Y.
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons New York, N.Y.
Hofstra North Shore - LIJ School of Medicine Hempstead, N.Y.
Mount Sinai School of Medicine New York, N.Y.
New York Medical College Valhalla, N.Y.
New York University School of Medicine New York, N.Y.
SUNY at Buffalo School of Medicine Buffalo, N.Y.
SUNY at Stony Brook Health Sciences Center Stony Brook, N.Y.
SUNY Downstate Medical Center College of Medicine Brooklyn, N.Y.
SUNY Upstate Medical University Syracuse, N.Y.
University of Rochester School of Medicine Rochester, N.Y.
Wake Forest School of Medicine Winston-Salem, N.C.
Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University Greenville, N.C.
Duke University School of Medicine Durham, N.C.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine Chapel Hill, N.C.
University of North Dakota School of Medicine Grand Forks, N.D.
Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine Cleveland, Ohio
Northeastern Ohio College of Medicine Rootstown, Ohio
Ohio State University College of Medicine Columbus, Ohio
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Cincinnati, Ohio
University of Toledo College of Medicine Toledo, Ohio
Wright State University School of Medicine Dayton, Ohio
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center Oklahoma City, Okla.
Oregon Health Sciences University School of Medicine Portland, Ore.
Drexel University College of Medicine Philadelphia, Pa.
Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University Philadelphia, Pa.
Penn State University College of Medicine Hershey, Pa.
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine Philadelphia, Pa.
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Pittsburgh, Pa.
Temple University School of Medicine Philadelphia, Pa.
Brown University School of Medicine Providence, R.I.
Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, S.C.
University of South Carolina School of Medicine Columbia, S.C.
University of South Dakota School of Medicine Vermillion, S.D.
East Tennessee State University James H. Quillen College of Medicine Johnson City, Tenn.
Meharry Medical College School of Medicine Nashville, Tenn.
University of Tennessee, Memphis College of Medicine Memphis, Tenn.
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Nashville, Tenn.
Baylor College of Medicine Houston, Texas
Texas Tech University School of Medicine Lubbock, Texas
University of Texas at Austin Austin, Texas
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston Galveston, Texas
University of Texas, Houston Medical School Houston, Texas
University of Texas, San Antonio Medical School San Antonio, Texas
University of Texas, Southwestern Med Center - Dallas Dallas, Texas
University of Utah School of Medicine Salt Lake City, Utah
University of Vermont College of Medicine Burlington, Vt.
Eastern Virginia Medical School Norfolk, Va.
Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine Richmond, Va.
University of Virginia School of Medicine Charlottesville, Va.
University of Washington School of Medicine Seattle, Wash.
Marshall University School of Medicine Huntington, W.Va.
West Virginia University School of Medicine Morgantown, W.Va.
Medical College of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Wisc.
University of Wisconsin Medical School Madison, Wisc.
McGill University Faculty of Medicine Montreal, Quebec
McMaster University of Faculty of Health Sciences Hamilton, Ontario
Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty of Medicine St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador
Universite de Montreal Faculte de Medecine Montreal, Quebec
Universite de Sherbrooke Faculte de Medecine Sherbrooke, Quebec
Universite Laval Faculte de Medecine Quebec, Quebec
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 Saskatchewan College of Medicine Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine Toronto, Ontario
University of Western Ontario London, Ontario
University of Alabama, Birmingham, AL
Stanford University, Stanford, CA
University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Fransisco, CA
University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, CO
Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT
Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago, IL
University of Chicago, Chicago, IL
University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL
Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN
University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD
Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA
University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI
University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, MN
Mayo Medical School, Rochester, MN
Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO
Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, NY
Columbia University, New York, NY
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY
New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY
Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY
University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
Weill Cornell/Rockefeller/Sloan-Kettering, New York, NY
Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH
Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus, OH
University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, OH
Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine, Portland, OR
Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA
University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN
Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX
University of Texas Health Science Center Houston, Houston, TX
University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, VA
University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA
Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI
University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI
Applying to an MD-PhD program is essentially the same as applying to an MD program. If you haven't already done so, you will have to write the MCAT. Check out our blogs for the current MCAT test and release dates and to find out when to start studying for MCAT. Almost all programs use the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) where you have a chance to apply as an MD-PhD applicant. As with MD programs, some will require a CV for graduate school, along with a statement of purpose. The only difference is that for MD-PhD applicants, you will be required to provide two additional essays: the first should answer why you want to pursue MD-PhD training, the second should showcase your research experience. There are a few programs that are using an alternative service for accepting applications, so be sure to check which service your program is using.
Want to know how to write the MD-PhD essay? Check out our video below!
Average mean scores for MD-PhD matriculants in the US:
MCAT CPBS: 129
MCAT CARS: 128
MCAT BBLS: 129
MCAT PSBB: 129
MCAT Total: 516
GPA Science: 3.77
GPA Non- Science: 3.84
GPA Total: 3.80
1. Gain extensive research experience.
Admissions into MD-PhD programs are highly competitive, and your research experience is essential to your success in gaining entry into the program. You must be able to demonstrate a longstanding commitment to research. Be sure to start gaining experience as soon as possible and try to diversify that experience. For example, you could work in a medical laboratory, research hospital and for a pharmaceutical company. While it is a start to work as a lab tech, the majority of your experience should be focussed on hypothesis-based research. The admissions committee will be interested in your ability and experience in developing a hypothesis into a research problem, testing that hypothesis by conducting research and generating a report to document your findings. Try to tailor your research experiences to the field in which you want to pursue, experiences in the biomedical sciences are very useful but not necessarily required if you'll be studying in fields outside of the laboratory.
2. Contribute to publications.
Try to publish your research findings or contribute to publications to help demonstrate the active role you played in conducting research. This can be a great way to give you a competitive edge as not all candidates have been published or have contributed to publications. If you have been published or contributed to a publication, even if you only played a small role, be sure you are very familiar with the paper and major details surrounding the research. During your interview, the admissions committee will ask you questions about the research you participated in and will want to see your thorough understanding of that research. In a previous blog, we discuss some common and difficult graduate school interview questions as well as common med school interview questions be sure you review these to help you prepare for your interview.
3. Develop good relationships with your research mentor.
It is very important to develop good relationships with your research mentors straight away. When you apply to MD-PhD programs, you'll have to provide letters of recommendation and the best recommendations will come from a mentor who has spent a long time with you, has been able to directly assess your research skills and has a strong relationship with you.
4. Gain shadowing experience.
Gaining shadowing experience is important for students applying to an MD program so it's no different for those interested in MD-PhD programs. Remember, you are not only demonstrating your passion for research, you should also be interested in becoming a clinical doctor. Shadowing is a great way to learn quickly in a medical environment and gives you excellent experiences that can be discussed in your application or during your interviews. Be sure to review our blog to find out how to ask to shadow a doctor.
5. Volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities.
Community projects and extracurriculars for medical school are a great way to demonstrate a variety of skills desired by the admissions committee such as leadership, teamwork, commitment and problem-solving. Whether you are a tutor, a teaching assistant, or are even part of a debate club, your experiences and what you gained or learned from them are essential. Check out our blog on volunteering to find out how many hours of volunteering you need for medical school as well as the best type of volunteer activity to make your application stand out.
Want a quick recap? Check out our video below:
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About the Author:
BeMo’s founder and CEO, Dr. Behrouz Moemeni, is an internationally renowned admissions expert. His motivation-based admissions screening strategy has appeared in Diverse Issues in Higher Education, University World News, and Nature Jobs. He regularly presents thought-provoking presentations to an international audience including appearances at TEDx and Beyond Sciences Initiative. He is also the author of the book 14 Rules for Admissions Screening in Higher Ed: An Antidote to Bias. He is compelled by a vision to change the education system. He believes everyone deserves access to higher education. Specifically, he is determined to create and provide admissions and educational training programs that reduce the barriers to access in higher education.
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