MD-PhD Timeline


In general, our students finish the combined MD-PhD degree in about 8 years – approximating the national average. Our timeline in the Program is roughly divided into three blocks:

Years 1 to 2½:

Years 1 to 2 1/2 Summary Points:

  • Discuss course selection with Dr. Kazmierczak or your Faculty Mentor
  • You must earn 2 Honors within the first 2 years of the Program to satisfy the Graduate School's Honors requirement
  • Start thinking about your future research interests
  • Every student should plan on doing two 6-week laboratory rotations during the summer after the first year.
  • Step I of the Boards must be taken by the end of Year 2.

The preclinical years consist of taking medical school courses with your fellow MD classmates with the addition of electives designed for MD-PhD and MDs who are on a physician-scientist track designed so that students can work with mentors and explore areas in depth such as cell biology, molecular biology and the neurosciences. These electives also satisfy some of the graduate program requirements.

During the summer between the first and second years, students will carry out 2 rotations with prospective research mentors. Selecting the labs in which you will rotate is one of the most important things you will do during your first year, since hopefully one of the people with whom you rotate will become your PhD thesis advisor. You should start thinking about the disciplines that interest you and the faculty members whose work you find interesting as soon as possible. Our entire MD-PhD faculty is actively involved in helping you make appropriate choices – including avoiding inappropriate situations!

At the end of the second year which consists of integrated system modules, students carry out 6 months of clinical rotations prior to affiliating with a graduate program and thesis mentor in the beginning of the third year of the Program. As noted before, this serves as the basis for longitudinal clinical experiences and individualized clinical activities during the PhD years, e.g., Wednesday Evening Clinic at the Primary Care Center of YNHH.

Keep in mind that the Graduate School requires you obtain two Honors during the first two years of the Program in order to continue in the Program. In order to satisfy this Graduate School requirement, there are several courses that first-year students should take. The Program's office is here to help you navigate through the PhD Programs and their requirements. See Program Handbook.

Years 2½ to completion of the PhD:

Years 2 1/2 to Completion Summary Points:

  • By January of the 3rd year, a thesis lab should be identified
  • Students must defend their thesis prior to reentering the wards

The second block of training usually begins after completion of the 6 months of clinical rotations. Students typically take any required graduate courses for their PhD Program, qualify in their area, submit a thesis prospectus to the Graduate School and begin their thesis work. Students will select a thesis committee, which meets at least every 6 months. One of the Associate Directors will join your thesis committee toward the end of the research work in order to help the student finish the thesis in a timely fashion and plan for re-entry to medical school.

Re-entry to the Wards after defending thesis

It is essential that students who have been in the lab have the appropriate clinical skills when they return to the wards. The MD/PhD Program has determined that after a prolonged absence, i.e. one year or longer, the student must engage in a "warm-up" period. Students who have participated in a longitudinal experience generally do well when re-entering the clinical setting. It is vital that students have choices to accommodate their at times complicated schedules and laboratory commitments. One of our Associate Directors, Dr. Tamar Taddei, will meet with all students as they approach completion of their dissertation work to enable smooth warm-up experiences and timing of clerkships prior to re-entry to the wards.  Click here for more info.