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History of Student Research

The presentation of a dissertation has been one of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Medicine at Yale for over 179 years. Initially, case reports and reviews of literature predominated, but as the scientific method was established in medicine, the faculty required that dissertations presented be based on original investigation either in the laboratory or in the clinic. This experience is considered an important and essential phase of a curriculum which is designed to promote the development of critical judgment, habits of self-education, imagination and scholarship, as well as the acquisition of knowledge and research skills.

The first evidence that the thesis or dissertation was considered a requirement for the degree of Doctor of Medicine is in a statement in the catalog from 1839, which in part reads, “...the candidate must present a dissertation on some subject connected with the medical sciences.” This requirement remains in effect to the present time, and is enthusiastically endorsed by the faculty as a central component of the “Yale System” of general medical education.

The creative discipline required to carry out a project and prepare a thesis enables each student to become a physician-scholar, whether the ultimate objective is research, education, clinical practice or administration. Yale hopes to produce physicians who can evaluate data thoroughly and critically as they must do throughout their professional careers.

The M.D. thesis at Yale University teaches a student how to understand the scientific method from the inside, how to specify a clear research question, how to collect and evaluate data and communicate the knowledge to others, and how to think scientifically and critically for the rest of his/her professional life.

To this day, the Yale School of Medicine has carried on the tradition of required medical student research. This tradition is a hallmark of the Yale system of medical education.