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History of Student Research

Overview and History of Student Research at Yale School of Medicine

The Yale System of medical education is designed to foster critical judgement, acquisition of knowledge, and commitment to improving the health of all persons and communities, through the habits of self-education, imagination, and scholarship. Central to these goals is the development of research skills, which enable Yale students to ask and answer questions according to the high standards of ethics and rigor befitting the physician's role in patient care.

Presentation of thesis has been one of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Medicine at Yale for over 180 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 from either laboratory or clinical realms.

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.” Over time the research program has been formalized to include curricular aspects and dedicated time for experiential learning. It culminates in the submission of a written thesis in order to graduate. This requirement has evolved and flourished to its present form and is enthusiastically endorsed by students and faculty as a central component of the “Yale System” of general medical education.

To this day, the Yale School of Medicine continues the tradition of required medical student research, broadly defined as the discovery of new knowledge through the generation and/or analysis of data. The creative discipline required to carry out a project and prepare a thesis enables each student to become a physician-scholar, whether their ultimate objective is research, education, clinical practice, administration, advocacy, activism, or other careers. The research experience at YSM teaches students how to critically appraise existing evidence to establish a strong premise for their projects; specify a clear, significant, and innovative research question; collect and analyze data using rigorous methods that adhere to all relevant ethical standards and regulations; and clearly communicate research findings in written, spoken, and digital forms to maximize their impact on communities of interest. As such, the completion of the YSM research program and thesis will enable students to evaluate data critically for the rest of their professional lives.