Cooperative Program between University of Puerto Rico Medical School, Yale School of Medicine & Yale Graduate School

Yale School of Medicine (YSM)

Overview of Program

While at Yale, students will participate in Yale MD/PhD Program activities, including graduate level courses specifically designed for physician-scientists, seminars on research projects in progress, departmental retreats, and other educational and social activities that the Program conducts. They will be matched with a faculty mentor who will provide academic guidance, and become part of the Big Sib/Little Sib Program that pairs senior MD/PhD students with newly admitted students. Students will be provided with information concerning potential research mentors at Yale during their first year of medical school.

The Directors of this Cooperative Program will assist UPR-MSC students in selection of mentors for their summer rotation at Yale and will provide similar guidance throughout the following years of their Ph.D. training. They will also provide career mentoring and be involved as ad hoc thesis committee members as currently done for Yale MD/PhD students in the final phases of their research. Yale will help secure the funding for the Ph.D. portion of the student’s training. This Cooperative Program will be administered from Puerto Rico by Dr. Ricardo González-Méndez and from Yale by the MD/PhD Program, specifically Drs. Daniel Colón-Ramos, Fred Gorelick and Barbara Kazmierczak.

University of Puerto Rico

Application and Admissions Process

Prospective students will apply simultaneously to UPR-MSC and one of the eight tracks within Yale’s Combined Program in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences (BBS) through each institution’s respective online application process (Application deadlines for both are December 1, 2017). The admission process for UPR-MSC School of Medicine starts in December and ends by mid-March, at which time Yale will provide its decision on the admission to the Ph.D. program. 

Qualifying applications will be reviewed by a combined committee at Yale consisting of Dr. Tony Koleske, Director of the Biological & Biomedical Sciences Program, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) of the Ph.D. Program to which the student has indicated an interest at Yale, the MD/PhD Faculty Committee, and Associate Dean Richard Sleight. UPR-MSC applicants will travel to New Haven to be interviewed for the Ph.D. portion of their dual-degree training at the expense of the Ph.D. program.

For instructions on how to apply to Yale's BBS program, please click here.

Criteria for admissions will include:

  1. Grades and MCAT scores;
  2. Research experience;
  3. Letters of recommendation;
  4. Interpersonal characteristics of maturity, leadership, etc.;
  5. Goals and vision for the future, and
  6. Proficiency in English. Any applicant whose native language is not English must take the International English Language Test (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

Acceptance to the Yale Program will be based on the above-mentioned criteria, a formal interview, and final approval by the Yale Graduate School. Formal admission offers will be issued by the Yale Graduate School and co-signed by the BBS Director, and the Yale MD/PhD Program. We anticipate that 2-3 students a year will participate in this Program. The Admissions Committees retain the final authority to admit students to their respective schools, and students must be accepted to both in order to participate in the Cooperative MD/PhD Program. Admission to UPR-MSC does not guarantee admission to the Cooperative MD/PhD Program.

Two options will be offered for participation in this dual-degree program:

  1. Students in this pilot program will apply simultaneously to UPR-MSC and the Yale Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (Yale Graduate School), i.e., prior to matriculation at UPR-MSC. Students applying before matriculation must be admitted to UPR-MSC before their applications will be reviewed by Yale, and/or
  2. Students who have completed one year of medical training at UPR-MSC and who have demonstrated exceptional abilities may apply to the Yale Graduate School. These students must receive permission from UPR-MSC before submitting an application to Yale and submit a document package to the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the School of Medicine which will include the criteria for admissions listed above, as well as medical school transcripts and a letter indicating interest in being considered for admission to the Cooperative UPR-MSC-YSM MD/PhD Program.

If accepted: Years 1-3

Students admitted to this Cooperative Program are required to complete the first three years of the Medicine Program (curricular sequence) at UPR-MSC. This is essential in order for students to gain sufficient clinical experience to carry out longitudinal clinical experiences at Yale. This will also provide them with sufficient medical school background as they must successfully complete USMLE Step I & Step II, prior to beginning the Ph.D. During the first year of medical school, UPR-MSC students will be provided with information on potential Yale mentors and research projects in order to give them the information needed to engage in a summer rotation. 

Students in the Cooperative Program will come to Yale during the summer after completing their 1st year of medical school for 8 weeks to complete a laboratory rotation with the intention of building familiarity with Yale and exploring research opportunities in Ph.D. departments. Potential Ph.D. mentors will be approved by Dr. Daniel Colón-Ramos and Dr. Barbara Kazmierczak. During this time, the students will also meet with the Director of Graduate Studies of the proposed Ph.D. program to discuss coursework. Upon completion of the summer experience and return to Puerto Rico, UPR-MSC students will continue their medical school requirements through their third year and also complete USMLE Steps I & II. Initiation of the Ph.D. portion of the Program requires successful completion of USMLE Steps I & II. After completion of the third year of medical studies, students will return to Yale. They will have an option to complete two additional rotations and identify an advisor. They will register for courses in the Graduate School and will formally affiliate with a Ph.D. program by the start of the spring semester. This timeline will put them in sync with other MD/PhD students at Yale. 

As with current Yale MD/PhD students, students in the Cooperative Program will be assigned faculty mentors who will be responsible for monitoring the progress of each student and making periodic reports to the MD/PhD Program. Dr. Marietta Vazquez, an Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Nursing at Yale Medical School, will serve as a secondary faculty mentor for all students in the program, and as a liaison to the Yale Graduate School. Dr. Vazquez is sensitive to the issues of graduate students and will address matters dealing with student life and cultural changes. She will provide input to the Cooperative Program’s co-directors at the end of each semester. Each term the directors will notify members of the Combined Degrees Committee at UPR-MSC, concerning the students’ progress. 

Because UPR-MSC students accepted in the Cooperative Program will be away from Yale for 2 years prior to beginning their Ph.D. research, it will be important to maintain continuity with their Ph.D. programs and mentors. Students will return to New Haven annually to attend the MD/PhD Program’s Annual Retreat, a two-day, mandatory activity for MD/PhD students. During this time, the UPR-MSC students will have an opportunity to talk to their thesis mentor about ongoing progress in the lab, and to begin to integrate with the current MD/PhD students.

The MD/PhD Program will also organize the following activities:

  1. Video conferencing with UPR-MSC of bi-monthly Research in Progress seminars to enable the students to keep updated on ongoing research being conducted by the current senior MD/PhD students;
  2. Podcasting of an advanced graduate level cell biology course entitled, Cellular & Molecular Basis of Human Disease, directed by Drs. Fred Gorelick and Karin Finberg. In this course, student participants interact with a basic or clinical investigator at Yale to explore the role of cellular and molecular biology which will constitute the basis of translational medicine; and
  3. Podcasting of an ongoing medical school course, Bedside to Bench: Seminar in Pediatrics, in which student groups, in collaboration with a clinical investigator, compile a diagnostic workup of a pediatric patient with the goal of understanding mechanisms and potential therapies for childhood diseases.

If accepted: Year 4 to Graduation

The students’ progress on the dissertation research and advanced coursework will be guided by the DGS of the Ph.D. Program. During this portion of the training, students would participate fully in activities of the MD/PhD Program at Yale, including an optional longitudinal clinical experience, which will be arranged by Dr. Tamar Taddei, Associate Director for Clinical Affairs for the MD/PhD Program. 

The UPR-MSC Ph.D. candidates must meet all of the academic requirements of their doctoral programs, including 2 terms of teaching and completion of the required Ph.D. courses. Any exceptions to coursework requirements will be addressed on a case-by-case basis by the Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Dean Richard Sleight of the Yale Graduate School. Completion of the PhD requirements is estimated at 4 years. Writing, defense and submission of the thesis is subject to approval by the PhD thesis committee. Failure to meet all of the academic requirements will lead to administrative withdrawal from the Graduate School. 

Upon successful completion of the dissertation research and required course work, the Ph.D. will be awarded by Yale University. Students will return to UPR-MSC for the remainder of their medical training. The expectation is that the MD degree will not be awarded prior to the completion of the Ph.D. requirements. It is anticipated that the collaborative Program will generally require 7-8 years to complete. 

UPR-MSC will award the MD degree and Yale University will award the Ph.D. degree. During their enrollment at UPR-MSC, students will complete all of the requirements of the medical school curriculum. During their enrollment at Yale, students will complete all of the requirements for the Ph.D.

An academic timetable for the dual-dgree program

Year in Program School Courses Comments
1st year MD UPR-MSC Med School Applications are received by Yale in coordination with other admissions deadlines. UPR-MSC applicants interested in the Cooperative Program travel to New Haven to be interviewed for the Ph.D. portion of the Program. The applicant pool consists of students simultaneously applying to UPR-MSC & Yale and students currently enrolled in their first year at UPR-MSC and are interested in the MD/PhD. The MD/PhD Program will provide a list of potential mentors for summer lab rotations.
Summer after Yr 1 (June-Aug) Yale Lab Rotations Students become familiar with Yale and explore research opportunities in their area of interest for the Ph.D. MD/PhD Program provides guidance in selecting a thesis mentor; student meets with DGS to discuss courses.
2nd year MD UPR-MSC Med School Take USMLE Step I during the Summer; Assignment of MD/PhD Faculty Mentor; Participation in MD/PhD Program’s Retreat; view podcasts of relevant courses and seminars
3rd year MD UPR-MSC Med School Consult with DGS of Ph.D. program for graduate course selections. USMLE Step II. USMLE Steps I & II must be taken and passed. Participation in MD/PhD Program’s Retreat; view podcasts of relevant courses and seminars
4th year (full-time PhD) Yale Grad School courses Arrival at Yale (July-Sept) Opportunity to complete 2 additional rotations. Start taking Ph.D. courses; Finalize selection of dissertation advisor
5th year (full-time PhD) Yale Grad School Complete all remaining pre-dissertation requirements (Honors requirement, qualifying exam, dissertation prospectus, admission to candidacy, teaching)
6th year (full-time Ph.D.) Yale Grad School Complete all remaining pre-dissertation requirements; Participate in longitudinal clinical experience;
7th year Ph.D. Yale Grad School Participate in an optional longitudinal clinical experience and mentored by Dr. Tamar Taddei of the MD/PhD Program; Upon approval by PhD thesis committee, write, defend and submit Ph.D. thesis.
8th year MD* UPR-MSC Med School Return to Puerto Rico to complete MD requirements