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

Overview of Program

The Yale-UPR MD-PhD Cooperative Program allows students to obtain an MD from the University of Puerto Rico-Medical Science Campus (UPR-MSC) and a PhD from Yale School of Medicine’s Biomedical and Biological Sciences (Yale BBS) Program in approximately eight years. This program is targeted to those students who are committed to a research career in biomedical, translational, or health sciences, and who would meet the requirements for admission to both the PhD program at Yale and the MD program at UPR.

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 PhD 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.

Application and Admissions Process

University of Puerto Rico

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. 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 PhD program. Students must be accepted to both programs in order to participate in the Cooperative MD-PhD Program. Admission to UPR-MSC or to Yale BBS does not guarantee admission to the Cooperative MD-PhD 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 PhD 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 PhD portion of their dual-degree training at the expense of the PhD program.

For instructions on how to apply to Yale's BBS program, please click here. UPR Medical School application requirements can be found here.

Successful applicants have the following:

  • Strong academic record: GPA and MCAT scores
  • Independent research experience
  • Strong letters of recommendation
  • Interpersonal characteristics of maturity, leadership, etc.
  • Clearly articulated goals and career plans that incorporate research in Personal Statement
  • Proficiency in English (Any applicant whose native language is not English must demonstrate English proficiency by submitting IELTS or TOEFL scores.)

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.

Program Details

Years 1 to 3 at UPR-MSC:

Students are required to complete the first three years of the Medicine Program at UPR-MSC. Students go to Yale for eight weeks the summer after their first year of medical school to complete a laboratory rotation and to attend the Yale MD-PhD Program’s Annual Retreat. Directors of the Cooperative Program at Yale will assist UPR-MSC students in the selection of mentors for their summer rotations and will continue providing educational and career guidance during their PhD training.

Years 4 to 7 at Yale: Years four through seven of the program will be spent at Yale. The students will be involved with dissertation research and advanced coursework and will take the qualifying exam at Yale. They will participate fully in activities of the Yale MD-PhD Program, including two semesters of teaching, as well as various seminars, journal clubs, department retreats, and social/networking activities. The students’ progress on the dissertation research and advanced coursework will be guided by the DGS of the Ph.D. Program.

The UPR-MSC PhD candidates must meet all of the academic requirements of their doctoral programs, including 2 terms of teaching and completion of the required PhD 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 PhD 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 PhD 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 PhD 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 PhD.

Year 8 - Return to UPR-MSC and Graduation:

After receiving the PhD from Yale University, students will return to UPR-MSC for the remainder of their medical training and to receive their MD degree.


Yale will help secure the funding for the PhD portion of the student’s training, including tuition waiver and free health insurance, as well as a stipend.

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 PhD 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 PhD. The 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 PhD 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 PhD 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;
7th year Ph.D. Yale Grad School 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