Years 1 and 2
Year 3 and 4 through PhD Defense
During the summer following their 6 months of Integrated Clinical Clerkships, MD-PhD students study for and take USMLE Step I. There is also time to complete an additional research rotation, if necessary, and to take a vacation. The Step 1 exam must be taken by December 31 of Year 3. Students meet with their Director of Graduate Studies to formally affiliate with a PhD department and research laboratory at the start of Year 3 and complete program or department-specific coursework, teaching and qualifying examination requirements in Years 3 and 4. A thesis prospectus is submitted in Year 3 or 4, which coincides with participation in the MD-PhD Program’s Grant Writing Workshop to prepare NIH NRSA F30/F31 and other private foundation applications. Students are required to submit a first author paper and successfully write, defend and submit their PhD dissertation before returning to the wards in October or January of their penultimate year of training.
There is a strong emphasis on maintaining engagement in clinical activities during the PhD thesis years of the MD-PhD training. Clinical activity during research years is an explicit part of the IDP review process, and thesis advisors are informed that this is an encouraged training activity for dual-degree candidates. Most students participate in one or more longitudinal clinical experiences (LCEs) or the student-run “Wednesday Evening Clinic” (WEC) for which they receive elective credit. A student-organized monthly Clinical Reasoning Seminar employs a clinical case-based approach to review diagnosis, pathology and treatment/management with a clinical faculty expert. In addition to maintaining clinical fluency, customized LCEs allow students to explore clinical (sub)specialties related to their research work and interests and are precepted by physician-scientists whenever possible. These experiences allow students to gain a richer understanding of possible career paths for physician-scientists and expose them to the advantages and challenges of combining research with clinical care. Strategies to manage wellness and resilience in a physician-scientist career are discussed during annual program retreats and recurring Brown Bag lunch discussions, while a Curriculum in Leadership and Research Management for Physician-Scientists provides ongoing career development training and experiential learning to MD-PhD students.