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Is Medical Scientist Training Right for You?

First, the purview of the science curriculum in medical school is too broad for a student to be able to focus on any one area in great detail.  Thus, from a practical perspective, graduate training provides an unparalleled opportunity to thoroughly explore a subject.  It is the time to develop research skills, both those relating to techniques as well as those relating to effectively communicating about science, and to meet peers and mentors in your area of interest.  While it is true that medical doctors may pursue research careers, many of them will not have the advantages of such training and networking.   

Another consideration is the value of a dual degree program compared to the acquisition of each degree separately.  An integrated program is constructed to enhance both halves of the training experience of someone who wishes to join the clinical research community.  Maryland offers a monthly seminar series given by physician scientists on campus and graduate students in the program, a research oriented course for our students in the medical school years, and a clinical problem-solving course for those in the graduate school years.  Through these activities, a student is able to better see connections between the different components of their training, and never to suffer diminishment of their awareness of the connection between basic and applied science. Completing sequential degrees may not offer such opportunities for cross-pollination.

Finally, a simple desire to treat people coupled with a love for science are not usually sufficient driving forces to flourish in a Medical Scientist Training Program.  Rather, for some, the reason to pursue a dual degree is a personal need to be at the forefront of biomedical sciences. Others may want to open entirely new avenues of treatment to extend the therapeutic ability of all doctors.  Students in our program elucidate key cellular mechanisms, looking toward drug targets and other disease interventions.

Hence, an MSTP is for someone who is constantly curious.  It is for someone who is unsatisfied by simply being told the answers.  It is for someone who seeks to shape the future of medicine.  Is it for you?


Christina Perry Tise, former MSTP student, now a resident at Stanford, talks about her research in pursuit of her PhD.

As a student in the Medical Scientist Training Program, Christina Perry graduatde with an MD and a PhD in human genetics and genomic medicine. Christina worked in the laboratory of Dr. Alan Shuldiner, who is best known for his genetic studies in the Old Order Amish. Christina wants to become a physician scientist to treat patients with genetic illnesses and work in a molecular diagnostic genetics laboratory.