Students normally enter the program as medical students and complete the two years of pre-clinical training in the medical school. Students then enter the formal training of the PhD years, pursuing the PhD program of their choice. (Find more information on available PhD Programs.) Regardless of which PhD program they choose, students complete their thesis work in 3 to 4 years. During this time, students are also required to complete a longitudinal clinical experience in an area related to their thesis work.
MD/PhD students are expected to write fellowship applications to NIH (called National Research Service Awards or NRSAs) or other funding agencies. These grants are generally submitted in the first year of your PhD training.
The general sequence of training is depicted in the schematic below. The diagram depicts the training activities in all years of the program and illustrates the basic core curricula.
Summer Research Symposium
All MSTP students receive quantitative training through a series of well-conceived research rotations. At the end of the first and second years of medical school, each student is required to perform a summer lab rotation under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Typically, this rotation should last for at least 10 weeks. At the end of this experience, the Summer Research Symposium provides a forum for our students to present and display their accomplishments from their laboratory experience to the entire MD/PhD student population and the MSTP Advisory Committee. The students then receive an evaluation of their rotation experience.
Summer Research Rotations
MSTP students are required to participate in summer research experiences after the MS 1 and MS 2 years. These 10 week rotations are carefully planned between the Mentor and the student and are preapproved by MSTP Advisory Committee. The goal is to provide in-depth research experiences that may lead toward decisions about PhD thesis projects. These rotations count toward 2 months of MS 4 elective credit.
Graduate Program Orientations
The MS I students have a series of graduate program orientation meetings in the Fall semester. These are a series of lunch meetings with Program Directors and MSTP students in the program. Students learn about the curriculum, requirements and exemptions for MSTP students, and the major research tracks within each program. MSTP students are encouraged to follow up these sessions with meetings with individual faculty members to explore possible research opportunities for summer rotations.
All MSTP students are encouraged and guided to submit individual fellowship applications to support their research. While not necessary for the funding support, this activity provides outstanding training in successful grant writing and is an excellent addition to their CVs. Our students have successfully competed for national awards from agencies such as the NIH, American Heart Association, and Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Annual Meeting with MSTP Director and Advisor
Each September every MSTP student in Graduate School has a meeting with MSTP Director and their Advisor. The student presents a report that includes progress in research over the past year and plans for the coming year. This is an opportunity for Program Director to provide guidance to student and Mentor and to ensure that important milestones are being met.
A one-day retreat for MSTP students and faculty is held at the beginning of August, prior to the School of Medicine's orientation for first year medical students. This day-long off-site retreat includes transition workshops for students moving on to a new phase of training, student research presentations, and a keynote address. Alumni are invited to attend and urged to interact with students on challenging subjects such as career development, balancing a family with a demanding research career and coping with unexpected circumstances. In-coming students have the early opportunity to interact with colleagues in this relaxed venue. Attendance is mandatory for all students; our next retreat will be held on August 6, 2019 at the Maritime Conference Center in Linthicum, Maryland.
Molecules to Medicine Course
This bi-weekly course provides MSTP students in the MS 1 and MS 2 years with skills to critically examine research papers while fostering a deep appreciation of the scientific method, and understanding of successful approaches to discovery. These faculty and student-led sessions focus on the work of Nobel Prize and Lasker Award recipients or timely high impact work in the biomedical sciences, broadly appealing to the interests of all students. Sessions are also integrated with workshops led by physician scientist faculty who discuss their work and careers. The goal is to unite our students with the community of physician scientists on campus.
The Physician Scientist Clinical Rotation
The MSTP Program has established a longitudinal clinical experience during the PhD years. The purpose of this course is to provide MD/PhD students, during their graduate school years, with clinical experiences that enhance their training as physician-scientists. MSTP students are linked with a clinician investigator who works in a specialty related to the student’s research and/or clinical interests. The student accompanies this advisor into the clinics for at least 100 hours over an academic year. This clinical experience provides an important link between the student’s ongoing basic/translational research and a relevant clinical experience. An additional benefit of this program is the presentation of the clinician investigator as a role model to aid the student in career planning decisions. Students receive 1 elective credit toward their MS 4 requirements.
Physician Scientist Seminars
This monthly dinner seminar series is organized specifically for all MSTP students. A physician scientist from the University of Maryland or the region (NIH for example) presents his/her cutting edge translational research discoveries. Speakers also discuss their careers and how their clinical work informs their research interests.
Flexible Timing for Reentry
A strength of the MSTP training plan is that the clinical curriculum has been streamlined to allow for flexible timing with the reentry window from July-January of the academic year. Thus students have ample time to finish and defend their PhD projects and still graduate with that medical school class.
As students reach the end of their PhD training we offer clinical experiences that prepare them to reenter the medical school curriculum. The focus is on basic principles of taking histories and physical diagnosis. The goal is to have our students return to medical school with confidence in their performance in the clinical setting.
During the early phase of clinical training (MS3) MSTP students meet with the MSTP Clinical Advisory Subcommittee to discuss plans for the Residency match and subspecialty selection. During these individual meetings the Committee members provide guidance for our students as well as insight into the choice of a clinical path that wisely builds on their research training.
Clinical Case Studies
The Clinical Case Studies course meets monthly and is designed for the GS II and the GS III students in the MSTP. The goal is to integrate clinical medicine and scientific research. Students work with a faculty preceptor to create a clinical pathological conference type presentation, oftentimes based on one of the faculty member’s actual patients in a PowerPoint format.