Goals of the Program
The overarching goal of the MD/PhD curriculum is to provide students with the opportunity to obtain the tools and experiences needed to become a successful physician scientist. Integration of the medical and graduate curricula is emphasized from the beginning of the program and sustained even during the predominantly medical or graduate years of training. The ways in which medicine and basic research can be integrated through translational research is a major focus of the Penn State MD/PhD curriculum.
Program of Study
Our curriculum is designed to train students to become physician scientists. The program of study begins with a laboratory rotation (at least 4 weeks in duration) during the summer prior to matriculation. Students can arrange for the rotation by contacting a faculty member directly, or through the MD/PhD office. Students then start the program with the first two years of medical school, but also take a limited number of graduate courses. One of the graduate courses taken by MD/PhD students is Biological Basis of Human Health and Disease (CMBIO 506). This course is typically taken during M2 and is organized and run by the dual degree program specifically for MD/PhD students. During M1, faculty members in the program present their research to students at a weekly luncheon. Students then select two faculty members to do rotations with during the summer between M1 and M2. Students typically choose a lab for their thesis research after these rotations. Students may choose advisors/labs from either the Hershey or University Park Campus. At the end of M2, all students take Step 1 of the USMLE licensing examination. Beginning in the third year, students focus on graduate studies and begin their thesis projects. Students typically finish their thesis research in 4-5 years. During the graduate years, students also get to experience the life of a physician scientist through the Clinical Exposure program, which allows students to choose a clinical mentor and participate with that mentor in his/her clinic. Upon completion of their PhD thesis, students return to medical school (M3 and M4 years) to complete their clinical rotations and choose a residency program. Throughout their tenure in the program, students are expected to participate in the monthly MD/PhD seminar series and attend the annual MD/PhD retreat.