Goal of New Program: More Physician-Scientists

Selected applicants to a new P&S degree program—a three-year PhD to MD—were interviewed in early 2013 for entry this summer. Even though the new program was communicated mostly by word of mouth, more than 40 candidates applied, and 15 were interviewed for the accelerated pathway to an MD degree. 

The size of the first class has not yet been determined.

The program seeks to recruit exceptional PhD scientists (a PhD in a biomedical science is required) to prepare the new MD/PhDs for a career in biomedical investigation. In addition to a PhD, applicants are asked to show scientific promise by submitting a C.V. and a one-page research proposal.

The program was created by Donald W. Landry’83, chair of the Department of Medicine at P&S, who earned a PhD in organic chemistry from Harvard before entering P&S. “The MD degree clearly provides the most compelling research platform for the PhD scientist,” says Dr. Landry, “and our program is designed to leverage the new research-oriented P&S curriculum inspired by Dean Lee Goldman to draw in successful PhD investigators and transform them into physician-scientists.”

The program is in addition to the combined MD/PhD degree, which has been offered at P&S since the early 1970s. 

The three-year PhD-to-MD program is administered by the Department of Medicine with the P&S Office of Admissions. Nicholas H. Fiebach, MD, professor of clinical medicine and vice chair for graduate and continuing medical education in the Department of Medicine, directs the program with Jonathan Barasch’87 PhD/’88 MD, associate professor of medicine and scientific coordinator of the program. “We are looking for candidates who were initially drawn to science and have excelled in research but want to combine that with an MD degree so they can have a greater impact on patients through a research career informed by the clinical insight of medicine,” says Dr. Fiebach. 

Students in the new three-year program will progress alongside the incoming Class of 2017 during the 18-month preclinical curriculum, followed by the 12-month major clinical year and six months of subinternships and electives. The students will apply for residency during the major clinical year. The scholarly project requirement will be waived, so the first students will graduate in 2016 if they follow the planned curriculum. Graduates will be encouraged to pursue abbreviated residency training that some specialties offer to prospective physician-scientists. 

Applicants must meet the same requirements as all P&S applicants to the MD program. A committee representing the PhD-to-MD program evaluates the applications and recommends candidates for the P&S Admissions Committee to interview. “Our supplemental committee will focus on the scientific achievement, research promise, and commitment of the applicant to a career as a physician-scientist,” says Dr. Fiebach. “It is our explicit intent to find people who still want to pursue research careers but with the somewhat broader context of pursuing research questions as a physician-scientist.”