University of South Florida

MD-PhD program aims to train next generation of physician scientists

One of many things that separates the top medical schools from the crowd is a robust MD/PhD program for its medical students.  As USF Health Morsani College of Medicine continues to climb in the US News & World Report rankings, reinvigorating MCOM’s program has become a focal point for college leaders.

The MCOM MD/PhD Program is a dual-degree program that provides medical students a thorough and high-quality medical school education combined with research training with world-class USF Health investigators.  The program is designed to foster the develop of the next generation of physician scientists who will make major contributions to translational medicine by enhancing the diagnosis and treatment of human disease.

Students begin their journey toward this unique dual degree by participating in rotations in research labs during the summers of their first two years of medical school.  After completing the STEP 1 exam, students select a concentration from among several options, including neuroscience, cardiovascular biology and infectious disease, and continue on to complete their PhD coursework and research in this area..  After defending their dissertations, students go on to complete their final two years of medical school.

This program is fully funded by the MCOM Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs provided students maintain satisfactory academic progress.

“The MD/PhD program isn’t designed for everyone given the vigorous nature of the curriculum,” said Michael Teng, PhD, MCOM associate professor and associate dean of PhD and Postdoctoral Programs.  “If doctors are considered soldiers, MD/PhD holders are special operations.  This is a very small group of physicians with the unique ability to speak both languages of science and medicine.”

From the students:

“I chose to do an MD/PhD because the physician-scientist path provides a really unique avenue to pursue a path in academic medicine. I’ve always loved research, and enjoyed studying specific molecular pathways through my undergraduate research experiences. I’ve learned from my mentors who have gone through the MD/PhD program at other institutions that this dual degree gave them a unique opportunity to focus on their scientific training while going through medical school. It really shaped how they approach their medical practice and laboratory research. They’ve greatly inspired me to want to pursue this path.” Natasha Ram, MCOM first-year medical student.

“My vision of a fulfilling career requires both clinical work and research, and neither solely on their own will suffice. I want to dedicate my life to broadening our understanding of diseases like endometriosis, a disease I became very passionate about at a young age. I look forward to spending countless hours at the bench so that patients can spend more hours enjoying their lives. I believe that my training as a physician scientist will allow me to more readily apply research discoveries into clinical practice, provide a unique and comprehensive perspective to patient care, and contribute to the continuous advancement in medical knowledge that aims to improve the lives of patients.” Monica Moore, entering the PhD portion of the program.


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