One of the most highly selective degree programs offered by institutions of higher learning is an M.D.-PhD degree. The degree is a combination of two doctorate level degree programs, Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Medicine. An M.D.-PhD is designed to combine the medical experience and knowledge of the M.D. program with the research experience and focus of a typical PhD program. Before considering the pursuit of an M.D.-PhD program, individuals should make certain that they are prepared for the highly selective process and the long arduous journey involved in earning the degree.
M.D.-PhD programs are among the most competitive degree tracks an individual can pursue. Individuals who pursue the traditional M.D. program receive an education with a greater focus on medicine and science, eventually leading graduates into clinical practices. PhD programs on the other hand have a greater focus on research and individuals, even those who go on to work in medicine, find themselves working more in the laboratory instead of a clinical setting. The M.D.-PhD however combines both of these for those who wish to both practice in a clinical setting but also continue to work in research and laboratory settings as well.
M.D.-PhD degrees are offered by 45 institutions in the U.S. that have funding and approval through the Medical Science Training Program which falls under the National Institutes of Health umbrella. Through the MSTP, the 45 institutions across the U.S. receive funding and the 900 students participating in the programs are provided with free tuition and a stipend while they study, usually around $25,000 per year. There are 75 other institutions across the U.S. that offer an M.D-PhD program but do not receive any funding from MSTP.
Those considering an M.D.-PhD should only do so if they are prepared for not only a rigorous application process, but also a long track through the educational program. Individuals preparing to apply should make sure they can meet the following requirements for admission that apply to most programs:
- High GPA (3.6 or better)
- MCAT (10 or better in each section)
- Good GRE score (1300 or better)
- Letters of recommendation
- Research experience
Once a prospective student has gained acceptance to an M.D.-PhD program they can expect to spend anywhere from seven to 10 years in pursuit of their dual doctorate. Most programs begin with two years of pre-clinical medical courses. At some point during the first two years students are expected to complete research time with an M.D.-PhD program mentor. Students then spend three to four years in graduate course work that culminates with a PhD dissertation before completing their time with further clinical internships, generally last a year to 18 months.