Applying to M.D./Ph.D. Programs

M.D./Ph.D. programs are biomedical research programs. Many of these programs are funded by the National Institutes of Health and are known as Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTPs). There are approximately 170 MSTP positions for new students available nationwide each year, so competition is obviously intense. Not every medical school has such a program. (For the most current list of MSTP institutions, see the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences website.)

The mission of these combined degree programs is to train biomedical scientists who can bridge the gap between basic science and the practice of medicine. These programs admit only a select group of exceptional students who possess superior research and academic potential. For a Duke student to be competitive for acceptance to an M.D./Ph.D. program, the science GPA and MCAT scores must be very strong (e.g. GPA > 3.6 and MCAT > 35).

In addition, and even more importantly, the student must have had significant research experience in Biology, Chemistry, BME or any of the Biomedical Sciences. Significant means, at the minimum, the equivalent of a full academic year and summer under the same research mentor or colleague. It is desirable to present long term involvement in one project or a set of related projects within one laboratory than to present a different project for each period of research. So a junior (or senior) who starts a research project in the fall will not have completed a significant research experience by the time of the spring HPA interview or even by the time the AMCAS (American Medical College Application Service) application is submitted in early summer.

The medical school admissions committee will wish to see a recommendation from each research advisor who has mentored you.

MSTP students receive a full fellowship award, including tuition, fees, health insurance, and a stipend to cover living expenses. This support is derived from the National Institute of Health and contributions by individual medical schools.

Course of Study for MSTP Students

  1. Complete first 2 years of medical school
  2. Begin 3-5 years of thesis research
  3. Complete final 2 years of medical school

The application to the combined M.D./Ph.D. program is slightly more detailed than applying only to the M.D. program.

If you designate an M.D./Ph.D. program, the AMCAS application will present you with two additional essays, one addressing why you are applying to an M.D./Ph.D. program (3000 character limit) and the other a specific essay on the research you have done to date (10,000 character limit). The M.D./Ph.D. essays will be transmitted by AMCAS to the schools to which you indicate you will apply to the M.D./Ph.D. program. Some schools will allow you to go ahead and start the application process to their M.D./Ph.D. program even before you file your AMCAS application, e.g., the Tri-Institutional Program in NYC. If you are applying to M.D./Ph.D. programs, check the program web sites soon to see if that is the case.

Go to the Association of American Medical College’s MD-PhD Dual Degree Training website and the NIH National Institute of General Medical Sciences Medical Science Training Program website for more complete information.

NOTE: If you are considering an M.D./Ph.D. program, please make sure to set up an appointment with an HPA advisor at your convenience and before completing and submitting your internal application in January. We will be happy to speak with you if you would like an assessment of your chances for admission, but you should use the information above to make a self assessment. If your self assessment confirms your intention to seek the combined degree, then do make an appointment for a preliminary discussion. If you decide that the M.D./Ph.D. is not the appropriate type of biomedical training you desire, please plan to submit your AdviseStream profile, academics, and engagements and sign up for a non-Ph.D. interview.