MD-PhD programs are dual-degree programs that train you to be a physician-scientist and leader in biomedical research. This may be of interest to you if you are looking at a career in academic medicine and teaching, clinical research, translational research, or if you intend to work in the pharmaceutical industry, biotechnology, or with government agencies.
The general course of study is two years of medical school, followed by three to five years of graduate school, and then the final two years of medical school. The average length of time to complete both degrees is eight years. After receiving both degrees, you may go directly into research and teaching, or continue with a residency in your chosen clinical specialty and/or post-doctoral training in your chosen area of research.
There are over 60 medical schools that offer their own MD-PhD programs. Over 45 other institutions offer MD-PhD programs known as Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTP) which are funded by the National Institutes of Health. Many MD-PhD programs provide funding or scholarships. For the MSTP, you receive a full fellowship award, including tuition, fees, health insurance, and a stipend to cover living expenses.
Application to these programs is highly competitive, and they will expect that you have two or three (or more) solid years of research experience. In your AMCAS application, you will provide two additional essays. One explains why you are applying to an MD-PhD program (there is a 3000 character limit) and the other is an essay describing the research you have done (with a 10,000 character limit). These essays will be transmitted by AMCAS to the schools you designate. You need to apply as early as possible in the application cycle, so review the program web sites for expectations, details, and deadlines. Be sure to ask for a recommendation from each research advisor who has mentored you.
One last note. Be sure to evaluate all of your options and goals. It is possible for physicians to engage in research without having a PhD.
For more information, see:
NIH/Medical Science Training Program website (has a link to a list of MSTP institutions)
Medical School Admissions Requirements (you can search for all medical schools offering MD-PhD programs; you do not need to have a year's subscription for this)