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How Long Is Medical School

A student may receive an M.D./Ph.D. in most medical schools. One may apply either before or a year or two after matriculation. Combined M.D./Ph.D. programs offer intensive training in the biomedical sciences for a period of between six and eight years. These programs are designed for selected students interested in careers in academic medicine. In some schools you must apply to the medical school, graduate school and/or the M.D./Ph.D. program. Read the requirements of each program carefully. Information about individual programs is available in the Health Professions Advising Office.

An applicant for the M.D./Ph.D. will need, in addition to the usual letters of support for medical school, very strong recommendations which speak to the individual's scientific talent, accomplishments, and promise. College preparation for a combined program must, in general, emphasize the natural sciences, though there are a few opportunities in the humanities. Prior research experience is essential. Many applicants are even published in scientific journals. Students looking towards graduate work in physical or chemical areas should have studied math through calculus (a differential equations course is recommended), physics, physical chemistry, and/or advanced organic chemistry. Those preparing for work in more biological disciplines need not have as complete a training in chemistry, but strong math and physics exposure is necessary. Application to these programs is extremely competitive and you should only apply if you feel with some certainty that you wish to pursue a career in biomedical research. Those who are not at that level of certainty can usually apply during their first year of medical school if they are enrolled in a participating institution.

A typical course of study for the M.D./Ph.D. program involves two years of the standard basic sciences curriculum of medical school followed by three or four years of thesis work in any of a number of disciplines within the biomedial sciences. The last year or so of training consists of the clinical rotation circuit completed by all medical students. Throughout, summers are usually flexible; many schools tailor their programs to the needs of the individual student. The aim of the M.D./Ph.D. program is to produce physician/scientists. These individuals will have acquired a knowledge of human biology and disease as well as rigorous training in scientific investigation. The hope is that the M.D./Ph.D. trainees can bridge the basic and clinical sciences because of their unique interdisciplinary education. Graduates go on to join academic faculties in varied and often multiple capacities as clinicians, researchers, and educators.

A number of medical schools are recipients of grants from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences which are identified as Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTP). Students in these programs are fully funded by these grants, and supported students pay back this support by being involved in postgraduate academic involvement for a period of time equal to one year less than the period of support. Competition is rigorous because of the high calibre of the applicant pool and also because of the small size of the programs. A listing of these programs is in the Medical School Admissions Requirement handbook.


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