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MSTP Example Curriculum

Given the breadth of research and clinical programs available in the MSTP, it is impossible to define a single path through the combined degree. Although rare students have completed training in six years, the following diagram illustrates a typical path through the MSTP, highlighting the MSTP-specific courses that are taken each year. 

Molecular Medicine

This course is designed for entering MSTP students. The purpose of this course is to highlight contemporary questions in biomedicine and how different scientific fields approach these questions. Students are exposed to physician-scientist role models who share information about their career paths, the compelling questions in their field, and how they design experiments to address gaps in knowledge and build a coherent research path within their field. The course also builds student skills in planning and presenting their work. 

Methods and Analysis

This seminar-style course is designed for MSTP students during the summer between the first and second year of medical school. The learning objectives of the course are to foster social and scientific collaboration between students; to expose students to different scientific methods, techniques, and analyses; to create an environment where students can voice difficulties with their research, labs, or mentors and seek constructive feedback; to develop habits of daily writing/presenting. The students are required to present three times during the course and assessed the clarity and quality of their MSTP retreat poster. Particular attention is focused on reproducibility and rigor in the conduct and analysis of experiments, appropriate data and handling and use of biostatistics, and guidelines for reporting methods and results. 

Research Basis of Medical Knowledge

This small group session is restricted to MSTP students during their first year and one-half of medical school. The class meets to review primary literature linked to the current first- and second-year curricula. Before each session, a faculty member and two students meet and review the paper assigned for that week. Students learn about the research basis of medical knowledge, and how to present and critically review primary literature. 

Grant Writing and Networking 

This course is required of MSTP students after their second year of medical school. Career expectations are discussed and framed from the perspective of grant writing and the review process. A small amount of lecture material is linked to a series of workshops where each student composes a bio sketch, specific aims, experimental plan, and training plan related to their PhD thesis. Constructive peer critiquing of grant material provides a perspective on which to build grant-writing skills. 

Ethics for Medical Scientists

This course is offered to MSTP students during the first spring in graduate school. It consists of 4-5 two-hour-long sessions. The introductory workshop is designed to teach participants how to apply analytical methods systematically to the evaluation of ethical dilemmas. The objective of the later three workshops is to build upon these principles within the context of specific biomedical ethics cases. The goals of the course are to provide a framework based on current methods and principles in ethics and to translate conceptual methodologies into practical skills for evaluating ethical dilemmas. 

Longitudinal Clinical Clerkship

Taken during graduate school training, each of these two 20 half-day-per-week electives allows the students to explore their clinical interests. Students work one-on-one with an attending academic physician who oversees their learning of advanced clinical skills in interviewing and physical diagnosis. Students evaluate patients in specialty outpatient clinics and plan and conduct appropriate evaluations and therapeutic approaches that define the need for disorders, both for the evaluation of new symptoms and for health maintenance. Emphasis is placed on the role of the clinical investigator overseeing the care of patients. 


This discussion-based course, guided by faculty preceptors, meets 8 times per year over dinner and is attended by MSTP students from all years. Each class begins with a description of a topic related to training on being a physician-scientist. The topic for discussion is developed by students from different years in order to assure a good representation of the challenges offered at various stages of training and ethically challenging situations with their peers; to provide a venue in which junior students can learn from senior students; to understand responsible conduct of research and medicine as a critical aspect of research training and that it remains an important concern at all levels of a research career.