About the MSTP Program

Training for Careers in Biomedical Research

Duke University School of Medicine's dual-degree MD/PhD program, the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), founded in 1966 and one of the fourth oldest such programs in the country, adds a significant research component to MD education, training physician-scientists (MD/PhDs) for high-level research careers in the biomedical sciences and academic medicine. And Duke's unique year-long research requirement for all Duke MD students lends itself naturally to this MD/PhD training. Unlike the standard medical curriculum, in which two clinical years follow two years of basic coursework, the unique Duke curriculum concentrates all coursework in the first year. The year of course work is followed by a clinical year, then a year of research, and, finally, another clinical year. While the straight-MD student spends his/her third year in a significant year-long research project, the MSTP student moves straight into the PhD setting in lieu of the third-year project; the MD research project requirement is fulfilled by the PhD dissertation. Students typically find that the clinical year preceding the PhD years produces keener insights into the meshing of clinical and research interests and produces more informed and fruitful choices for their PhD thesis areas.

PhD thesis projects, under the guidance of the School of Medicine's world-class faculty, span all areas of basic and clinical biomedical research. Training opportunities and facilities are top-notch and prepare graduates for significant roles in medical research and academic medicine. The 291 graduates of the forty-plus-year-old program populate biomedical research institutions and academic institutions throughout the US.

The Duke MD/PhD program, conducted under the auspices of the Duke University School of Medicine and the Duke University Graduate School, is designed for students who have strong backgrounds in science and who are interested in careers in the medical sciences and academic medicine. The program, which leads to both the MD and PhD degrees and typically takes seven to eight years for completion, integrates the clinical curriculum of the School of Medicine with graduate education in one of the sciences basic to medicine. Although the emphasis of the program is on basic medical science, the additional clinical component affords program graduates a remarkable range of career opportunities. Graduates typically follow one of two broad paths: Some go directly into careers in teaching and research in one of the basic medical sciences, while maintaining strong ties with clinical medicine; others enter residency programs before pursuing investigative and teaching careers in clinical medicine, carrying with them strong academic backgrounds in the basic sciences.

The program is one of the most diverse in the country with an underrepresented minority enrollment of 13%.

The Training Program. Duke University School of Medicine’s unique third-year research curriculum makes an ideal fit for a dual-degree program. The third year of medical school is essentially the first year of the PhD program, shortening the time-to-degree for the dual-degree student by a year. The typical MSTP student spends the first two years in medical school, followed by about four years (which serve as the third medical school year) in a PhD program and, finally, returns to a fourth year of medical school. The course work in the first medical school year provides a solid grounding in the basic medical sciences. The second year is devoted to a clinical curriculum. Following completion of the second year, the trainee enters a graduate program to complete the requirements for the PhD degree. A final academic year of elective clinical study completes the requirements for the MD degree.