MSTP Curriculum

For a more detailed look at the development of Duke's unique curriculum, see  A Curricular Model for the Training of Physician Scientists: The Evolution of the Duke University School of Medicine Curriculum

Year 1 — Core Basic Science Year

This year consists of four integrated basic science courses: Molecules and Cells, Normal Body, Brain and Behavior, and Body and Disease. The students also participate in Clinical Skills Foundation, which runs throughout the year.

Year 2 — Core Clinical Science Year

The second year consists of an Orientation to the Patient Safety and Clinical Year (OPSCY), eight core clerkship rotations, a Health Policy/Global Health course, two Selective periods, the Clinical Skills Course, and a summative Clinical Skills assessment. The goals of the core clerkships include developing students’ skills in accurate patient-based problem-solving and appropriate use of resources to diagnose and treat patients. The core clerkship rotations include:

Medicine (8 weeks)
Surgery (8 weeks)
Pediatrics (6 weeks)
Obstetrics and Gynecology (6 weeks)
Family Medicine (4 weeks)
Radiology (4 weeks)
Psychiatry (4 weeks)
Neurology (4 weeks)

Clinical Skills Course – (4 hours every other week for entire year) --Advanced clinical themes (ethics, professionalism, end-of-life, etc.)

Elective periods include two, two-week Selectives. These Selective periods provide an opportunity before the fourth year for students to learn about clinical subspecialties that are not covered by clerkships.

Years 3, 4, 5, 6 — The Graduate Years

During the third, fourth, fifth and sixth years of the program, the trainee pursues graduate study to satisfy the requirements for the PhD degree. These requirements include: completion of necessary course work, adequate performance in the preliminary examination, original research suitable for a dissertation, and successful defense of the thesis in the final examination. Detailed descriptions of the other general requirements for the PhD degree are stated in the Bulletin of the Graduate School.

The graduate curriculum of each trainee is developed in consultation with the director of graduate studies of the department in which the trainee elects to study and requires the approval of the Medical Scientist Training Program Committee.

Descriptions of the graduate courses in the Departments of Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, Immunology, Molecular Cancer Biology, Neurobiology, Pathology, Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, and Biology and the programs Computational Biology and Bioinformatics and the University Program in Genetics and Genomics are listed in the Bulletin of the Graduate School. Trainees are encouraged to select courses which relate to their individual interests rather than follow a prescribed curriculum applied to all students in a given discipline. Such range, flexibility, and freedom are the essence of graduate education. The original research and dissertation of each trainee is supervised by a faculty adviser chosen by the trainee in consultation with the director of graduate studies in the appropriate department/program. Progress is monitored by a thesis committee selected by the student in consultation with the thesis mentor. This committee generally administers the preliminary examination before the student commences original research and the final examination after the student completes the dissertation.

During the PhD years MSTP students can participate in non-credit continuity clinics that meet one afternoon a week. MSTP students also enroll, during the fourth year, in a one-month continuity clinic for which they receive credit.

Final Year — An Elective Year in Clinical Science

In this year, which is entered only after completion of all requirements for the PhD degree, the student and her or his medical school advisory dean construct an individualized curriculum which often places major emphasis on one clinical area and minor emphasis on other fields. In addition to several electives of their choice, students are required to complete a subinternship, a critical care selective, a continuity clinic, and a final capstone course. This elective year provides further training in clinical medicine to complement the second (core) clinical year, so that the trainee's total clinical experience is the same as that given in the regular clinical years of medical school (the third and fourth years in the majority of schools). It is hoped that the final year provides the student with an experience which is not repeated during the residency but serves to complement later phases of training.