Students in the OHSU MD/PhD program complete all requirements for both the OHSU MD program and their chosen OHSU graduate program. A typical student will spend 7-8 years completing these requirements, however actual time will vary depending on each individual's rate of progress in fulfilling the requirements for both MD and PhD degrees.
Accepted students can complete an optional summer research rotation prior to starting at medical school, however most incoming students start with medical school in August. The traditional MD/PhD student will complete the first two years of the MD program and take their Step 1 exam, and then move into their chosen PhD program. After all PhD requirements are met, including qualifying exams and the completion of a doctoral dissertation, students will then transition back into medical school to complete their clinical training and prepare for residency.
Of course there are non-traditional students who may have already completed some of their MD or PhD degree at OHSU. These students are accepted as internal transfer students and may have a non-traditional pathway. Please contact us for more information if you are interested in this route.
We place a special emphasis on a combined degree program, truly integrating the MD and PhD degrees into one program. Our graduate program mentors have strong ties to the hospital and do research on clinically relevant questions in the basic sciences. Our curriculum allows students to maintain clinical ties throughout their graduate years, and our weekly required journal club grounds students in the research thought-process during their medical years.
Incoming students are assigned a Scientific Oversight Committee (SOC) to help guide them through their pre-PhD years so that they're ready to jump into a graduate program after they've completed their first years of medical school.
There are four combined degree courses that all MD/PhD students are required to take:
Early MD Years
The first 18 months of medical school at OHSU are designed to teach the basic science of medicine while introducing the student to medical practice. Traditional didactic lectures are limited so that small group discussions and self-directed learning are emphasized. Students are also required to participate in colleges, the weekly MD/PhD journal clubs, and all required college and MD/PhD activities.
Patient contact begins early in the first year, and all students participate for one afternoon per week in clinical preceptorships that are often a highlight of the first year's curriculum. MD/PhD students also participate in the weekly journal club, and depending on desire and time can participate in lab research.
In their second year of the MD program students are expected to take and pass the USMLE Step 1 exam. MD/PhD students will also take the Transition to Clinical Experience (TTCE) 2-week course before they can transition to their graduate program. This course is offered twice every year in May and February; MD/PhD students usually take it in February for a smooth transition into graduate school.
The graduate programs at OHSU offer outstanding opportunities for study in a variety of disciplines in biomedical research. Over the past 20 years, there has been a tremendous expansion of both research activities and facilities on campus. Students in the MD/PhD program will form a dissertation advisory committee (DAC), disband their SOC, and join a graduate program. Students may choose to do their dissertation research with faculty scientists in any of the following graduate programs:
- Program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (PMCB)
- Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- Biomedical Engineering
- Cancer Biology
- Cell and Developmental Biology
- Molecular and Medical Genetics
- Molecular Microbiology and Immunology
- Physiology and Pharmacology
- Behavioral Neuroscience (BEHN)
- Neuroscience Graduate Program (NGP)
- Biomedical Informatics (in the Department of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology)
In addition to the weekly journal club and other program activities, students are required to take the Longitudinal Clinical Clerkship course. Students begin this course after they have passed USMLE Step 1 exam and completed their Transition to Clinical Experience mini-course with the MD program, usually in the Spring term of their second year. This course consists of 5-10 hours per month in the hospital working with a clinician developing and maintaining clinical skills.
MD/PhD students are expected to meet with their DAC every 6 months, complete all requirements of their chosen graduate program, and will also be expected to complete a qualifying exam in the second year of their graduate degree. The qualifying exam consists of a written and oral examination. Once passed, the student will be advanced to candidacy.
Final MD Years
After the successful completion of their dissertation including submission to the library, students return to medical school to complete their MD training. With the exception of the Transition to Clinical Experience that must be completed prior to returning to medical school, students must complete all requirements of their graduate program and the School of Medicine Graduate Studies before they can return to medical school for clinical rotations.
MD/PhD students will also complete the Clinical and Translational Research Experience course during their final MD years after completing core clinical rotations. This is done during the MD rotation lottery process. Students are also expected to continue attending the MD/PhD weekly journal club, annual retreat, and other MD/PhD program activities and events as their schedule permits. We offer continued academic counseling and opportunities to discuss the selection of a medical specialty and applications to residency programs. The successful completion of the fourth year of Medical School culminates in the award of the dual MD/PhD Degree.