Typically, students complete the MD/PhD Program within seven to eight years, although the actual time will vary depending on each individual's rate of progress in fulfilling the requirements for both the M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. The normal sequence of instruction begins with the first pre-clinical years of medical school, followed by graduate school and completion of the doctoral dissertation, and culminates in the remaining years of medical school. We work to ensure smooth transitions during training through MD/PhD-specific classes, clinical rounds, and training.
We place a special emphasis on a combined degree program that is more than just two separate degrees. Many graduate school mentors have strong ties to the hospital and do research on clinically relevant questions in the basic sciences. Students often pick mentors and projects that have strong ties to their medical areas of interest, and we encourage them to maintain clinical ties during their graduate years.
To help maintain perspective as clinical-scientists in training, the students attend a weekly journal club. The program provides lunch, and sessions alternate between current student presentations of journal articles and bench-to-bedside discussions by faculty. Also, the annual MD/PhD Retreat is held each fall. This retreat combines research talks and poster presentations by students and faculty with outdoor fun.
Early Medical Years
The first two years of medical school at OHSU are designed to teach the basic science of medicine while introducing the student to medical practice. Lectures are limited to a few hours per day and the teaching format emphasizes small group discussions and self-directed learning.
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. Several classes held during the first two years provide an additional emphasis on and opportunity for research, including the Student Research Project and journal clubs. For further information on the medical curriculum at OHSU, see the MD Program Curriculum.
The flexible schedule coupled with limited required lectures allow our students to pursue research rotations in laboratories during the first two years of medical school, facilitating the transition to the graduate years of the program.
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 may choose to do their dissertation research with faculty scientists in any of the following areas:
- Program in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences
- Neuroscience Graduate Program
- Behavioral Neuroscience
- Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology
- Biomedical Engineering
During all years of training, students participate in a conference every Wednesday at noon. The format for these conferences rotates among student-led Journal Club, and the MD/PhD Grand Rounds. At Grand Rounds, a physician-scientist faculty member presents a case and then discusses the basic science aspects of the disease, including the current gaps in our understanding of the disease, how these gaps are being addressed through basic and clinical research, and how the knowledge obtained is expected to affect diagnoses and care management.
Starting in their second year of PhD work, students begin a Longitudinal Clinical Clerkship which they continue until completing their PhD. This consists of 5-10 hours per month in the hospital working with a clinician, developing clinical skills.
Concluding Medical Years
After their thesis defense, students return to medical school to finish their MD training. There is a transitional course to help prepare students for their clinical rotations. This patient-oriented training is similar to the training undertaken by the regular OHSU medical students. All MD/PhD students do a Clinical Research rotation in conjunction with OCTRI. Even after this return to medical school, our students continue to participate in MD/PhD activities (i.e., Journal Club, annual retreat, etc.) as their schedules permit. 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.