MD/PhD – Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)


Students must be admitted to the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) to enroll in the dual degree program. Students must apply through the MSTP portal and secure separate admission to both the MSTP and the medical school programs within the School of Medicine. Admission to the MSTP will be judged according to criteria developed by the MSTP Committee. Typically MSTP students receive their PhD degrees through one of the School of Medicine Biomedical Sciences Graduate or “BIMS” Programs although students earning their PhD with a member of the faculty in Biomedical Engineering (BME) may elect to get their PhD from the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. For more information on BME please refer to the MD/ BME Dual Degree Agreement.

Enrollment, Tuition and Financial Aid

Students will be enrolled in the School of Medicine MD program for 3 semesters of pre-clerkship (pre-clinical) medical training, which under the curriculum instituted beginning with the Medical School class of 2014 occupies 68 weeks of instruction, concluding in winter of the second year. MSTP Students complete research rotations in the summer before starting medical school as well as in the summer between their first and second years. Subsequently, students will enroll in the School of Medicine BIMS Graduate Program (or Engineering for MSTP students in BME) beginning in the spring of year 2 and continuing in contiguous semesters until finishing the Ph.D. degree (usually years 3-7 in the program), at which point they will return to the MD curriculum for the remaining semesters.

Students may return to the MD curriculum after their public PhD defense date. Once that date is set, they must contact the SOM Registrar to create a plan and schedule for return to clinical coursework.

Students will be required to enroll in MD curriculum for a minimum of 6 semesters. Students must be enrolled in the PhD curriculum a minimum of 6 semesters. The total number of terms enrolled in each will vary based on when the student completes their thesis.

Students enrolled in the MD/PhD curriculum must complete the course requirements and receive both degrees within 9 years of matriculation. Any extensions beyond 9 years must be requested in writing and approved by the ASAC committee.

Each year, MSTP students are awarded full scholarships that cover tuition and fees, stipend/wages, health and dental insurance and a modest travel allowance. The financial package is guaranteed by the University of Virginia School of Medicine as long as a student is in good academic standing and is supported at various times by a combination of NIH training grants, individual research investigator funds and institutional support.

During the medical school years and the first year of graduate school, the MSTP funds the students through the MSTP Training Grant or other institutional funds at its disposal. Support during the remainder of PhD training is provided by training grants, individual investigators R01s, extramural fellowships and/or institutional support, in keeping with funding policies for all BIMS students.

If a student receives an individual extramural fellowship, such as an American Heart Association (AHA), Department of Defense (DOD), or National Research Service Award (NRSA), students receive a merit increase to their stipend. The merit increase remains effective during the term of funding of the extramural fellowship.

The MSTP program will pay tuition to the MD program for a minimum of 6 semesters and a minimum of 6 semesters to the PhD program. The MSTP guarantees up to a total of eight semesters of Medical School (MD) tuition.

Tracking Credit

MSTP Students are expected to fulfill all of the requirements as outlined by School of Medicine‘s MD program and the individual BIMS (or BME) degree-granting program in order to receive an MD and PhD, respectively.

BIMS Curriculum Alterations:

Students enrolled in the MSTP will often use the coursework completed during the MD preclinical curriculum to receive transfer credit for course requirements. For example, MSTP students can petition the Director of Graduate Studies for the PhD degree-granting program with which the student affiliates to receive transfer credit for BIMS 6000 (Core Course in Integrative Biology). Decisions on these petitions will be made by the DGS in consultation with the MSTP Director and the student’s research advisor.

Beginning with the cohort of MSTPs matriculating into the MD program in summer of 2021, and based on the School of Medicine’s Policy on course credit equivalencies, students who are awarded transfer credits for the core course requirement will be awarded 10 topical credits, the equivalent graded credit hours of the Core Course in Integrative Biology.

For those MSTPs who take the core course, the pre-clerkship curriculum will be evaluated by the Director of Graduate Studies of their selected degree-granting program for other appropriate coursework equivalencies for which they may receive transfer credit (up to 10 credits in total).

MSTP students also take a number of BIMS courses while completing the pre-clerkship Medical Curriculum (see below) such that they will typically have a total of 20 credits that count towards the minimum 72 required for a PhD at the time they transition to their graduate program.

Ultimately, the MSTP student’s PhD Program will determine the course requirements that they will need to complete in order to be awarded a PhD, in addition to fulfilling other degree requirements such as writing and successfully defending a PhD thesis. Most programs require a minimum of at least one high quality first author original research paper. Please see the requirements for the individual School of Medicine BIMS PhD-degree granting programs for additional details.

MD Curriculum Alterations:

In addition to the standard pre-clerkship MD curriculum, students in the MSTP program are required to take the following courses during the pre-clerkship period.  The MD program does not charge tuition for PhD coursework completed while term activated in MED for summer terms.

BIMS 8131 Topics in the Molecular Basis of Human Disease

BIMS 8132 Topics in the Molecular Basis of Human Disease

BIMS/PATH 8470  Readings in Molecular Medicine

BIMS 8995 Topical Research (2x, typically in summers)

BIMS 8171 MD/PhD Research in Progress Colloquium (2x)

BIMS 8172 MD/PhD Research in Progress Colloquium

During the Electives Program series, students in the stand alone MD program are required to complete courses MED 9870-9872 (Electives Program 1-3) on clinical topics of their interest. Students who have successfully attained the PhD in one of the Biomedical Sciences or BME will be considered to have completed the equivalent of 32 weeks of clinical activities.

Change of Status

If a student decides to terminate their MD program, they must notify their college dean and the Director of the MSTP program in writing. If the program is terminated before the completion of the MD preclinical curriculum, they must withdraw and apply separately to the PhD program. If the student decides to terminate during the PhD portion of the curriculum, they must notify the Director of Graduate Studies and the Director of the MSTP program in writing. They will not be required to withdraw from the MD program; however, they will no longer be considered a part of the MSTP for purposes of funding.  In addition, none of the credits earned in the PhD program will apply toward the MD degree. These students will be required to meet all of the graduation requirements of their new cohort when they return to the SOM.

Awarding of Degrees

The Ph.D. degree will be awarded before completion of the M.D. degree, at the degree conferral date at the end of the term in which the student completes the degree requirements.

6/5/2009 revised 3/10/2010, 8/24/2012, 8/10/2020