Frequently Asked Questions

Following are questions frequently asked regarding the MSCI program. Select a question from the list or contact with additional questions.

How does the MSCI program differ from other training programs at Vanderbilt?
The MSCI program occupies a unique niche within the continuum of our MD, MD-PhD and MPH training programs. The MD-PhD program trains physician-scientists to perform basic molecular research, while the MPH program trains physician-scientists to perform epidemiology, outcomes, health services and quality improvement research. The MSCI program will train physicians and other health professionals in the fundamental tools of patient-oriented research, which generally involves mechanistic, hypothesis-driven research on patients, often within the context of clinical trials of new drugs, devices, or procedures.


Can I do clinical work while in the MSCI program?
The MSCI trainee will be expected to commit 80 percent of his/her time during the two-year period to the didactic courses and mentored research project.


I am not enrolled in the MSCI program? May I enroll in MSCI courses?
Yes, you may enroll in MSCI courses as a Special Student.  Often individuals will enroll in a course as a Special Student to determine if MSCI is a good fit for their academic needs and career trajectory.  The cost of tuition for a Special Student is $1477 per credit hour (2017-2018).  However, the ability to "audit" a course is contingent if the course has less than 10 students enrolled.


How do I find a research mentor?
The best way to find a research mentor is to meet with your training program director or academic supervisor and discuss potential mentors in your own division or department. A mentor should be an experienced clinical investigator with an established research program, as evidenced by a track record of consistent extramural funding.

Mentors may be in departments other than the department of the prospective trainee but are working in areas well aligned with the trainee's interests. MSCI Program Directors are available to provide advice to trainees who have questions about mentors.


What are some examples of clinical research projects that could be conducted while I am in the MSCI program?
Active clinical research projects are conducted by faculty members in a variety of successful groups, including Clinical Pharmacology, Endocrinology/Metabolism, Hematology/Oncology, Vaccine Development, Genetics, Psychiatry, and in several divisions of the departments of Medicine and Pediatrics. MSCI Program Directors are available to advise trainees and prospective trainee sponsors about the research interests of specific investigators. Review the list of clinical research projects conducted by 2014-2016 trainees and 2015-2017 trainees.


Must I choose a project with a mentor who is in my own division or department?
Not necessarily. In fact, an important aspect of this program is to encourage the placement of trainees in research programs which are located in different divisions or departments. The trainee would be exposed to the wider culture of clinical research and bring back skills and ideas that might advance the clinical research agenda of the trainee's home department. In addition, the trainee would be able to maintain collegial relationships with the research mentor's research group, as the trainee's career moves toward independence and successful competition for extramural funding.