Program Overview

An M.D./Ph.D. program was first established at Vanderbilt in 1964. The dual-degree program became known as the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) in 1977. The central goal of the MSTP is to train leaders in academic medicine. We provide students with an integrated curriculum comprising a strong core education in medicine and intensive training in scientific inquiry using a preceptor-oriented, problem-solving approach. MSTP students usually complete the first two years of Medical School (M1 and M2), pursue graduate studies for three to four years (G1-G4), and then return to Medical School to complete one immersion year (clinical training combined with didactic training). The program enrolls approximately 14 new students per year, each of whom receives a tuition scholarship and a stipend to cover living expenses.

Programming for MSTP students

The Vanderbilt MSTP sponsors a number of activities designed to enhance the clinical and research training of our students.

The MSTP Seminar Series is the flagship course of the Vanderbilt Medical Scientist Training Program. It is a student-driven seminar course guided by Advising College faculty preceptors. The seminar series is interdisciplinary in scope, with topics drawn from all areas of biomedical research. The primary focus is on cutting-edge, discovery-based and hypothesis-driven research. Guided by the faculty preceptors and topic-specific experts, students in the MSTP have primary responsibility for choosing the publications to be presented as centerpieces of the seminars. More advanced students are asked to serve as mentors before, during, and after the presentations.

The course is required for all M1 and G-phase students. M1, G1, and some G2 students are required to make presentations. Senior G-phase students are assigned mentoring responsibilities to assist junior students with their presentations. M2 students will be responsible for presenting a paper of general interest to the entire MSTP class. These presentations will take place approximately every other week. During the intervening weeks, M1 and G1/G2 students will be responsible for presenting a paper in a small-group format. Each M1 student will present twice during the first year.

The Clinical Preceptorship Program provides MSTP students with exposure to clinical medicine during the period of graduate training. Each class is assigned two clinical mentors who meet with them monthly during the fall and spring semesters to discuss a patient who has been examined by one of the students. Working with the mentor, the group confirms key physical findings and discusses pathophysiology and differential diagnosis. This required component of the MSTP curriculum is designed to ease the transition from Graduate School to the immersion year of Medical School.

The MSTP Data Club provides a forum to discuss current research. Each week during the summer months, a graduate phase student presents his or her laboratory work for students in an informal setting designed to encourage discussion. The Data Club is particularly designed for graduate-phase students, but all MSTP students are invited to attend.

The Physician-Scientist Speaker Series was initiated by MSTP students as a mechanism to enhance career development. The series offers students an opportunity to interact with renowned physician-scientists who have successfully met many of the challenges facing this unique profession. Each year, a committee of MSTP students selects and invites two speakers to give a research seminar at Vanderbilt. The seminars are followed by informal interactions with the students and a dinner presentation by the speaker on physician-scientist careers.

New students enroll in the MSTP in late June, approximately 4 weeks before the start of the first-year Medical School curriculum. New students, along with current MSTP students, members of the Faculty Advisory Committee, Departmental Chairs and Directors of Graduate Study, and faculty preceptors, attend the MSTP Retreat held the weekend after orientation. All MSTP students in the graduate phase of training present their research at the retreat. The forum serves as an opportunity for scientific interactions among colleagues as well as an orientation for new students.