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Medical Scholars Program

Program Overview

The Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Medical Scholars Program is a one-year, in-depth research experience available to students at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Meharry Medical College. The goal of the program is to train leaders in academic medicine, ultimately strengthening and expanding the nation’s pool of medically trained researchers.

Specifically, the Medical Scholars Program seeks to identify students who are interested in any type of biomedical research (clinical, basic, health services, public health, outcomes, etc.), place them in an appropriate research environment, allow them access to a group of peers and scientists who share common research interests, and support them with a stipend.

The duration of the program for each student is 12 months consecutively, and thus adds an additional year to the traditional medical school curriculum. For Vanderbilt students, the best placement for the experience is between the third and fourth years. Selection of applicants for the program is based on the following criteria: the medical student is in good standing at the medical school; the applicant has a recognized commitment to pursue research; the applicant has identified an appropriate research project; and the applicant has identified a mentor who will foster and support the applicant’s research project. No prior research experience is required.


Stipends are for the period of July 1-June 30. The amount of the stipend is $30,000 per year and subject to yearly change based on the current stipend salary structure. The fellowship also includes health, disability and personal liability insurance, and an allowance to support attendance at a national meeting to present data from the scholars research project.

Program History

In the summer of 1996, students and faculty in the School of Medicine undertook a vigorous self-evaluation process, including a number of strategic planning sessions to provide direction to the institution as it entered the 21st century. There was recognition of an untapped resource in the outstanding medical students recruited to Vanderbilt. The resulting strategic plan called for strengthening Vanderbilt’s traditional emphasis on excellence in research and training, implementation of a one-year research experience to capitalize on developing research leaders, and beginning this process during the pre-doctoral years. It recommended the development of a program for pre-doctoral research training.  Thus, the Medical Scholars Program was formed, an internal program for Vanderbilt medical students. Dr. Harry Jacobson, former Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, implemented these recommendations with financial resources from the Vice Chancellor’s Office and the Office of the Dean of the School of Medicine. To our knowledge, it is the only internal pre-doctoral research program supported by institutional funds. The program is also partially supported by the NIH.

The Medical Scholars Program began in 1998, directed by Dr. Jason Morrow. Five students were admitted to the program in its initial year, 1998-1999. Dr. Tina Hartert succeeded Dr. Morrow as Program Director in 2003, and enrollment in the program has grown and remains strong. Beginning in the academic year 2005-2006, additional institutional funds were allocated to support qualified students from Meharry Medical College to participate. Dr. Lorraine Ware succeeded Dr. Hartert in January 2012. As of July 2017, 134 students have completed the program, and 7 students are enrolled in MSP for the 2017-2018 academic year.


Lorraine Ware, MD
Director, Medical Scholars Program
Jennifer Alexander, MRP, MTS, ThM
Program Coordinator, Office of Medical Student Research