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Training and Requirements

Mentor Selection


To facilitate the seamless integration of the research and clinical aspects of the program each student has an assigned Basic Science Mentor as well as a Clinical Mentor. These two mentors guide students in their choice of didactic courses, clinical seminars and clinician interactions.

Basic Science Mentors: All participating graduate students have already identified their thesis mentor when they matriculate in the program. The thesis adviser also serves as the Basic Science Mentor for the VPMM. Similarly, the research mentor for postdoctoral trainees also serves as the Basic Science Mentor for the VPMM. All full-time basic science tenured and tenure-track faculty members at VUMC are eligible to serve as Basic Science Mentors.

Clinical Mentors: The selection of the Clinical Mentor for each incoming participant is paramount for the success of this program component. The trainee, in consultation with his/her Basic Science Mentor suggests three Clinical Mentors for consideration at the time of application to the VPMM. The Advisory Committee reviews this list and assigns a Clinical Mentor for successful applicants. The clinical mentor is encouraged to participate in thesis or advisory committee meetings during the course of the program, but is not required to be a standing member.


Training Requirements

Training requirements for the program consist of the following three major components, all designed to provide a solid grounding in how modern biomedical research impacts a range of disease states:

  • Clinical Contact Hours
  • Didactic Course Work
  • Seminars and Bench-to-Bedside Symposia

Clinical Contact Hours: in order to accommodate social distance requirements during the COIVD epidemic we have created 3 different opportunities for clinical exposure. Students are expected to accumulate a total of 30 hours comprised of any combination of these activities over the course of the 2 year program. These include;

  •  Physician-Patient Interactions in clinical settings [up to 20 hours]. Each student will have an identified clinical mentor who they will meet early on in the program to discuss their interests and opportunities for clinical exposure in different clinical settings at VUMC;
  • Clinical Case Conference [up to 20 hours]. These are clinical management and/or clinical diagnosis case conferences that are typically given by medical residents and fellows in individual specialty departments at VUMC. Students will be able to find out about these from their clinical mentor.
  • Simulated Patient Interviews [up to 10 contact hours]. The Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment [CELA] at Vanderbilt provides students with the opportunity to interview trained actors who simulate clinical conditions that commonly occur in practice. This provides VPMM students with the unique opportunity to experience the process of clinical assessment and evaluation of patients. After each interview students undergo a feedback session with faculty mentors who will go over their clinical finding, differential diagnosis, and management plans for a patient with this condition.

Didactic Courses: This component of the VPMM is divided into specific units, usually relating to a specific pathobiology. Most units are a mix of formal presentations as well as opportunities to observe patients or to examine pathologic material. These units vary from semester to semester, are highly flexible and can be custom designed by the trainee, in consultation with the joint mentors, to suit individual requirements. There are 3 VPMM administered courses that all students are required to take. These are:

  • Introduction to Clinical and Translational Research: This is a spring semester IGP module that has been designed to provide a broad introduction to the principals and challenges of human subjects research today. Topics covered include clinical trials, drug development and regulation, bio-repositories and EMR, IRB and ethical considerations, and translational research support and opportunities at Vanderbilt.
  • VPMM Clinical Rounds: This course is held in the fall semester. It focuses on a greater range of clinical topics reflecting the diverse interests of the VPMM. We will cover a different topic every two weeks. One week will be run by a clinician and will meet 1 or 2 patients with the disorder under discussion. The other week will be run by a basic and/or clinical scientist working on the same disease, and will involve interactive discussion about the patient’s disease pathophysiology, treatments and research.
  • Human Biology and Disease: The aim of this course is to provide students with a comprehensive, organ-based overview, of human biology and disease pathophysiology from a clinical perspective. There will be 20 topics taught covering 16 organ systems, each over 2-hour blocks coordinated by a physician or physician scientist involved in treating patients with common diseases affecting that organ system.

Seminar Series and Bench-to-Bedsides Symposia

  • Program Orientation: All new trainees and their mentors (if possible) attend three weekly orientation meetings in September. These meetings are held to insure that all new members in the program understand all the component parts and their role over the next 2-3 years.
  • Seminar Series: The seminar series meeting is a forum for all participants to discuss progress in the program or to bring up any issues that may have arisen. This is followed either by a research presentation by a trainee, or by an invited speaker. These are typically held on the third Wednesday of the month from 5:00 pm – 6:15 pm in Light Hall 350.
  • Bench-to-Bedside Symposium: The Vanderbilt Program in Molecular Medicine has developed the “Bench to Bedside” mini-symposium series as a forum to enhance interaction and discussion between the various Vanderbilt graduate and post-doctoral education programs that are promoting clinical enrichment for basic scientists. The format and topics vary at each meeting but in principal focus around a clinical and basic science topic in the context of a particular disease. These are typically held on the first Wednesday of the month from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm in 1220 Medical Research Building III.



Program Timeline

The Vanderbilt Program in Molecular Medicine is structured to be completed in 2 years, and we expect no delay in time to Ph.D. degree for graduate students in this program.