Medical Scientist Training Program

The UIC College of Medicine offers a select number of students the opportunity to work toward both the MD and PhD degrees in an integrated fashion, in the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). The objective of the program is to train students for careers in academic medicine and research. Students admitted to this highly competitive program participate in the medical school curriculum and pursue original doctoral research projects in the laboratories of the university’s graduate faculty. Students take seven to eight years to complete both degrees; four years for MD degree and three to four years for the PhD degree.

Program Overview

The first two years of the program are used to complete the first two years of medical school curriculum (M-1 and M-2 years). Students enter “at large,” that is, without affiliation to a particular graduate department. During this time, they are encouraged to explore research opportunities in any academic department of the College of Medicine and selected graduate departments throughout the university. After admission, the students complete three rotations through the laboratories of various potential advisors before a choice is made. The choice of a permanent thesis advisor and graduate department takes place by the end of the second year of medical school (M2 year).

Students in the graduate phase (G1–G4 years) of the program work side-by-side with other PhD students and meet all department-specific requirements for the PhD degree. Students’ research accomplishments result in original publications and in presentations at national biomedical science meetings. For the PhD phase of the program, students may associate with one of the basic science PhD programs of the College of Medicine (see descriptions in this section), with the Neuroscience program, or with one of many program-approved departments across the university. During the PhD studies, MSTP students keep their clinical skills sharp by participating in a Clinical Connections component at Mile Square Health Center.

In the final two years of the program (M3 and M4 years), MD/PhD candidates rejoin other medical students to complete the medical school clerkship requirements. The M3 year includes the following required clerkships rotations: medicine, surgery, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, neurology, and psychiatry. The M4 year allows for a focus on career goals with required medical school electives and training.

Program Highlights

In an effort to help students find a mentor and lab in which to work, a series of lunchtime seminars designed for M1–M2 MSTP students provides an overview of opportunities for research. In addition, an ongoing series of dinner seminars is presented to MSTP students in all stages of the program by faculty and invited physician-scientists from various academic health science centers. These seminars enhance the students’ general knowledge and help to develop new approaches toward the investigation of problems in biomedical research. A series of student Grand Rounds seminars presents topics in new frontiers in understanding and/or treatment of important clinical problems, with particular emphasis on the interface between basic science and medicine. Each presentation is given by a pair of students who divide the discussion between clinical aspects and latest research findings of a medical condition of their choosing. These seminar series, along with the annual research day and other gatherings with faculty, serve to bring together trainees and preceptors and expose the students to the area of research being explored at UIC and the faculty doing the research.

Graduates of the program have routinely gained admission to the most competitive residency programs at many of the premier academic institutions in the country, including the ever-growing number of physician-scientist residency programs.

Admission Requirements

Applicants to the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) must apply to the UIC College of Medicine via AMCAS by the stated deadline.

The AMCAS application includes a check box for choosing MD/PhD programs. Applicants who check the box, on their AMCAS application will receive two additional essays prompts to complete. Completed applications are verified by AMCAS and routed to the specific medical schools where the applicant is applying. Upon receipt of a verified application, the UIC College of Medicine Admissions Office will send a supplemental application. Once the supplemental application and related fees are returned to UIC the application for MSTP and the College of Medicine will be complete and eligible for full review.  

MD/PhD applications will be reviewed by the MSTP's admissions committee, separately and concurrently with the College of Medicine’s admissions office. The MCAT examination is accepted in lieu of the GRE examination. Application to the program is normally made at the time of application to the College of Medicine. However, candidates will also be considered from UIC COM students in their first two years of medical training.

Criteria for admission to the program include academic excellence, prior research experience, potential for independent and creative research, and commitment to a career in academic medicine. Laboratory work concentrating in biology, chemistry, physics, biophysics, bioengineering, or behavioral sciences is helpful in preparing for study in the Medical Scientist Training Program. The admissions policy is flexible enough to accommodate those students who have already identified the field in which they wish to carry out research as well as those who are still undecided about their areas of research specialization. Admission to the Medical Scientist Training Program is open to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

Degree Requirements

Students in the program complete requirements of the College of Medicine for the MD degree and requirements of their chosen research department for the PhD degree. They must complete and submit their PhD dissertation and complete its defense before returning to the medical curriculum for the M3 and M4 years. The PhD and MD degree are conferred at the Medical School graduation.