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The School of Graduate Studies
MD/PhD Program - Letter from the Director
The enormous strides made in many areas of medicine in the past decades fuel our constant search for new explorers of the biomedical sciences. To encourage and train future investigators, who look forward to a career in research, practice and teaching in an academic environment, SUNY Downstate offers a highly successful MD/PhD program. The program graduated its first MD/PhD in 1967. The program combines complete training in the pre-clinical and clinical aspects of medicine, culminating in the MD degree, with intensive research experience in the basic medical sciences leading to the PhD degree. Graduates of the program are able to relate the knowledge insight and techniques they have gained from their research training to problems in clinical medicine and are prepared to function as independent researchers. As the number of physician-scientists has declined over the past two decades the MD/PhD track has become an important mode for replacing physicians who took up scientific endeavors after they finished medical school.
SUNY Downstate has a tradition of excellence and initiative in training leaders in academic medicine. SUNY Downstate is one of the leading medical schools in the United States in terms of the number of its graduates going on to full-time careers in academic medicine. A list of recent student publications is here.
The MD/PhD program is open to interested applicants to the medical school. The applicant fills out the AMCAS application to the medical school and submits a supplementary application to the graduate school. The latter application is on the graduate school web site. (http://www.downstate.edu/grad/documents/MDPhDsupplemental.pdf). The applications are reviewed by the MD/PhD admissions committee. Besides reviewing the applicants' academic record and MCAT scores the application is reviewed for the applicant's bench research experience. A letter from the applicant's research mentor is required in addition to the letters required to complete the medical school application. The applications are screened by the MD/PhD Admissions Committee. Selected applicants are invited to the campus in December through February, usually in groups of four, for interviews. The interviews will consist of a presentation of the applicant's research before the admissions committee. This will consist of a talk without slides, a "chalk talk", which may take up to twenty minutes. In addition applicants will be interviewed for the medical school by a faculty member and meet with potential mentors who they have expressed interest in. It's important for the applicant to indicate the faculty members they wish to meet in their supplementary application.
After all applicants have been interviewed, their applications and interviews will be reviewed by the MD/PhD and MD Admissions Committees in late February. The applicant must be approved by both committees to be accepted to the program. If the applicant is rejected by the MD/PhD Committee they are still reviewed for acceptance to the MD program. Accepted applicants are notified within two weeks of acceptance by the Medical School Admissions committee. Usually 2-4 applicants are admitted per year depending on the number of MD/PhD students who have completed their training that year. Applicants are admitted with a full tuition waiver and a stipend for the duration of their training. Applicants from out of state must become New York State residents after their first year in the program. Continuation in the program is conditional upon the student's academic progress, fulfillment of the requirements of the graduate school and progress to completion of their thesis.
Students who are admitted as medical students and become interested in pursuing a research career after one, two or three years in the medical school can apply to the MD/PhD program. Their application process will be expedited once a supplementary application is filed and a letter of recommendation from a mentor is received.
MD/PhD Program course of study:
In the usual course of study, students in the Foundation of Medicine years of the program follow the standard curriculum of the College of Medicine. They then spend approximately three to four years in the School of Graduate Studies taking advanced courses and pursuing research leading to a PhD thesis. Upon completion of these requirements, students return to the College of Medicine to complete their clinical training. The program is flexible and other options may be developed by the student in consultation with his or her advisor and the MD/PhD committee.
A fourth track is available for MD/PhD students interested in the development and application of medical nanotechnology. In this track, the MD training takes place at SUNY Downstate and the PhD training takes place at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University of Albany. Information on the MD/PhD in Medicine and Nanoscale Science or Engineering can be found here.
Many entering students hold prior research experience in a specific area and opt to continue pursuing that interest in an appropriate laboratory. Other students may rotate through several laboratories before making a final decision about their thesis sponsor. Members of the MD/PhD committee as well as individual faculty members are available to discuss these options and offer constructive advice to help students select a sponsor. Students are provided with a Graduate Assistantship and a full tuition scholarship.
Stanley Friedman, MD