The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine's MD/PhD Program is designed to be a 7-8 year path with components that allow for an integrated experience throughout the training period. The program combines training through the well-known medical education offered at the UMMSM and its diverse biomedical doctoral programs. Students are able to select among 9 PhD graduate training programs, including traditional basic sciences, Epidemiology, and the newer Cancer Biology and Human Genetics & Genomics Programs.
Elements that specifically enhance the MD-PhD training experience include a journal club for 1st & 2nd yr MD-PhDs, monthly all program Scientific & Professional Development Workshops, monthly Clinical Case Studies, an annual MD-PhD Research Symposium, as well as other social activities that foster interaction and collegiality of the combined degree students.
A timeline of the MD/PhD training path shows how the elements of the program are integrated. The first two years consist of the medical school core basic science modules, a study of integrated organ systems, problem-based learning, and the Clinical Skills Program. During the first two years there are also meetings designed to facilitate contact with potential faculty mentors and learn about PhD programs. MS1 and MS2 students carry out research rotations during the summers and during the academic year. Students are encouraged, but not required, to begin the program in June prior to MS1 to complete a first research rotation before medical school classes begin in early-August. Students also participate in the 1st and 2nd year MD/PhD monthly journal club. By the time of matriculation to the research phase, most MD/PhD students have selected graduate training programs and their research mentors. Students must also take and pass USMLE Step 1 prior to entering the PhD phase.
During the first year of graduate training, basic science MD/PhD students participate in the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PIBS) curriculum and select additional courses to fulfill their program requirements. Some components of PIBS and specific program requirements are waived for MD/PhDs, which streamlines didactic coursework. By the end of their first year most MD/PhDs in PIBS training programs have completed the bulk of their class work, and thereafter can devote most of their time to dissertation research. Basic science MD/PhD students are encouraged to complete qualifying exams and dissertation proposals early in the 2nd year of the PhD phase.
Epidemiology MD/PhD students have specific course prerequisites, and take specialized classes in epidemiology, public health and advanced biostatistics during the first two years of the PhD phase prior to taking qualifying exams. Dissertation research is ongoing throughout. Students interested in this PhD training track should seek further information about prerequisites, requirements and other program details at the Epidemiology website.
During the PhD phase students continue to participate in all MD/PhD program activities. They may elect to carry out a longitudinal clinical experience to reinforce their medical skills and/or to gain experience in a specific clinical discipline. All MD/PhD students are encouraged to apply for research fellowships offered through agencies such as the NIH NRSA predoctoral programs (F30 and F31), AHA, etc.
After completing the PhD, MD/PhD students return to MS3 & MS4 of medical school where there is one year of required clinical rotations and one year of clinical and/or research electives. Students use research elective time to complete research and papers from their dissertation work or to explore new areas. USMLE Step II is usually taken in the fall of MS4. Senior MD/PhD students also continue to participate in all program events.