After completing initial rotations in research laboratories, MD-PhD students enter the pre-clinical phase of medical school. These three semesters are designed to give students an understanding of both the normal and pathological states of the human body in order to prepare them for the USMLE Step 1 exam and for patient-centered clinical rotations.
Summer Research Rotations
MD-PhD students complete research rotations in the laboratories of potential PhD dissertation advisors in the summer prior to the M1 year and the summer between M1 and M2. Students are required to spend at least six weeks rotating in the lab that they will join for their PhD. All six weeks may be done in one summer, or may be completed in two three-week blocks over two summers. Following the six-week rotation, students will give a presentation of their work during the MD-PhD Lunch Seminar Series.
The first six months of the medical school curriculum is called the Scientific Foundations of Medicine and focuses on the normal human structure, function, growth and development. Courses include Molecular Basis of Health and Disease (biochemistry and genetics), Principles of Physiology, Principles of Pharmacology, Infection and Immunity (immunology and microbiology), and Foundations of Disease (pathology).
In January, the curriculum shifts to the Applied Medical Sciences Curriculum. This curriculum is organ-system-based and emphasizes clinical manifestations of disease. Courses include Marrow and Movement (hematology, oncology, orthopedics, rheumatology, and dermatology) as well as Glands and Guts (gastroenterology and hepatology, endocrinology and metabolism, and obstetrics and gynecology).
In addition to lecture courses, students participate in Physician, Patient and Society, Population Health and Evidenced-Based Medicine, Geriatrics, and Practice of Clinical Medicine, all of which run longitudinally throughout the M1 and M2 years. Practice of Clinical Medicine will teach students the art of physical diagnosis and physician-patient interactions and makes use of the new, state-of-the-art simulation center in the McGlothlin Medical Education Center. Throughout the curriculum, students in the class will be divided into small table groups. All MD-PhD students will be in the same table group and, where possible, their group education will focus more heavily on basic science than will the groups for the other medical students.
Eight times a semester, usually every other week, MD-PhD students will meet in the afternoon for 1.5 hours for a Journal Club. Basic science articles are chosen by faculty teaching in the curriculum ongoing at that time. All students are expected to read and discuss each article.
The applied Medical Sciences Curriculum continues as do the longitudinal courses. Courses include Cardiovascular, Pulmonary, Renal as well as Mind, Brain and Behavior (neurology and psychiatry).
In lieu of the Journal Club, an interactive course specifically designed for MD-PhD students, called Science and Disease, is taught in the M2 year. This course allows physician-scientist faculty members or a team of clinicians plus basic scientists to present a case patient. The patient is often brought into the classroom and then the faculty member discusses some aspect of the basic science behind the pathologic process in detail.
Students take the USMLE Step 1 board exam in March of their second year. The time from the end of M2 classes in January to the end of March is designated as study time for the board exam. Students are required to complete Step 1 by March 31st.
After successful completion of USMLE Step 1 in March of the M2 year, MD-PhD students have four months before they begin their graduate or “G” phase in August. During this time, they will take 6 to 8 weeks of M3 clinical clerkships, either two short clerkships or one longer clerkship, beginning the third week of April (orientation) and extending until the second week of July. The time prior to the M3 orientation in mid-April is elective and is usually taken as vacation time. The period following the M3 clinical clerkship (July-August) should be spent on the PhD dissertation project or, if no lab or dissertation mentor has yet been found, on additional lab rotations.