PhD Years

When students first enter the research (graduate) phase, they quickly assimilate in their chosen program of study as well as continue along the path of becoming a Physician-Scientist through a wide variety of opportunities during this period.

a. Transition into Laboratory Research 

Transition into the PhD phase after the first two years of medical school is the first important transition made by all trainees. Students go through a number of steps: 1) Meet with Dr. Trinkaus- Randall to learn how to formally approach a PI and request to attend laboratory meetings to gain insight into how specific laboratories work; 2) Attend GMS sponsored department open houses, which are informal occasions where current students present posters and faculty are available for questions; and 3) Attend MD/PhD retreats, where trainees are exposed to research from different laboratories during posters and talks presented by students. After students have explored departments, students consult with Dr. Trinkaus-Randall and decide on 1-2 rotations for the first spring/summer and 1 rotation for after the Step Examination in the second year. After each rotation, the PI and student meet to discuss their performance, and the student presents at the evening session rotation talks and answers questions about their research and experimental design. Examples of possible discussions at these presentations include the student’s knowledge of the limit of resolution of the methods used, prior research, and analytical methods. The student then meets with the co- Directors to discuss their choice of PI, and after final approval of the PI, the student starts their PhD work. Research experiences outside of those sponsored by their specific lab PI include Departmental seminars that they attend or give, Departmental retreats, the MD/PhD retreat, ‘Research on Tap’ , Russek Day to present posters, T32 specific research events, and Evans Day in the Department of Medicine for graduate students, residents, and post-doctoral fellows to exchange research.

b. Teaching 

In academic medicine, the role of a Physician-Scientist typically includes teaching. Teaching opportunities exist in a number of ways. Many MD/PhD students serve as teaching assistants in first- and second-year medical school courses, as tutors, and as instructors of undergraduate Biomedical Laboratory and Clinical Sciences courses. Students are also required to present their research at seminars, student retreats, campus-wide research symposia, and at a wide variety of scientific meetings. In addition, efforts are currently underway in the design of a course focused on teaching. Students will be taught techniques for teaching, and then have the opportunity to practice these techniques presenting to small groups of students.

c. Clinical experiences

Trainees who work in laboratories with clinical interests are encouraged to shadow their mentors or the medical-scientists in their department. By doing so, students have found that the clinical implications of their research are more easily understood. The co-Directors encourage shadowing by all students, and we have a list of medical-scientists who encourage structured shadowing in their G3 and G4 years.  Dr. Borkan meets first with students and introduces them to expectations. Students are expected to engage in at least one structured shadowing experience per semester during the third and fourth year of graduate work. Students in their graduate training are expected to attend 1 CREx seminar per semester. In this environment, students listen to residents and fellows in internal medicine present challenging cases. In addition, students will attend a clinical talk given by a senior student in the MD/PhD Career Development Seminar series.

d. MD800

GMS-MD800, is the final course taken in the PhD curriculum and is taken in the G4 year. It was designed and is taught by Dr. Borkan in coordination with the medical school. The course includes classroom work, attendance at 6 Clinical Reasoning Exercise Seminars (CREx), five 1:1 patient interviews and physical examination, write-ups and evaluations evaluated by several faculty,  and a final Pre-Clinical Examination that is a repeat of the EYOSA given to all students after the completion of the M2 year. The central goal of MD800 is to ease the transition to the clerkships with successful practice, skill development and assessment.