Medical Scientist Training Program
The Medical Scientist Training Programs (MSTPs) are extremely competitive MD-PhD training programs that streamline the education towards MD and PhD graduate degrees. MSTPs are offered by a small number of United States medical schools with financial support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The goal of these training programs is to produce physician scientists who can translate laboratory discoveries into effective treatments for patients. Among a total number of 118 MD-PhD programs in the country, there are currently 43 participating institutions with MSTPs for a total of 933 trainees in all stages of the programs. MSTPs exist at the nation's preeminent medical schools, and, as of 2011, the top 20 medical schools as ranked by the US News and Report had a MSTP. The most recent MSTP grant was awarded to The University of Massachusetts Medical School in 2013.
The program has its origins in the non-NIH funded MD-PhD training offered at the nation's research-centric medical schools. The first true dual-degree program began at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1956. Other prominent medical schools quickly followed this example and developed explicit MD-PhD training structures. In 1964 the NIH created Medical Scientist Training Program to begin funding this medical and research education. The first programs to receive funding were at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and New York University School of Medicine. In the decades that followed, the MSTP saw a significant expansion in NIH funding and institutions with MSTP designation.
Admission to MSTPs is the most competitive of all graduate medical education programs in the country, with only 170 NIH-funded positions available nationwide each year for a total of 1,813 applicants (a 9.4% acceptance rate), as of 2011. In comparison, MD-only programs had 20,176 positions for a total of 43,915 applicants (a 46% acceptance rate). At each institution, these acceptance rates are varied and are often far more competitive than the national data. Every year, the number of MSTP applicants rapidly increases, as the benefits of such well-structured combined training have become more appreciated. Applicants must have very strong MCAT scores and GPAs to be considered for positions in MSTP. Reflecting this fact, from 2008 to 2010 the average GPA and MCAT for matriculants to MSTPs were 3.76 and 34.5, respectively, and these numbers continue to rise every year. MSTP applicants will often have very strong research experience as well, in addition to the typical qualifications required from MD-only applicants. However, because of the time commitment required of research, MSTP will not focus as much on miscellaneous volunteering experience and will focus mostly on an applicant's research background as well as clinical experience such as volunteering at a hospital or shadowing a doctor(s).
Interviews for admissions at MSTPs tend to focus on the applicant's career goals and past experiences in scientific research. These may include short research talks or presentations followed by rigorous questioning by an interviewer or interviewing committee. MSTP applicants are often required to demonstrate a deep understanding of their past research projects. Multiple interview sessions conducted by different interviewers that last for 2 days are very common. At some MSTPs, applicants may also be required (or be offered the chance) to interview with the MD-only program.
MSTP matriculants receive substantial financial awards that make them financially competitive to their MD-only counterparts even with the longer training periods. These allowances cover all tuition expenses, provide travel and supply allowances, and accommodate living expenses through an annual stipend (ranging from $22,000 to $33,000). Together, these monetary awards compare to approximately $200,000 of pre-tax income.
While MSTP-designated schools have NIH grant funding, a considerable portion of the financial support comes from the institution itself. Furthermore, this grant funding for each student expires before the completion of the program. Therefore, the institution must provide 100% of the funding at that time. For clarification, even with these financial changes, a MSTP student never sees a loss of funding (tuition or stipend).
Since MSTP grants are a type of National Research Service Award, students must be nationals (citizens or noncitizens) of the United States or possess a I-151 or I-551 alien registration receipt. However many MSTPs offer non-MSTP grant funded positions, allowing for non-citizens and non-legalized nationals to be accepted into the MD-PhD program at that particular school. These programs are indistinguishable between the students besides the funding source. Furthermore, many non-MSTP medical schools have MD-PhD programs that are not supported by the NIH but offer similar training opportunities and grant money.
Several MSTPs allow for the PhD portion of the MSTP to be completed outside the home university at an allied institution. These relationships provide additional and sometimes stronger research opportunities to students in these MSTPs.
* Stipend amount increases at various times in the program
Non-MSTP MD–PhD and DO–PhD programs
A number of medical and osteopathic medical schools without funded NIH MSTP grant slots maintain their own non-MSTP MD–PhD or DO–PhD combined degree programs, sometimes offering full or partial student financial support funded by the schools themselves. Currently, 75 institutions provide a means for non-MSTP MD–PhD education in the United States, along with seven DO–PhD training programs. Internationally, there are 34 institutions that provide MD–PhD training.
Notes and references
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- "MSTP Study: The Careers and Professional Activities of Graduates of the NIGMS Medical Scientist Training Program". Publications.nigms.nih.gov. 2011-04-22. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
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- "Funding - UCSF MSTP". ucsf.edu. Retrieved 2013. Check date values in:
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- "History — UNC MD-PhD Program - (UNC School of Medicine)". Med.unc.edu. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
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- "University of Washington MSTP". University of Washington MSTP. Retrieved 2012-06-24.
- "Funding Throughout the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP, MD-PhD)". med.wisc.edu. University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Retrieved February 1, 2016.
- "Financial Support". Retrieved 2013-05-24.
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- "Frequently Asked Questions > MD-PhD Program". Yale School of Medicine. Retrieved 2012-06-24.
- "DO/PhD Programs". APSA - American Physician Scientists Association. Retrieved 2012-06-19.
- "DO/PhD Programs". Retrieved 2012-06-19.