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Medical Scientist Training Program

The MSTP - UT Houston provides students pursuing careers as physician-scientists the unique opportunity to earn dual MD/PhD degrees in a six to eight year integrated Program offered by McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Houston Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.


The MD/PhD Program includes a traditional four-year Medical School curriculum and additional courses and research required for the PhD degree. The PhD requirements include: three lab tutorials, ethics in biomedical research, scientific writing, a quantitative course (biostatistics or other approved quantitative course), critical thinking in science, participation in an ongoing MD/PhD seminar on topics in molecular medicine, written and oral candidacy exams, and completion of the dissertation research and defense.

MD/PhD Timeline

Students entering the MD/PhD Program complete the first three years of Medical School before beginning their dissertation research, and the last year in the Program is devoted to completing 4th year Medical School electives and clerkships. A typical sequence of coursework is outlined here:

Year 1

Summer – one summer research tutorial and Topics in Molecular Medicine seminar

Fall and Spring – MS year 1 and Topics in Molecular Medicine seminar (ongoing)

Year 2

Summer - one summer research tutorial and Topics in Molecular Medicine seminar

Fall and Spring – MS year 2 and Topics in Molecular Medicine seminar (ongoing); take USMLE Step 1 in April/May

Year 3

Fall and Spring – MS year 3

Summer – take USMLE Step 2; one summer research tutorial (or submit a waiver for 3rd tutorial) and Topics in Molecular Medicine seminar.

Years 4-7 (varies among students)

Dissertation research, candidacy exams and dissertation defense

Topics in Molecular Medicine seminar (ongoing)

Final year

Fall and Spring – MS year 4, residency interviews, National Match

Comments from our current students regarding the benefits of this education sequence:

“I joined the program planning to continue on with neuroscience research and pursue a career as a neurologist. However, upon my experience in rotations during third year, I DRAMATICALLY shifted my interests… I hated neurology, but loved surgery and ob/gyn! I am now conducting translational research in the gynecologic oncology department at MD Anderson, which is in line with my future career interests and gives me valuable connections and insight to both faculty and obgyn and/or gyn-onc programs here at MDACC and across the nation, which I will surely benefit from when the time comes. Not everyone’s interests change so dramatically, but across the board you are more well-equipped to conduct translational, clinically-relevant research during your PhD after completing 3 years of medical school compared to the traditional 2-4-2 sequence.”

“The 3-4-1 sequence was a major draw of the program for me. Building on your preclinical education with third-year clerkships is essential to connect the dots from all the information you've studied to thinking like an actual doctor when it comes to patient care, and I think it fosters more translational thinking as a physician-scientist trainee. On a practical level, it also makes the difference between being only allowed to shadow patients during graduate school versus being able to see patients and perform physical exams with guidance from preceptors. Finally, doing third-year clerkships before starting grad school was monumental for me, as it made me change my clinical interests and pursue different research than I would have if I hadn't seen which patient populations and what kind of clinical practice I am most interested in pursuing.”  

“My goal is to become a physician-scientist, to let my clinical knowledge and experiences inform my questions in the lab. I wanted my training to parallel this as much as possible, and the 3-4-1 structure does that. The clinical rotation year has solidified my medical knowledge and given me invaluable perspective on the significance of different research topics. Additionally, the clinical year helped me decide what medical specialty I want to pursue, so I was able to choose a lab that also overlaps with my clinical interests. UTH's unique 3-4-1 structure was one of the main reasons I was drawn to the program!”