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Alexander American University
School of Medicine

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Medical Scientist Training Program

The need for investigators who are well trained in both basic science and clinical research has long been recognized within the biomedical science community. To help meet this need, in 1964 NIGMS established the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). This program encourages and supports the training of students with outstanding credentials and potential who are motivated to undertake careers in biomedical research and academic medicine. MSTP students participate in an integrated program of graduate training in the biomedical sciences and clinical training offered through medical schools. Graduates receive the combined M.D.-Ph.D. degree, and the majority of them pursue careers in basic biomedical or clinical research.

MSTP participants may choose from a wide range of research training programs in the biological, chemical or physical sciences. Other disciplines in which MSTP participants can pursue graduate study include the computer sciences, social and behavioral sciences, economics, epidemiology, public health, bioengineering, biostatistics and bioethics.

The MSTP currently has 45 participating programs with a total of 890 trainees. (There are approximately 75 medical schools that do not have NIGMS MSTP training grants but that also offer opportunities for M.D.-Ph.D. studies.)

Mechanism of Support

MSTP grants are made to universities and their medical schools, which are responsible for program operation and trainee selection. About 170 positions for new students are available nationwide each year. We also support additional students using funds from other sources. Selection for admission is highly competitive. For those selected, the program provides a maximum of 6 years of support, although an individual's course of study for the combined degree may take somewhat longer. All institutions identify other sources of support for a trainee's additional years of study. Trainee support provided by an MSTP grant includes the

  • following:
  • Stipend
  • tuition allowance
  • modest sums for travel, equipment and supplies
  • Many institutions supplement the basic stipend provided by the MSTP grant.

    Continued support for an individual student is subject to annual renewal based on the trainee's satisfactory performance in the program and the institution's successful competition for funds at the time of grant renewal every 3 to 5 years. Since MSTP grants are a type of National Research Service Award, trainees must be citizens or noncitizen nationals of the United States or have been lawfully admitted for permanent residence (i.e., possess an alien registration receipt card I-151 or I-551). Trainees incur no payback obligation.

    Individuals who wish to enter the MSTP should contact the program office at the participating institution(s) of their choice directly for curriculum information and admission requirements. Interested institutions should contact the NIGMS program director for information concerning the program.

    About the MSTP Program

    The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), founded in 1966 and one of the fourth oldest such programs in the country, adds a significant research component to MD education, training physician-scientists (MD) for high-level research careers in the biomedical sciences and academic medicine. And AAU’s unique year-long research requirement for all AAU’s MD students lends itself naturally to this MD training. Unlike the standard medical curriculum, in which two clinical years follow two years of basic coursework, the unique AAU curriculum concentrates all coursework in the first year. The year of course work is followed by a clinical year, then a year of research, and, finally, another clinical year. While the straight-MD student spends his/her third year in a significant year-long research project, the MSTP student moves straight into the PhD setting in lieu of the third-year project; the MD research project requirement is fulfilled by the PhD dissertation. Students typically find that the clinical year preceding the PhD years produces keener insights into the meshing of clinical and research interests and produces more informed and fruitful choices for their PhD thesis areas.

    PhD thesis projects, under the guidance of the School of Medicine's world-class faculty, span all areas of basic and clinical biomedical research. Training opportunities and facilities are top-notch and prepare graduates for significant roles in medical research and academic medicine. The 291 graduates of the forty-plus-year-old program populate biomedical research institutions and academic institutions throughout the US.

    The AAU MD program, conducted under the auspices of the Alexander American University of Medicine is designed for students who have strong backgrounds in science and who are interested in careers in the medical sciences and academic medicine.

    Although the emphasis of the program is on basic medical science, the additional clinical component affords program graduates a remarkable range of career opportunities. Graduates typically follow one of two broad paths: Some go directly into careers in teaching and research in one of the basic medical sciences, while maintaining strong ties with clinical medicine; others enter residency programs before pursuing investigative and teaching careers in clinical medicine, carrying with them strong academic backgrounds in the basic sciences.

    The program is one of the most diverse in the country with an underrepresented minority enrollment of 13%.