Within the biomedical science community, the need for clinical investigators who have been well trained in basic research has long been recognized. To help meet this need, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) established the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) to encourage and support the training of students with outstanding credentials and potential who, through an integrated program of scientific and medical study leading to the combined MD/PhD degree, are motivated to undertake a career in biomedical research and academic medicine. The program's goal is to prepare its graduates to function independently in both basic research and clinical investigation. The majority of MSTP graduates go on to careers in basic biomedical or clinical research.
The MSTP was established in 1964. It currently provides funding support to MD-PhD programs at 39 U.S. medical schools. There are approximately 75 medical schools that do not have NIGMS MSTP training grants but offer opportunities for MD/PhD studies.
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 are the computer sciences, social and behavioral sciences, economics, epidemiology, public health, bioengineering, biostatistics, and bioethics.
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. (Many institutions also support additional students using funds from other sources.) Selection for admission is highly competitive. For those selected, the program provides a maximum of six 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 of $11,748 a year;
tuition allowance; and
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 three to five years. Since MSTP grants are a type of National Research Service Award (NRSA), 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.
Other information about the MSTP may be obtained by contacting the National Institutes of Health (NIH) MSTP Administrator Room 905, Westwood Bldg. Bethesda, MD 20892 (301) 594-7744.
Students who are interested in applying to M.D./Ph.D. programs must have substantial research experience and strong academic credentials, particularly in science. Most applicants are science majors, although a few engineering students apply. Successful applicants must demonstrate a commitment to a career in research and a talent for independent investigation.