MD | PhD Program Curriculum
Female researcher wearing safety goggles and a lab coat looking at large computer screen with pink-tinted cells on it

An Innovative Curriculum

Learn about the MD | PhD Program curriculum at the University of Michigan Medical School.

Maximizing Learning

The Medical School has an innovative curriculum that maximizes learning in a clinical context, while the timing of the PhD within medical school is optimized to make the transitions smooth.

Timeline graphic for the MD Curriculum
Specific aspects to note
  • The standard MD curriculum features one preclinical year called the Scientific Trunk followed by one Clinical Trunk year that includes seven core clerkships (internal medicine, pediatrics, etc.); and two years of Branches featuring a wide variety of electives to refine your clinical skills and delve into specific areas. Each student works 1:1 with a Branch Advisor to create an individualized development plan. The minimum Branches requirements for MSTP students are reduced from 17 months to 11 months.
  • MSTP students supplement the standard MD curriculum with a graduate school Biochemistry course during the M1 year. BioChem 552 is a literature-based discussion course that focuses on the critical analysis of seminal publications and is designed specifically for first-year MSTP students.
  • Although MSTP students can undertake one 4-week research rotation the summer after the M1 year, most elect to have a series of 1-week “experiences” in 4 different labs. They attend the lab meeting, read relevant literature, and work alongside a grad student or postdoc in the lab. The goal is to decide if they should do a full research rotation in that lab after the M2 year. This has been enormously successful from both the students’ and the mentors’ perspectives.
  • Most MSTP students complete all of the M2 Clinical Trunk prior to taking board exams and entering the PhD phase of training.
  • Each student has an individualized Research Rotation Advisory Committee to provide guidance in selecting research rotation mentors and a PhD program.
  • Two research rotations are required; many fellows do three. The first research rotation is generally taken during the summer after the Scientific Trunk, and the others are scheduled after completion of the Clinical Trunk and board exams.
  • In order to maintain clinical skills, students participate in a longitudinal clinical preceptor program during the PhD phase.
  • MSTP students have reduced Branches requirements, which facilitates a large amount of flexibility in the months when a student can defend the PhD and return to medical school while still graduating within eight years.

MD Curriculum