Perspective: PhD Scientists Completing Medical School in Two Years: Looking at the Miami PhD-to-MD Program Alumni Twenty Years Later

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Abstract

Producing and retaining physician–scientists remains a major challenge in advancing innovation, knowledge, and patient care across all medical disciplines. Various programs during medical school, including MD–PhD programs, have been instituted to address the need for continued production of physician-scientists. From 1971 through 1989, 508 students with a prior PhD in the sciences, mathematics, or engineering graduated in two years from an accelerated MD program at the University of Miami School of Medicine. The program, designed to address potential clinical physician shortages rather than physician–scientist shortages, quickly attracted many top-notch scientists to medicine. Many program graduates went to top-tier residencies, pursued research careers in academic medicine, and became academic leaders in their respective fields. A retrospective examination of graduates conducted in 2008–2009 demonstrated that approximately 59% took positions in academic university medical departments, 3% worked for governmental agencies, 5% entered industry as researchers or executives, and 33% opted for private practice. Graduates' positions included 85 full professors, 11 university directors or division heads, 14 academic chairs, 2 medical school deans, and 1 astronaut. Overall, 30% of graduates had obtained National Institutes of Health funding after completing the program. These results suggest that accelerated medical training for accomplished scientists can produce a large number of successful physician–scientists and other leaders in medicine. Furthermore, these results suggest that shortening the medical portion of combined MD–PhD programs might also be considered.

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