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Graduate students on graduation day

M.D./Ph.D. Program

Graduate Studies

The M.D./Ph.D. program at MUSC is an NIH funded Medical Scientist Training Program with the goal of training future leaders in academic medicine.

Mission: Train the future generation of physician-scientists and leaders in academic medicine.

Funding: The MUSC MSTP is funded in part by a training grant from the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences, the Colleges of Medicine and Graduate Studies and numerous scholarships. Trainees receive a stipend of $29,000 a year and tuition, fees and health insurance are paid for. This financial package allows the students to have a comfortable lifestyle in Charleston. The College of Graduate Studies provides a $1,500 bonus for each year that a trainee receives a NIH NRSA fellowship. The MUSC MSTP was ranked third in the nation, per capita for obtaining the highly competitive NIH NRSA individual fellowships.

Commitment to the trainees: We are committed to maintaining the highest standards for both the PhD and MD degrees. Our program provides a collegial and nurturing environment in which each student’s intellectual and personal potential is nurtured, encouraged and challenged. This ensures that our trainees achieve their full potential. Upon completion of their training, our students go on to the highest quality internships, residency training programs and post-doctoral research fellowships followed by outstanding career positions.

Program of study: The MSTP offers maximum flexibility and guidance for the student to select a mentor and training experience. There are also several mechanisms available that allow the trainee to get a significant exposure to clinical and translational research during the graduate years in addition to time in medical school. They include but are not limited to the Translational Sciences Clinic (during graduate years), Translational Medicine Seminar Series and a Month in the Research Nexus (during senior year) and the CARES Clinic, an evening clinic serving the medically indigent. Our students publish their research in top tier journals and receive numerous honors and awards for their research. 

MSTP Course of Study

The MST program is designed to be flexible, challenging and rewarding. The course of study is specially tailored to meet the particular needs and research interests of the individual student. The student's graduate advisory committee approves their curriculum design. The curriculum sequence is coordinated to include basic science and clinical rotations in medical school, plus graduate education and sufficient time to conduct a significant research project leading to the Ph.D.

Our program encourages students to enroll during the summer before the first year of matriculation into medical school in order to conduct a meaningful research experience. Although maximum flexibility with respect to curriculum design is encouraged, the average time to complete the program is 8 years. For most students the program is structured as follows, however, it is very flexible and can be changed to suit the trainee's needs.

MSTP Brochure 2018 (PDF)

Fall 2018 - Spring 2019 MSTP Seminar Schedule (PDF)

Medicine, First & Second Years
Graduate Studies, Years Three and Beyond
Translational Sciences Clinic
Medicine, Year Three
Medicine, Year Four
MSTP Activities and Events
MSTP Seminar Series
CARES Clinic
Translational Medicine Seminars
A Month in the Research Nexus Presentations
MSTP Annual Student Research Day
MUSC Student Research Day Competition
Invited Seminar Speakers
Social Events

Medicine, First & Second Years

The first 18 months of the program follow the newly implemented integrated flex medical curriculum. Students spend the summers before their first year familiarizing themselves with research laboratories at MUSC. They complete the second year of medical school with their entering class. The National Board Examination Step I is taken in early Spring of the second year. After completing the NBME Step I Exam, the students begin a second lab rotation.
Flex Curriculum

Graduate Studies, Years Three and Beyond

After completing a second lab rotation, students may either take a third rotation or choose their lab and pursue graduate studies leading to a Ph.D. degree. During this period of time, students should complete all of the research and scientific work necessary for a dissertation. Research training leading to a Ph.D. degree can be pursued in the following departments or programs, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Cell Injury and Repair; Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences; Gene Medicine; Lipidomics; Microbiology and Immunology; Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathobiology; Neurosciences; Pathology; Proteomics; Public Health Sciences; Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology; and Structural Biology.
MSTP students take selected sections of the core curriculum offered to first year graduate students. These are both required sections and elective sections, the later chosen in consulation with the graduate coordinator and mentor. The courses cover broad topics dealing with professional development, techniques of rigorous experimental design, learning from the literature, entrepreneurship, responsible conduct of research, and principles of grant writing.

The MST Program Steering Committee requires that all laboratory research necessary for completion of the Ph.D. degree be finished and the Dissertation either defended or ready for defending before the student resumes the third year of Medical School. The Program requires that the Dissertation be defended by the end of the calendar year.

The MSTP Progress Committee evaluates individual performance after each semester of study during the first two years and then annually thereafter.

Translational Sciences Clinic

The goal of this requirement is for MSTP students to learn how to better integrate the basic sciences and their area of research interest with a meaningful clinical/translational experience. The students are expected to discuss the patient's problems from a literature/research perspective. They will work in a clinic, one-half day a week with an extramurally funded clinician-scientist who is chosen based on his/her demonstrated commitment to research. All MSTP students are required to register for two (2) semesters of this clinic. It is suggested that the student participate in the clinic during their second or third year of graduate school. The student receives 2 weeks of junior selective credit for the 2 semesters. The mentors for this elective could help the students with a potential clinical study that may evolve from their basic science project.

Medicine, Year Three

The third year of medical school provides the basic clinical experiences in the major medical disciplines. Students rotate through clinical clerkships in internal medicine, surgery, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, family medicine, neurology rehabilatation and psychiatry. There are also three-week selective rotations that allow students to explore subspeciality areas.

Medicine, Year Four

The final year of medical school consists of completion of the clinical requirements and electives that permit the student to further develop individual interests. Four-week subinternships are required for medicine and surgery. Electives last four to eight weeks. During the senior year, MSTP students apply for desirable internships at outstanding medical universities. Time is available for students to travel to the institutions for interviews.

MSTP Activities and Events

Throughout each MSTP student's academic career, MUSC provides a wide range of structured and informal activities to promote close relationships with faculty members and fellow students.

MSTP Seminar Series

The MSTP has a monthly Monday night seminar series that is held at 4:00pm and dinner is served. Faculty are invited to present their research, which provides the students with an overview of some of the research opportunities on campus. Often the presenters are new faculty on the campus. During the later part of the Spring semester, students preparing to defend their dissertation rehearse in front of their peers and the Program Director and Associate Program Director. This is a valuable experience for the students since, for the presenter, it gives them an opportunity to rehearse their presentation and get valuable feedback. It is also an opportunity for those students who are early in their training to find out about other research experiences. In several cases, a student listening to the presentation has decided to continue the work in the presenter's laboratory.

CARES Clinic

The CARES clinic is a medically indigent evening clinic staffed by MUSC physicians. MSTP students attend the clinic a minimum of twice a year. This is done during their graduate years and helps them to maintain their clinical skills. This is a highly rewarding experience and the students uniformly enjoy the experience.

Translational Medicine Seminars

A senior student presents a clinical case in a disease area in which they are interested. The case presentation lasts roughly 5 to 10 minutes. After that, a physician-scientist discusses the case from a clinical and research perspective. Students get a chance to see the case discussed from a more scientific approach compared to what they might see on the wards or in the clinics. They are able to see how one can bring science to bear on the understanding of pathophysiologic processes and the development of new therapeutic approaches.

A Month in the Research Nexus Presentations

The senior students present the clinical/translational research grant (R21) that they developed during their month in the Research Nexus. The grant has a basic science underpinning for the clinical study.

Month in the Research Nexus

Senior Panel

One evening after Match Day is devoted to the senior students talking about their experiences looking for internship and residency positions. There are a series of FAQ's that are discussed.

MSTP Annual Student Research Day

This annual event is held in the Fall to give MSTP students an opportunity to learn about their colleagues' research. During the morning, students present their research in either a poster or oral format. The morning session is followed by a keynote seminar given by a previous graduate of the program. The afternoon is devoted to a business meeting, discussion groups and a team building exercise. The day is concluded with an informal dinner. This annual event is attended by all the MSTP students, mentors, selected faculty, department chairpersons and guests.

MUSC Student Research Day Competition

The campus wide student research day is held annually in November. Oral and poster presentations are made by the students and evaluated by the faculty. Constructive feedback is given to all the participants. Monetary prizes are awarded for the best presentations in each category. The day is topped off by a keynote address by an outstanding scientist and role model.

Invited Seminar Speakers

During the course of the academic year, students have the opportunity to invite guest speakers. In addition, the students get to meet with the guest speakers, who are often role models, during lunch.

Social Events

During the course of the year, several social events are also planned. In the past these have included such events as attending baseball games, hockey, paintball, symphony, paddle boarding and soccer matches. The graduating students have a celebratory dinner hosted by the Program Director, Associate Program Director, and the Assistant Program Director.

Opportunities in Translational Research

Integration of the Basic and Clinical Sciences to Provide Training in Translational Research

In keeping with the philosophy of our program which is to rigorously train M.D./Ph.D. students, the program has a series of programs available to its students that will allow them to receive training in clinical investigation, while still learning the rigors of hypothesis driven basic science research. Below are listed opportunities that our program provides for its trainees to gain a fundamental understanding of how to conduct translational research.

As part of the NIH roadmap initiative a major emphasis has been placed on clinical and translational research. The Medical University of South Carolina is committed to the concept of developing an enhanced infrastructure to facilitate clinical and translational research.

Medical Scientist Training Program Clinic in Translational Research

Course # MDCOR-871
Course Co-Directors:
Nancy DeMore, M.D., FACS Program Director, MSTP
Donald R. Menick, Ph.D. Associate Program Director, MSTP

Duration: one 1/2 day per week for two semesters
Credit hours: 2.5 per semester - Fulfills one third year Medical School Selective

The goal of this clinical experience is for MSTP students to learn how to better integrate the basic sciences and their area of research interest with a meaningful clinical/translational experience. The clinical experience is conducted during the student's Ph.D. training. The students are expected to discuss the patient's problems from a literature/research perspective. They work in a clinic, one-half day a week with a clinician-scientist who is chosen based on his/her demonstrated commitment to research. This translational clinical experience is required of MSTP students. The mentors for this clinic could help the students with a potential clinical study that may evolve from their basic science project. This experience helps the student to maintain their clinical skills and smooths their transition back to medical school. The course plan for the Clinic in Translational Sciences follows:


  • Create an environment where students begin to develop an appreciation for the process of translational research
  • Introduce students to mentors who can serve as role models


  • Students attend clinic no more than one half-day a week and with the same faculty mentor
  • Required to attend for two semesters
  • Program is pass/fail/honors
  • Two semesters may be used to satisfy one third year selective in medical school

Choosing a Mentor:

  • A list of mentors who are clinician-scientists is provided and approved by the Associate Program Director and/or Program Director
  • Whenever possible and/or appropriate the students will choose a mentor/clinic that is related to their dissertation research

Schedule with Mentor:

  • Introductory period to gain familiarity with the clinic
  • Mentor assigns patient(s)
  • Students will evaluate no more than one new patient per clinic and will see their return patients
  • Students are responsible for patient care (history, physical examinations, diagnosis and treatment plan) while the patient is under the care of that clinic

Clinical Research:

  • Students will research the latest concepts concerning the patient's disease and discuss them with the clinician-scientist

Expectations of Students:

  • Demonstrate a detailed understanding of the pathophysiology and treatment of the disease
  • Provide support for diagnosis and treatment that they propose
  • Demonstrate knowledge of current literature and provide references
  • Acquire proficiency in the history and physical examination

Expectations of Mentors:

  • Constructively challenge student's knowledge of current research literature
  • Practice evidence based medicine
  • Help the student gain skills in the history, physical examination, differential diagnosis and treatment

Evaluation of the MSTP clinic in translational sciences:

  • Both students and mentors are required to fill out an evaluation form at the end of each semester

Rotation in the SCTR Research Nexus

Course # MED-832
Course Co-Directors:
Dr. Carol Wagner and Dr. Perry V. Halushka

During the senior year of medical school, MSTP students spend a month in the SCTR Research Nexus. The center is the hub of clinical investigation. The time is spent in a series of experiences that provide a significant exposure to clinical/translational research. Students spend time working with clinical researchers, attend Institutional Review Board meetings, attend SCTR Research Nexus advisory committee meetings, attend lectures about clinical research topics and meet with the support personnel for the SCTR Research Nexus. The major objective is for the student to write a clinical translational research study in the form of an R21 grant application based on the discoveries made during the basic science research that he/she conducted during the PhD years. Alternatively, students may design a study based on their future career path. A full study is developed along with an informed consent. The student works with a mentor and obtains all the help necessary to fully develop the clinical study. At the end of the course the student formally presents his/her research study to members of the SCTR Research Nexus, selected other individuals and to the rest of the MSTP students. While this experience per se will not make the student an accomplished clinical investigator, it will break down some of the myths and barriers real or perceived that have impeded MD/PhD students from conducting clinical translational research.


  • Students will develop an understanding of and foundation in the principles of Clinical Investigation


Students will:

  • Participate in the protocols being conducted in the SCTR Research Nexus
  • Attend the SCTR Research Nexus advisory committee meeting
  • Attend an IRB meeting
  • Develop a clinical investigation research study based on their dissertation research or future career path and present it for approval
  • Learn statistical approaches used in clinical investigation

Contact Us

Medical Scientist Training Program
68 President St., BE 101
MSC 501
Charleston, SC 29425
Phone: (843) 876-2405
Fax: (843) 876-2416

Nancy DeMore, M.D., FACS
Director of M.D./Ph.D. program

Amy Connolly
Assistant Director MSTP
Contact for appointments with the Dean or issues regarding the M.D./Ph.D. program

Charlotte Kerr
College of Medicine Admissions Coordinator