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Dual Degrees


The Medical Scientist Training Program curriculum is flexible and designed to meet individual goals. Students have direct access to top clinical and graduate faculty and courses at IU School of Medicine. A typical academic plan permits most students to complete the combined degree in seven to eight years. One advantage of the program is that up to 30 credit hours of pre-clerkship coursework may be applied toward the IU School of Medicine PhD.

The Medical Scientist Training Program spans three distinct stages of training: the pre-clinical, systems-based knowledge stage (Phase 1 of the MD curriculum), the graduate school coursework and dissertation research stage, and the clinical clerkship (Phase 2 of the MD curriculum) and sub-internship/elective stage (Phase 3 of the MD curriculum).

Program Progression

Entering students do summer research rotations during the summer prior to the program’s first year curriculum and also between year one and year two of medical school. During years three through six, MSTP students focus on graduate school courses, PhD research and defense, and ongoing clinical activities that allow for the integration of both research and clinical care. Upon completion of their PhD, dual degree students return to medical school for clerkships, sub-internships and electives, which complete the MD portion of the program. Participation in the Medical Scientist Training Program also includes attending seminars, events, poster presentations, opportunity to travel to national conferences and mentor support.

table of MD/PhD curriculum with foundations of clinical practice in medical school taking place in years 1 and 2, graduate school coursework and research in years 3-6, and medical school clerkships and electives in years 7 and 8.

Areas of Research Excellence

A key aspect of the IU School of Medicine Medical Scientist Training Program is the interdisciplinary and complementary research interests, divided into a total of eight themes, of training faculty. IU School of Medicine has developed a Strategic Research Initiative with IU Health to grow strategic areas of thematic research. Additionally, IU School of Medicine is building a Precision Health infrastructure that includes brick and mortar, high-end equipment and administrative infrastructure and reaches across all of these themes to ensure exceptional and personalized patient care. Both the Strategic Research Initiative and the Precision Health infrastructure lean heavily on IU School of Medicine partners at Purdue Biomedical Engineering to ensure that medical devices, imaging modalities and state-of-the-art materials are incorporated into next-generation therapeutics. In recognition of the efforts at IU School of Medicine and Purdue, Medical Scientist Training Program faculty are aligned with eight distinct themes that represent the strengths of the program’s research training.

  • Biomedical Engineering

    Purdue biomedical engineering investigators developed the first energy-efficient implantable cardiac defibrillator, described a xenogeneic biomaterial scaffold for the repair and regeneration of human tissues, and invented an acoustic-guidance system for endotracheal tubes that has recently been FDA-approved. Biomedical Engineering faculty research areas are broad and include biomaterials and tissue engineering, biomedical imaging and optics, bio-nanotechnology and biosensors, neural engineering, and orthopedic biomechanics and implants.

  • Cancer and Hematologic Disease

    The IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center is an IU School of Medicine institutional strength, where physician scientists and scientists work on the molecular basis of cancer, identification of biomarkers, and the development of new animal models to test novel molecules and therapies developed by cancer center members. Key research strengths include childhood and adult hematologic malignancies, breast and pancreatic cancer, neurofibromatosis, metastatic disease and development of immune-based therapies. The IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center is also home to several investigators developing bioinformatics tools to better understand the etiology of cancers, consequences of therapeutic interventions and the development of individualized therapies.

  • Cardiovascular and Kidney Disease

    The cardiovascular diseases program at IU School of Medicine capitalizes on institutional strengths in translational cardiovascular and kidney research. This program provides a fundamental and highly integrative systems-based research experience for pre-doctoral student training in discovering the underlying mechanisms responsible for the pathologic interplay between cardiovascular and kidney disease. A key component of this unique program is the established translational bench-to-bedside research that includes studies in human patients, large animal (swine) models of disease, and novel genetic rodent models that are supported by cutting-edge experimental and imaging modalities, including PET-CT, intravital multiphoton microscopy, 3-dimensional imaging. Areas of emphasis include vascular reactivity; atherogenesis; the regulation of cardiovascular function; genetic basis of cardiac development, heart disease and cardioprotection; and mechanisms of acute kidney injury and chronic kidney disease. Investigators within this program have long-standing interest in elucidating mechanisms responsible for cardiovascular and renal complications of obesity and diabetes.

  • Diabetes and Metabolism

    Diabetes researchers at IU School of Medicine developed the Zucker fatty diabetic rat, and they’ve played critical roles in measuring and quantifying insulin antibodies in the worldwide human insulin clinical trials. These investigators have also made pioneering strides in the relationship between chromatin structure of β cell genes and insulin secretion in type 2 diabetes. The Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases at IU School of Medicine is one of only 16 NIH-funded diabetes research centers in the United States. The Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases emphasizes four areas of research strengths that include Islet Biology, Molecular Basis of Metabolism, Complications of Diabetes (including eye, kidney, and cardiovascular), Nutrition and Physiology of Obesity, and Clinical Outcomes Research.

  • Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Disease

    IU School of Medicine researchers have a broad interest in understanding the molecular basis of infectious disease, immunity to infection, immune-mediated inflammation and pulmonary dysfunction. Researchers at IU School of Medicine have pioneered understanding of the molecular components of allergic inflammation and developed new techniques for assessing airway function in infants. Moreover, there is a strong history in training physician-scientists in this area. The Asthma and Allergic Diseases Research Program is an inter-departmental consortium focused on regulation of inflammation at mucosal surfaces. The research efforts of Medical Scientist Training Program faculty also include basic immunology areas such as T helper cell differentiation, CD1- and MR1-mediated antigen presentation and innate immune signaling. The infectious disease program spans bacterial and viral agents and has a particular focus on sexually transmitted diseases.

  • Musculoskeletal Disease

    The number of investigators studying musculoskeletal disorders at IU School of Medicine has steadily grown over the past 20 years, and they are distributed across the IU School of Medicine and Purdue campuses. Lynda Bonewald, PhD, is the director of the newly established Indiana Center for Musculoskeletal Health. The focus areas around which research teams of basic, translational and clinical researchers are built include 1) trauma, regeneration, rehabilitation, 2) genetic diseases and precision medicine, 3) mechanobiology 4) musculoskeletal cancer and 5) pediatric musculoskeletal disease. The Indiana Center for Musculoskeletal Health serves as a springboard to launch innovative, multidisciplinary, cross-collaborative approaches to musculoskeletal disease. A focus area is investigations into the mechanisms responsible for increased fragility and susceptibility to fracture of diabetic bone.

  • Neuroscience and Addiction

    Neuroscience research and training has a distinguished history at IU School of Medicine, where researchers discovered glycine as a neurotransmitter, performed both the basic science and translational studies that led to the approval of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs, Prozac), and utilized the genetics factors underlying alcohol addiction using the alcohol preferring and non-preferring rat model system as part of an NIH-supported Alcohol Research Center. Investigators at the school celebrate other achievements; they identified genetic and pathologic substrates for neurodegenerative diseases as part of an NIH-supported Alzheimer’s Disease Center and recently established an NIH-supported animal model center for Alzheimer’s disease. The Paul and Carol Stark Neurosciences Research Institute combines neuroscience-focused clinical departments and neuroscience research labs to focus on four areas of research strengths, including Traumatic Brain Injury/Spinal Cord Injury (TBI/SCI), Neurodegeneration, Addiction and Pain/Anxiety/Affective Disorders.

  • Sociomedical and Behavioral Sciences (Alzheimer's Disease and Associated Dementias)

    There is a critical need to grow and strengthen the pipeline of physician scientists who have expertise in sociomedical and behavioral research and are dedicated to addressing the nation's challenges posed by Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD). The Indiana ADRD Medical Scientist Training Program (IADRD MSTP) was conceived to meet this need. This training leverages the strengths of IU's robust infrastructure of ADRD research, world class graduate training programs in medical neurosciences and sociology, and the existing MD-PhD program at Indiana University School of Medicine to train the next generation of physician scientists who will become leaders in ADRD research. To achieve these aims, the MD-PhD program was developed with rigorous didactic training in social, behavioral, and clinical research methods, with flexibility to allow students to focus their effort on one methodological area of interest; early initiation of ADRD research experiences with multidisciplinary teams of mentors and advisors; and the provision of educational experiences that enhance students' abilities to become independent researchers.