IU’s M.D./Ph.D. program, in which students receive the both degrees in seven to eight years, has received a five-year, $1.25 million Medical Scientist Training Program award from the NIH, one of only 40 such grants to medical schools nationally.
The IU program is highly competitive, admitting just five recent undergraduates annually from more than 125 applications. Although many are from the Midwest, the program attracts applicants from across the country and from many of the nation’s elite universities. The NIH funding will enable the program to expand its enrollment.
Ten graduate school programs participate in the program in addition to the School of Medicine, including the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering at Purdue University.
The collaboration between the two universities was recognized by the NIH review panel as a compelling strength of the M.D./Ph.D program, one of the few in the nation to incorporate a strong engineering program in a significant way, said D. Wade Clapp, M.D., program director and Kipp Professor of Pediatrics and of microbiology and immunology at the IU School of Medicine. The program was also recognized for strengths in the IU School of Medicine clinical and graduate programs.
“Support from the NIH-sponsored Medical Scientist Training Program is recognition of the quality of our students, the program and the commitment made by IU and Purdue to meet the need for scientists who have received excellent training in both basic science and clinical research,” said Dr. Clapp.
“We’re delighted with the recognition from the NIH of the quality and potential of our joint program,” said George Wodicka, Ph.D., head of Purdue’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. “The cooperative Indiana University medicine and Purdue biomedical engineering educational component provides unique opportunities for the training of physician engineers.”
Having a sophisticated understanding of both medicine and biomedical engineering gives graduates the tools they will need to develop new treatments using nanomedicine, neuroengineering, tissue engineering and imaging techniques, Dr. Wodicka said.
About 10 students now are pursuing biomedical engineering doctoral degrees at Purdue through the program. The program’s goal is to enroll three new engineering students each year and have 21 such students enrolled at any given time.
Started in the 1960s, the M.D./Ph.D. program was transformed in 2002 with the addition of funding from the Indiana Genomics Initiative, the $155 million initiative funded by grants from the Lilly Endowment. Support from INGEN, along with additional support from the School of Medicine, individual graduate programs and private philanthropy, substantially increased the level of scholarship support for the program, resulting in a tripling of applications.
With the appointment of Dr. Clapp and Maureen Harrington, Ph.D. professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, as directors, the program’s educational curriculum has been revamped, the collaboration between IU and Purdue strengthened and new opportunities for research, mentoring and interactions with leading physician scientists from across the country have been added. The program has boosted efforts to recruit top applicants, resulting in more applicants from across the country. Seventeen percent of those enrolled since 2002 have been minority students.