Program Overview

The combined MD/PhD Program is an integrated program jointly administered by the Faculty of Medicine and Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Its purpose is to provide selected and highly qualified students the opportunity to combine their medical school experience with intensive scientific training in a PhD graduate program, in order to pursue careers as clinician-scientists. The program is designed such that students can receive the combined MD/PhD degree after successful completion of seven years of enrolment. The program of study is built upon the standard MD curriculum, but it is further “customized” to meet the unique PhD training program requirements of individual students based on their background, previous research experience, and chosen medical field of expertise.

In addition to fulfilling the requirements of the regular undergraduate MD curriculum, MD/PhD students will also undertake graduate level coursework as required by their chosen field of research. Curriculum planning, coursework, and research training are to be closely integrated and coordinated between the basic sciences and clinical disciplines throughout the 7-year program. Thus, graduates of the MD/PhD Program are trained as competent physicians as well as skilled scientists. The combined MD/PhD degree should adequately prepare the graduates to pursue a research-intensive track of residency and postdoctoral training in a specialty or discipline of their choice, ultimately leading to a competitive and independent clinical investigative career.

The MD component of the MD/PhD curriculum has been coordinated to retain and capitalize on the programmatic, multidisciplinary, and progressive nature of the MD curriculum. This will allow overlap and concurrent activities in clinical training and research, and facilitate timely completion of the dual MD/PhD degree with the least possible interruption in either clinical experiences or research focus.  Students must complete all the required courses in the regular Medical Undergraduate Program.

The PhD component of the Program is coordinated in conjunction with various hosting departments and research programs within Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the Faculty of Medicine. Students must complete 12 credits of coursework for the PhD component, and at least 9 credits must be 500-level or above and at least 9 credits must be of first class standing. Students must demonstrate proficiency in all required coursework by examination. All students are expected to complete any required graduate coursework by the end of Year 3 in the Program. Students must also successfully complete an oral comprehensive examination based on their proposed research and submit a grant proposal based on their proposed research (in the CIHR format) within the first 36 months of starting their program. The comprehensive examination for admission to PhD candidacy should also be done by the end of Year 3 in the Program. Students must defend their thesis by oral examination. Additionally, each student will be evaluated at least annually by the research supervisory committee. Continuation in the combined degree program is contingent upon satisfactory scholastic and research progress.

Student selection, curriculum planning, research supervision, and clinical training are jointly coordinated through the MD/PhD Advisory Committee, with representation from both the Faculty of Medicine and Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. Close integration and coordination between the basic sciences and the clinical disciplines will ensure a smooth transition between academic course work, basic science training, research, and clinical rotation.

A formal mechanism for monitoring student progress is in place through the MD/PhD Advisory Committee, in conjunction with the Associate Deans of Undergraduate Education, Curriculum, and Student Affairs. Each student will be required to present a research update at least once a year, and satisfactory performance at this yearly assessment is required for continuation of program support.

Students in the MD/PhD Program are expected to apply to external granting agencies such as the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Canadian Diabetes Association, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Kidney Foundation, Canadian Lung Association and Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research during the first year of their Program. In addition, a limited number of CIHR MD/PhD Studentship Awards are available each year on a competitive basis. Students accepted into the MD/PhD Program must have either external funding or support from their research supervisor starting in March of their first year in the Program.

Students should refer to our Program Description and Comprehensive Examination Guidelines for more details regarding course requirement and examination timelines.