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College of Graduate Studies

About the Medical Scientist Training Program

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 7.7 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.

Medicine, First & Second Years

The first two years of the program follow the classical medical school curriculum. Students spend the summers before and after their first year further familiarizing themselves with research laboratories at MUSC. They complete the second year of medical school with their entering class. The National Board Examination Part I is taken at the end of the second year. During this time students usually choose a program/department and mentor with whom they will work with to conduct their dissertation research.

Graduate Studies, Years Three and Beyond

Following the second year of medical school, students 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, Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology; Public Health Sciences, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; Gene Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology; Lipidomics, Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathobiology; Pathology, Neurosciences, Proteomics, Structural Biology and Cell Injury and Repair.

MSTP students take selected parts of the core curriculum offered to first year graduate students. The selection of units to be taken by the MSTP students is decided via discussions with the student's mentor and graduate program coordinator. The MSTP students are required to take the Essentials of Scientific Practice and the seminar series Important Unanswered Questions in Biomedical Sciences. Essentials of Scientific Practice covers those topics that are necessary to become an accomplished scientist but are not science. They include such things as good laboratory practices, intellectual property, oral and written communication skills, how to write a grant and the ethical conduct of research. Important Unanswered Questions in the Biomedical Sciences seminar series is devoted to translational research.

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.

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 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 5:00pm 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.

Translational Medicine Seminars

On the second Tuesday of each month, 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 that they developed during their month in the Research Nexus.  The grant has a basic science underpinning for the clinical study

Senior Panel

One evening after Match Day is devoted to the senior students talking about their experiences looking for internship and residency positions.

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.

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