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Dr. Perry Halushka, Dean of the College of Graduate Studies

The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)

The future of all medicine depends on the discovery of new knowledge about disease, fundamental biology, and related scientific breakthroughs.  The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) is designed to prepare our students to be future leaders in academic medicine by pursuing the combined degrees of M.D. and Ph.D. The MSTP selects students because of their desire to excel, make fundamental discoveries, and to pioneer new treatments.  Our goal is to train the future leaders in academic medicine, and we pursue that goal by providing an environment in which each student’s intellectual and personal potential is nurtured, encouraged and challenged.

The MSTP at MUSC was established in 1980, with 7 graduates in the 1980’s, 21 in the 1990’s and 40 in the first 9 years of the current decade. Of these 73 alumni, 2 are professors holding endowed chairs, 3 are associate professors, 12 are assistant professors, 6 are conducting research in industry, 14 are in private practice, 35 are still in training, and 1 position is unknown.

The Medical Scientist Training Program is partially funded by the National Institute of Health, making it one of only 42 in the United States. The competing renewal of the  MSTP training grant was recently funded with an increase the number of positions from 6 to 8 and for an additional 5 years. The review committee had many positive comments about the program, in particular, the strength of the training opportunities for the students.  

We are committed to maintaining the highest standards for both the Ph.D. and M.D. degrees.  In addition to receiving many honors and awards, students in our program have gone on to postgraduate training at the most prestigious institutions followed by research careers. The students are highly successful in obtaining their own extramural fellowships, with average success rates of twice the national average.

The modest size of the program provides the greatest range of opportunities for a strong collegial spirit among the students, faculty and directors. The program currently has 57 students and enrolls approximately 7 students annually. The first two years of the program follow the classical medical school curriculum.  Following the second year of medical school, students pursue graduate studies leading to a Ph.D. degree.  During this period, students complete all of the research and didactic requirements for a Ph.D. degree.  Students also have the opportunity to participate in the Translational Sciences Clinic.  This is a unique training experience that emphasizes the scientific basis of the practice of medicine. Students are mentored by physician-scientists who are also role models. Upon completion of the Ph.D. requirements, the students enter their third and fourth year of medicine.  MD/PhD students also take a clinical research rotation in the Clinical and Translational Research Center.  This unique opportunity teaches students how to conduct translational research since they write a clinical research study based on their dissertation research.

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