What is the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)?
The MSTP is a dual MD-PhD degree program that is federally funded by the National Institute for Health. Students who are accepted into this program earn their doctor of medicine and doctor of philosophy degrees concurrently, typically in eight years. The MSTP is designed primarily for students who are interested in a future career with a focus in research related to medicine. The Michigan MSTP is offered cooperatively by the Medical School and the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.
How do I know if I’m suited to becoming a physician scientist?
Most MSTP students possess the following:
Excitement or curiosity about science that has led the applicant to pursue research.
Commitment to a career in which the primary focus is a combination of medical research and clinical practice.
Understanding that a dual degree program requires considerable training, hard work and fortitude.
Record of high academic motivation and achievement.
Sensitivity to human needs and a desire to be of service.
U.S. citizenship or permanent residency. State of residency is not a factor in the admissions process. Unfortunately, DACA students are not eligible for our MSTP due to the level of federal funding of our program. However, DACA applicants are welcome to apply to the University of Michigan MD program.
What distinguishes the Michigan MSTP from MD/PhD programs at other institutions?
One of the things that distinguishes our MSTP from other programs is the large number of non-traditional PhD students we have, which brings incredible diversity to our program. About 20% of our fellows are pursuing PhDs in fields outside the biomedical sciences in the Med School. Historically, we have had fellows pursue PhDs in Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Environmental Health Sciences, Health Services Organization and Policy, Anthropology, Economics, History, Philosophy, Psychology, Biomedical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering.
We prioritize mentoring excellence for our students, which begins during the first year of the program with a research rotation advisory committee. Our Director, Associate Directors and staff are very involved with the students, providing guidance and support along the way, in addition to the efforts of our talented faculty research mentors.
In which fields may the PhD be earned?
The PhD may be earned in any field that is relevant to science in medicine. MSTP students have the option of pursuing their graduate studies in core biomedical fields or in several different non-traditional programs.
Which PhD programs are the most common among MD/PhD students at your school?
Our program offers 13 basic biomedical science research programs as well as several non-traditional PhD programs in the social sciences and humanities. The most common PhD programs for our current students are Cellular & Molecular Biology and Molecular & Integrative Physiology.
How do I apply to the MSTP?
Apply through the American Medical College Admission Service (AMCAS). Applications to the MSTP are accepted between June 1 and October 15 of the year prior to the year in which the student is seeking admission.
What is the application deadline?
The MSTP deadline to submit the primary application is September 15th and the MSTP deadline to submit the secondary application is October 15th. However, we recommend applying as early as possible because interview slots are offered on a rolling basis with the first invitations being issued in early August.
Who reviews my MSTP application?
The MSTP Director and Associate Directors screen all applications and make decisions on interview offers. The MSTP Operating Committee interviews applicants and makes admissions decisions. MSTP applications are reviewed separately by the Medical School Office of Admissions, and applicants must be acceptable to both in order to receive an offer of admission to the MSTP.
What is the most important factor to be considered a competitive MSTP applicant?
Applicants are reviewed holistically, and all aspects of the application are important: letters of recommendation, grades, MCAT, exposure to medicine and research, etc., however, the most important criterion for an applicant is to have strong research experience because it is essential that they know they want to focus on research in their career.
What is the average MCAT & GPA for MSTP students at the University of Michigan?
The median MCAT and GPA of our matriculants can be misleading, because a strong research background and rationale for wanting the dual degree can overcome weaknesses in the GPA and MCAT, whereas the reverse is not true. In addition, our holistic review takes into account many other attributes of applicants. With those very important caveats, the median GPA of our matriculants over the past few years is ~3.7, range 3.4-4.0. The median MCAT is ~95th percentile, range 80-100. If the MCAT is taken more than once, we use the highest score. There is no penalty for taking the MCAT more than once.
Do I need 18 months of research experience to be considered a competitive applicant for the MSTP?
Having 18 months of research experience is not an absolute requirement for admission to our program, however, we generally expect to see at least two summers working full time in a lab and one academic year of research experience (working 10-15 hours per week in a research lab). Having this amount of research experience allows you to reflect on experiences with both short-term and long-term research projects that have helped solidify your interest in choosing a career as a research scientist. There are exceptions depending on individual circumstances. Research positions may be paid or volunteer.
How should I spend my gap year(s) in order to make my application more competitive?
You could consider applying to a post baccalaureate program if your science coursework is not optimal. If your research experience is not as robust as you would like it to be, you could consider applying for a yearlong research program at a well-known institution or through a specific organization such as the National Institutes of Health.
Is it difficult to get into the MSTP?
Admission to the MSTP is highly competitive, and typically 10 – 12 students matriculate each year. Particular attention is given to the quality of an applicant's scientific preparation and research experience. Applicants must be accepted by the Medical School and the MSTP before receiving an offer of admission.
If I am not offered an interview or accepted to the MSTP, am I automatically considered for MD-only admission?
No, MSTP applicants are not automatically considered for MD-only admission. Applicants cannot apply to the MSTP and MD programs simultaneously. After MSTP applications are reviewed, if an applicant is not offered an interview, they can request to be considered for MD-only admission by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The MD and MSTP programs offer interviews on a rolling basis. It is in the best interest for the applicant to request to switch to MD-only as early as possible or by November 15th (the Med School secondary application deadline). This process will vary at other institutions.
I am currently an MD student at the University of Michigan Medical School. Can I apply to the MSTP?
Yes, it is possible to apply to the MD/PhD program after entering as a UMMS MD-only student and completing one or two years of medical school. The MSTP reviews the original Medical School application, asks the applicant to complete additional essay prompts and potentially submit additional/updated letter(s) of recommendation from research mentor(s). If the applicant seems to be a good fit for the MSTP, we then arrange interviews and consider your application just as if you were applying as an MD/PhD candidate through AMCAS. Contact the MSTP office for more information and guidance on timing and next steps.
I am currently a PhD student at the University of Michigan Medical School. Can I apply to the MSTP?
Yes, PhD students in the first or second year of training at the University of Michigan may apply through AMCAS in the same way as traditional MD/PhD applicants, and submit all application materials including the MCAT. PhD students should apply during the summer they are entering the PhD program, or the summer after the G1 year. In general, if a student enters the MSTP from a PhD program, they put their PhD work on hold and start the M1 year, however other arrangements could be made based on what is best for the individual student. Contact the MSTP office for more information.
What is the application process for non-traditional PhD disciplines?
Initially, the application process is the same as an applicant in the biomedical sciences. The prospective student applies through AMCAS and in the UM secondary, they indicate the desired PhD program. If there is a specific area of interest within that program, and/or specific faculty, that also should be specified. We will contact the applicant if and when we need additional information, which may include submitting a Rackham Graduate School application.
Which PhD programs require the GRE when applying to the MSTP?
The Rackham Graduate School will discontinue using the Graduate Record Examination general test in Rackham Ph.D. admissions decisions, beginning with the 2022-23 admissions cycle.
I took the MCAT several years ago - is it still valid?
We accept MCAT scores within three years of your matriculation year. We recommend applicants take the MCAT early enough to allow time to retake the test, if desired.
Does the Michigan MSTP accept committee letters?
Yes! Committee letters are accepted. They should include full, unedited letters from specific individuals, or the letters can be sent separately through the AMCAS Letter Service. Committee letters can vary in length and content. If the applicant’s undergraduate institution sends a summary instead of full letters, the applicant should request full letters from research mentors. Please refer to the Letters of Recommendation section of our Application Requirements for a complete explanation.
I hold a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status. Am I still eligible to apply to the MSTP program?
Unfortunately, DACA students are not eligible for our MSTP due to the level of federal funding of our program. However, DACA applicants are welcome to apply to the University of Michigan MD program.
I’ve submitted my primary and secondary applications. How do I submit an update to my application?
Applicants may log into the applicant portal, click on View Checklist, scroll down to Additional Documents and upload a document. We highly discourage uploading large documents.
How does a student select a doctoral field?
While some MSTP students enter the program with a firm idea of their research interests, others may have only a general idea of a specialization field. A list of potential mentors for the core fields and their research areas is available. First-year students are assigned a personalized Research Rotation Advisory Committee that provides guidance regarding the selection of research mentors and PhD departments. Students participate in a least two lab rotations (with the option of a third) before selecting their thesis mentor.
What opportunities do you offer to MSTP students in order to keep clinical skills fresh during the PhD phase?
During the research phase, MSTP students are invited to participate in a longitudinal clinical preceptor program, which involves working 1:1 with an MD faculty member. This program is optional in the G2 year, and is required in the G3 & G4 years. This program allows fellows to maintain clinical skills while in the PhD phase and possibly explore a new specialty not exposed to during the clinical year. Other opportunities to assist fellows to prepare to return to medical school include peer-led clinical refresher sessions and a Clinical Refresher Course that is arranged approximately 6-12 months before a student returns to Med School.
What financial support do MSTP students receive upon being admitted into the program?
All MSTP fellows who are enrolled receive full tuition remission, stipend, health benefits, and basic dental coverage.