Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University

MD/PhD Program
Curriculum


Students in the MD/PhD Program take courses at both Sidney Kimmel Medical College (SKMC) and Jefferson College of Biomedical Sciences.

Studies begin in SKMC with a restructured medical education curriculum, JeffMD, a curriculum designed to meet our student's needs as tomorrow's medical leaders. See Jeff MD: A New Curriculum for details. Students will complete research rotations before and / or during vacations in SKMC Phase 1. During Phase 1 students will participate in GC 710, 712, 714 Current Topics in Translational Biomedical Research: (1 credit each semester, see below for details.) After completing phase 1 in SKMC and the USMLE Step 1, students select a thesis mentor and PhD Program in JCBS where they will complete study for the PhD.

Credits are awarded for SKMC Phase 1, accounting for a substantial number of the credits required for the PhD thesis. In addition, six didactic credits and 20 research credits are awarded for MD/PhD specific coursework completed during SKMC Phase 1. Thus, MD/PhD students should be able to fulfill most remaining coursework early, providing significant time for bench research. Some courses are required of MD/PhD students in all PhD programs and are listed below. Other requirements are program specific and listed with the appropriate PhD Program. As much of the remaining coursework as possible should be completed during the first year in JCBS. 

There are MD/PhD Program specific courses which are required no matter what PhD Program the student joins. They are:

  • GC 640 Research Ethics: (1 credit)
    This graduate seminar course is designed to familiarize students with the ethical dilemmas inherent to the conduct of research. Topics to be discussed include codes of ethical behavior, research design, conflicts of interest, informed consent and the appropriate use of animals. The student will be required to prepare a paper on the analysis of one or more case studies.
  • GC 710, 712, 714 Current Topics in Translational Biomedical Research: (1 credit each)
    Fall, Spring I, Spring II. Taken each year in JCBS as well as during SKMC Phase 1
    This course explores aspects of translational research and molecular medicine through the venues of Translational Research Journal Club, Progress in Translational Research Seminar, and Case Studies in Molecular Medicine. Meets three times per month.
  • GC 725 Enrichment Course in Clinical Skills for Physician Scientists: (1 credit each)
    Fall, Spring Time commitment is one half day per month
    During the first year of graduate education each student will participate in one or more teaching positions as an Anatomy lab assistant, Foundations of Clinical Medicine tutor, Histology lab assistant, Neuroscience lab assistant, or Pathology teaching assistant. This will allow the student to stay actively engaged with the medical school and the curriculum. The availability of these positions will be determined by coordination with the respective course directors.  Dr. Grunwald oversees this part of the course; make sure to consult with him.

During the second, third and fourth years of graduate education each student will focus on the maintenance and continued refinement of the student’s clinical skills through attendance and participation in clinical rounds. Attention will be given to the development of the student’s interviewing skills and their ability to write a history and physical. To fulfill the requirements, the student can choose among or use some combination of the following: (1)JeffHOPE Clinics; (2) Internal Medicine morning rounds with Dr. Majdan, which consist of formal physical diagnosis rounds and morning report; (3) participate in resident led clinical skills sessions as arranged by JPSA; (4) choose preceptors in different clinical areas in order to gain a better exposure to the patient population and lifestyle of these various specialties. These clinical preceptorships in different clinical areas are to be scheduled by the student and the preceptor, meeting approximately 1/2 day per month. These meetings should be distributed throughout the semester, performed monthly, not all at one time.

  • GC 630 Fundamentals of Clinical Trials: (3 credits)
    This course introduces the fundamentals of design and analysis of clinical trials. Some of the design issues discussed include specifying and operationalizing the scientific question of interest, the role of a control group randomization, blinding and sample size determination. The course focuses on statistical aspects of the analysis of clinical trials, including various statistical estimation and testing procedures, the intent to treat principle, interim analysis and statistical and scientific inference. Students learn to critically review published reports of clinical trials through participating in small group discussions and individual written critiques.
  • Ethics Case Conference: Attend monthly conferences, and make one presentation. Topics presented explore ethical issues commonly encountered in both basic and clinical research.
  • Rotation on the Cancer Clinical Research Review Committee (PRC) (Optional): 
    This committee of the Kimmel Cancer Center evaluates the scientific validity of patient-oriented studies in oncology at Thomas Jefferson University. Rotation on this biweekly committee is an opportunity to obtain hands-on experience reviewing the scientific merit of clinical protocols. Trainees are supervised by the Chairperson of the PRC, who guides analyses, addresses questions and provides feedback. Trainees rotate on the PRC for six one-hour meetings.
  • Critical Review of the Scientific Literature Rotation (Optional): 
    The Annals of Internal Medicine is the flagship publication of the Philadelphia-based American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine (ACP-ASIM). It is considered the premiere worldwide internal medicine journal. Editor Christine Laine, MD, MPH has offered members of the MD/PhD Program unprecedented access to the editorial process through a four-week rotation. Enrollees can participate in the weekly editorial and statistical meetings of the journal. Maximal benefit of the rotation is obtained when participants read a majority of the articles being discussed. Therefore, participants should schedule the rotation during a period when they have the time to devote to prepare for each session.

The PhD degree is usually completed within 4 years, although there is the possibility of a 5th year if requested by the student and mentor. In any event the defense of the PhD thesis must be completed before returning to SKMC.

After completing the PhD degree, the student returns to SKMC for Phase 2 and Phase 3; completing clinical studies. The dual MD/PhD degree is awarded at Commencement following Phase 3.