Course of Study

MSTP Course of Study

The Medical Scientist Training Program is designed to be flexible, challenging, and rewarding. The course of study is specially tailored to meet the individual student's particular needs and research interests. 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 to conduct a meaningful research experience. Although maximum flexibility with respect to curriculum design is encouraged, the average time to complete the program is eight 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.

MSTP Brochure 2023 (pdf)

MSTP Guidebook (Policy Tech)

The first 18 months of the program follow the newly implemented integrated flex medical curriculum. Students spend the summers before their first year familiarizing themselves with research laboratories at MUSC. They complete the second year of medical school with their entering class. The National Board Examination Step I is taken in early Spring of the second year. After completing the NBME Step I Exam, the students begin a second lab rotation.

Flex Curriculum

After completing a second lab rotation, students may either take a third rotation or choose their lab and 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, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology; Cell Injury and Repair; Cell and Molecular Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics; Drug Discovery and Biomedical Sciences; Gene Medicine; Lipidomics; Microbiology and Immunology; Molecular and Cellular Biology and Pathobiology; Neurosciences; Pathology; Proteomics; Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology; and Structural Biology. MSTP students take selected sections of the core curriculum offered to first year graduate students. These are both required sections and elective sections, the latter chosen in consulation with the graduate coordinator and mentor. The courses cover broad topics dealing with professional development, techniques of rigorous experimental design, learning from the literature, entrepreneurship, responsible conduct of research, and principles of grant writing.

The MSTP Steering Committee requires that all Ph.D. requirements be completed before the student resumes the third year of Medical School.

The MSTP Progress Committee evaluates individual performance after each semester of study during the first two years and then annually thereafter.

The goal of this requirement is for MSTP students to learn how to better integrate the basic sciences and their area of research interest with a meaningful clinical/translational experience. The students are expected to discuss the patient's problems from a literature/research perspective. They will work in a clinic, one-half day a week with an extramurally funded clinician-scientist who is chosen based on his/her demonstrated commitment to research. All MSTP students are required to register for two (2) semesters of this clinic. It is suggested that the student participate in the clinic during their second or third year of graduate school. The student receives 4 weeks of senior elective credit for the 2 semesters. The mentors for this elective could help the students with a potential clinical study that may evolve from their basic science project.

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, neurology rehabilatation and psychiatry. There are also two-week selective rotations that allow students to explore subspeciality areas. COM Clinical Curriculum

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 electives are required for medicine or surgery and critical care. 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. COM Clinical Curriculum

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.

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. The graduating students have a celebratory dinner hosted by the Program Director, Associate Program Director, and the Assistant Program Director.

The MSTP has a monthly Thursday afternoon seminar series that is held at 4:00 pm. 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
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 (R21) that they developed during their month in the Research Nexus. The grant has a basic science underpinning for the clinical study.

Month in the Research Nexus

Senior Panel
One evening after Match Day is devoted to the senior students talking about their experiences looking for internship and residency positions. There are a series of FAQ's that are discussed.

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.

The CARES clinic is a medically indigent evening clinic staffed by MUSC physicians. MSTP students attend the clinic a minimum of twice a year. This is done during their graduate years and helps them to maintain their clinical skills. This is a highly rewarding experience and the students uniformly enjoy the experience. CARES Clinic Volunteer Opportunities

This annual event is held in the Spring 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. A dinner and social activity is held the evening before. This annual event is attended by all the MSTP students, mentors, selected faculty, department chairpersons and guests.

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.


Opportunities in Translational Research

Integration of the Basic and Clinical Sciences to Provide Training in Translational Research

In keeping with the philosophy of our program which is to rigorously train M.D./Ph.D. students, the program has a series of programs available to its students that will allow them to receive training in clinical investigation, while still learning the rigors of hypothesis driven basic science research. Below are opportunities that our program provides for its trainees to gain a fundamental understanding of how to conduct translational research.

As part of the NIH roadmap initiative, a major emphasis has been placed on clinical and translational research. The Medical University of South Carolina is committed to the concept of developing an enhanced infrastructure to facilitate clinical and translational research.

Medical Scientist Training Program Clinic in Translational Research

The goal of this clinical experience is for MSTP students to learn how to better integrate the basic sciences and their area of research interest with a meaningful clinical/translational experience. The clinical experience is conducted during the student's Ph.D. training. The students are expected to discuss the patient's problems from a literature/research perspective. They work in a clinic, one-half day a week with a clinician-scientist who is chosen based on his/her demonstrated commitment to research. This translational clinical experience is required of MSTP students. The mentors for this clinic could help the students with a potential clinical study that may evolve from their basic science project. This experience helps the student to maintain their clinical skills and smooths their transition back to medical school.

Rotation in the SCTR Research Nexus

During the senior year of medical school, MSTP students spend one month in the SCTR Research Nexus. The center is the hub of clinical investigation. The time is spent in a series of experiences that provide significant exposure to clinical/translational research. Students work with clinical researchers, attend Institutional Review Board meetings, SCTR Research Nexus advisory committee meetings, lectures about clinical research topics, and meet with the support personnel for the SCTR Research Nexus.

The major objective is for the student to write a clinical translational research study in the form of an R21 grant application based on the discoveries made during the basic science research they conducted during their Ph.D. years. Alternatively, students may design a study based on their future career path. A full study is developed along with informed consent. The student works with a mentor and obtains all the necessary help to develop the clinical study fully. At the end of the course, the student formally presents their research study to members of the SCTR Research Nexus, selected other individuals, and the rest of the MSTP students. While this experience per se will not make the student an accomplished clinical investigator, it will break down some of the myths and barriers, real or perceived, that have impeded MD/Ph.D. students from conducting clinical translational research.