The Berg Scholars Program

The Challenge. The number of Physician Scientists (PS) in the United States is decreasing dramatically. Length of training, medical school debt, and inadequate career development during medical school have been cited by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) as key drivers of this problem.

Stanford’s Response. Stanford School of Medicine is uniquely-positioned to promote the careers of physician scientists. A major goal of Stanford’s Berg Scholars Program is to address this challenge by shortening the training period without compromising quality of research – focusing instead on individualized career development of our MD-only PS by placing them in outstanding research groups led by experienced faculty. Funded by a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Physician Scientist Institutional Award (BWF PSIA), Stanford has named the program to honor Professor Emeritus Paul Berg’s lifelong efforts to educate physician scientists.

Why Consider Stanford’s Berg Scholars Program?

  • Our Rich History as a Research-Intensive Medical School. Stanford has long been a leader in basic and translational biomedical research. All medical students are required to complete a Scholarly Concentration, and a large proportion of students complete additional degrees and spend 5 or more years on campus.
  • The Discovery Curriculum. Many medical schools are decreasing exposure to basic science and molecular medicine, and a growing number of medical schools offer a 3-year MD curriculum. The 5-year Discovery Curriculum enables students to spread the preclinical curriculum over 3 years instead of 2, opening large, unscheduled blocks of time to pursue longitudinal research and early clinical experiences.
  • Medical Scholars Program. Student research is funded through a variety of sources, including the Medical Scholars Endowment, which has funded outstanding medical student scholarship at Stanford for over 30 years.
  • Career Development.  Research-oriented medical students participate in a variety of career development offerings, including courses offered through the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), grant and fellowship writing courses, and courses designed specifically for 5-year medical students and 6-year Berg Scholars. Students will begin to “model” their future physician scientist career schedules by blending coursework, continuity clinics, and research.
  • MD/MS and MSTP. Our MSTP supports ~90 medical students over a 7-8 year period, and has been continuously funded by the NIH and the Dean’s Office for almost 50 years. Stanford also offers over 15 different MS degree or certificate programs on campus or in partnership with local universities.

 

The Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) Physician Scientist Institutional Award (PSIA).  Approximately 20,000 medical students graduate each year across the nation with an MD degree, creating a large pool of potential physician scientists from which to recruit. BWF is leading the way in trying to solve this problem by announcing the PSIA program, which is focused on development of MD-only physician scientists. Stanford received one of five BWF PSIA awards which provides $2.5 million over a 5-year period. We will use our BWF funding to support novel initiatives and to provide debt relief (equivalent to internal MSTP students).

Up to 5 BWF Scholars will be selected each year to spend 6 years on campus pursuing an MD degree as well as a Master of Medicine in Biomedical Research degree. Key aspects of the program include:

  • Identification and well-informed selection of a faculty research mentor in year 1
  • “Splitting” the preclinical curriculum in years 2 and 3
  • 100% Medical Scholars funding for research in summers and spring quarter of year 2
  • 50% Medical Scholars funding for research in all other quarters in years 2 and 3
  • Full time research in year 4, culminating in an oral thesis defense and publication(s)
  • 100% funding (stipend, fees, and tuition) in years 4-6, funded by BWF and the School of Medicine
  • Career development coursework to prepare trainees for independence as physician scientists
  • Clinical clerkships in years 5 and 6, with ongoing mentorship
  • Master of Science in Medicine in Biomedical Research awarded at graduation
  • Designation at graduation as a “BWF Scholar” (or do you want to introduce the term “Berg Scholar”?)
  • Dedicated physician investigator career development by outstanding MD-only faculty
  • Sponsorship for entry into research track (short track) residencies, in partnership with other BWF programs across the country

 

Frequently Asked Questions regarding the Berg Scholars Program