Students pursuing physician-scientist training can “split” their pre-clerkship curriculum or can pursue traditional gap year research training

Physician-Scientist Opportunities

Stanford MD program students can pursue their interests in laboratory or biomedical informatics research as an integral part of their Stanford experience. Although many medical schools are decreasing medical students' exposure to basic science, molecular medicine, and research, Stanford has an attractive option for students who wish to pursue becoming physician-scientists. Stanford’s unique 5-year Discovery Curriculum enables research-oriented students to complete their pre-clinical curriculum in three years instead of two years. The three year pre-clerkship schedule creates unscheduled blocks of time to pursue longitudinal research, early clinical experiences, and student wellness activities.

Students participating in a physician-scientist curriculum participate in laboratory or biomedical informatics research for 7 consecutive quarters beginning in the Summer Quarter after their first medical school year.  Funding is provided by the Medical Scholars Research Program (Medscholars). This option may appeal to medical school applicants and matriculated students who already have substantial research experience. However, students with only limited research experience, but have participated in summer research programs before applying to medical school are also encouraged to consider research opportunities. 

The defining philosophy for our physician-scientist oriented curriculum is that students should immerse themselves in a longitudinal bench or biomedical informatics research project for 2 years. Students will start research the Summer Quarter after their first medical school year, then will “split” their remaining pre-clerkship curriculum, which amounts to only 3 half days per week spent in classroom lectures or clinical activities. The remaining 7 half days per week will be devoted to hypothesis-driven experiments in their research mentor’s lab. Three academic quarters have no coursework (two summer quarters and spring quarter of year 2).

5-Year MD Program Timeline


Physician-Scientist Activities

Students pursuing a physician-scientist curriculum will participate in a 2-year apprentice-style training experience in a lab, supplemented with physician-scientist-specific career development coursework. Research training and career development will include:

  • Immersive bench or computational research over 2 years
  • Poster presentation in Spring Quarter of year 3 at the annual Stanford Medical Student Research Symposium
  • Enrichment activities to develop ancillary physician-scientist skills, across most years, including:
    • Weekly lab meetings
    • Annual research conferences in the discipline most closely associated with lab
    • Attendance at the annual Stanford Medical Student Symposium 
    • MSTP’s Physician Scientist Hour (INDE 217, 1 unit, fall, winter, and spring quarter)
    • Responsible Conduct of Research (Med 255, 1 unit)
    • Annual Physician-Scientist Training Program Symposium 
      • A full day of career development topics bringing together MD-only medical students,
        MSTP students, research residents & fellows, and physician-scientist faculty
    • Monthly Physician-Scientist Work-in-Progress (WIP) Seminars
    • Preparation for application to research clinical residencies after graduation