Berg Scholars Program - Stanford School of Medicine

The Challenge: The number of physician-scientists 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 and Burroughs Wellcome Fund (BWF) as key drivers of the decrease. Physician-scientists are essential to the advancement of modern medicine. Their scientific insights have provided the basis for hundreds of FDA-approved medications, including statins, targeted cancer therapies, and HIV protease inhibitors, to name just a few.

Stanford’s Response: Stanford University 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 the decreasing numbers of physician-scientists by shortening the training period without compromising the quality of research or medical education. The Berg Scholars Program focuses on the long-term individualized career development of our MD-only physician-scientists. We do this by placing Berg Scholars as members of outstanding research groups led by experienced faculty, where continuous mentoring guides them through the development of their research project and in the continued achievement of their goals. As graduation approaches, Berg Scholars are sponsored by members of the faculty throughout the process of applying for research residencies. The Berg Scholars Program also markedly reduces debt by providing full stipend and tuition relief beginning in fall quarter of the third year of medical school.

The 6-Year Berg Scholars Program: Foundational funding for the Berg Scholars Program is provided by a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Physician-Scientist Institutional Award (BWF PSIA), which was granted to Stanford in 2018. Stanford has named the program to honor Professor Emeritus Paul Berg’s lifelong efforts to educate physician-scientists. Berg Scholars pursue a Master of Science in Medicine in Biomedical Investigation while enrolled in the MD program at Stanford. Students can only apply for the Berg Scholars Program after matriculation, typically during the summer after their second year of medical school. Upon acceptance into the program, generous funding is provided (equivalent to internal MSTP students). We anticipate funding will be available for at least 5 trainees in the MD class entering in 2023. Acceptance into the program is competitive.

An activities timeline is provided below. Students complete the first year of medical school and begin research the summer before the second year of medical school, funded by the Medical Scholars Research Program. In year 2, students engage the “split” curriculum, thereby opening substantial amounts of time for their research., Students apply for Berg Scholars funding at the end of year 2, complete the second half of the preclinical curriculum in year 3, then continue their research full time for the fourth year. They then complete clerkships, with a goal to enter research residency training where they can continue their development as physician-scientists.

updated August 2022