Berg Scholars

Stem cell biology is not only about discovery, but is a unique field of medical study with the potential to fundamentally change our understanding and treatment of human diseases. Stem cell activation for tissue repair or the direct isolation and transplantation of tissue stem cells is the basis of regenerative medicine. Tissue-derived, embryonic, or induced pluripotent stem cells provide many paths to basic discovery, but these cells also offers a source of tissue stem cells that might participate in tissue or organ regeneration following transplant. The identification, isolation, and deep molecular research of each cancer stem cell again provides a path to discovery and, from those discoveries, novel molecular and immune therapies for those cancers.

            Stem cell biology is becoming central to modern medicine. Knowing this, several leaders on the faculty, including Paul Berg, PJ Utz, Brian Kobilka, and Irv Weissman, have developed a new medical school basic science curriculum that extends the first two years of medical school into 3 years. There is also an option for an additional year to complete a master’s degree. In this curriculum, students will have daily dedicated research time starting late in the first year, with full time research each summer.  This novel alternative provides sufficient time for the MD student to do meaningful research with our faculty in stem cell biology, regenerative medicine, and cancer stem cell biology. The Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine welcomes incoming medical students. We encourage all MD students to explore our research opportunities and, if relevant, to participate in our Faculty’s related clinical subspecialties such as hematopoietic cell transplant, tissue stem cell transplants, and cancer stem cell-related clinical trials, etc.

As part of the Institute translational medicine program, the institute also hosts Berg Scholars in the MD pre-clinical curriculum. The purpose of institute Berg Scholars is to carry out research in stem cell biology and its applications in regenerative medicine. Institute Berg Scholars will have extensive research time with institute faculty during their preclinical curricular studies. 

The curriculum for the second year of medical school has been altered such that coursework can be taken over two years instead of just one year. Thus students spend 5 years on campus, with full funding provided for their extra research time so that they do not have to take on any additional medical school debt.  This offering within Stanford’s Discovery Curriculum is colloquially referred to as the “Split Curriculum”. Medical student research begins formally the summer after the first year of medical school, funded by the Medical Scholars program. “Splitting” students continue research over the next 6 consecutive quarters, 2 of which are dedicated to full time research and 4 split their effort, ~40% dedicated to medical school classwork and ~60% blocked out for longitudinal stem cell research. The ability of students to spread research and coursework across 7 consecutive quarters enables them to take on more challenging and impactful research projects. Undergraduate applicants for the 5-year physician-scientist medical student training program option are interviewed by the Physician Scientist Training Program subcommittee of the Medical School Admissions Committee.

Berg Scholars add an additional year of 100% research to the 5-year split curriculum program described above, prior to the start of clinical clerkships. Berg Scholars earn an MS degree in addition to the MD at graduation. Berg Scholars are fully funded (stipend, medical school tuition, insurance, and other fees) beginning spring quarter of their third year of medical school. A major goal of this program is to shorten physician scientist training, while simultaneously eliminating all medical school costs upon entry. Berg Scholars and other 5-year physician scientist medical student trainees participate in clinical rotations in medical school with Institute faculty in their subspecialty clinics and hospital service.


More information can be found here.