A woman wearing a labcoat and blue gloves
Physician-scientists such as recent graduate Tia Turner, M.D., Ph.D., care for patients and advance medical knowledge for the benefit of all. (Photo by Craig Hutson Photography.)

M.D.-Ph.D. program awarded prestigious Medical Scientist Training Program grant from the NIH

With this award, VCU joins an elite group of U.S. medical schools recognized for their rigorous dual-degree training programs.

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The Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine’s M.D.-Ph.D. program, which enables students to earn both a medical degree and a doctoral degree in a biomedical science, has received a Medical Scientist Training Program award from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health. The MSTP award recognizes dual degree programs that optimize training efficacy, foster research careers and enhance the diversity of the physician-scientist workforce.  

“This award elevates the VCU School of Medicine into an elite category,” said Michael Donnenberg, M.D., the program director who also serves as senior associate dean for research and research training. “Just over 50 medical schools in the U.S. have received this designation, and even fewer combine an MSTP award with an NIH Clinical and Translational Science Award and an NCI-designated Cancer Center. We now hold the triple crown of institutional NIH awards.”

The $1.2 million, five-year MSTP grant will partially defray the cost of tuition and stipends for up to six trainees per year, allowing the School of Medicine’s program to grow and better meet society’s need for advancement of medical care.

“With the support of this MSTP grant, more people will be able to combine a full clinical education with the intense research training gained from completing a Ph.D., as part of our dual degree program,” said David Chelmow, M.D., interim dean of the VCU School of Medicine. “This unique combination of knowledge and skills provides fertile ground for scientific discovery, creating a bridge between research and clinical care that facilitates the path from bench to bedside for new treatments and prevention strategies.”

The VCU School of Medicine has had a recognized M.D.-Ph.D. program since 1986. In 2006, the program expanded and began providing full tuition support and stipends for all students. Currently, there are 45 students enrolled in the program and 137 alumni, many of whom hold positions of prominence in academia, government agencies and industry.