Bridging the Gap

The UNC MD-PhD program recognizes the importance of tying together the MD and the PhD portions of our students' training. We have developed a variety of opportunities for our students to “Bridge the Gap” between the clinic and the lab.

Clinical Relevance of Doctoral Dissertation

To further encourage translational thinking, we require that all dissertation proposals and theses include a description of clinical relevance of the research. This required chapter should include a description of:

  • the science underlying their proposed work
  • the relevant clinical disease(s) or syndrome(s), and
  • the future research that must be completed before their work will have an impact on the care of patients or prevention of disease.  

We believe that this requirement ensures that the route to clinical relevance will always be at the forefront of research efforts. 

Longitudinal Clinical Clerkship

In this course, each student will work with their thesis advisor and the Director of the MD-PhD Program to designate a faculty mentor whose clinical area of interest matches the student's PhD dissertation thesis research topic. For each 40 half-day sessions that a student completes under the direction of his or her faculty mentor, the student will receive credit for six weeks of a traditional clinical clerkship or fourth-year elective.

The objectives of the longitudinal clinical clerkship are three-fold:

  • To integrate medical and graduate school training throughout the course of the combined degree program
  • To enable the MD-PhD students to develop and maintain their clinical skills throughout their time in graduate school
  • To prepare for MD-PhD students for grant-writing and grant management, as they will be expected to establish and maintain funded research programs as physician-scientists.

Third Year Clinical Clerkship Prior to Entry into PhD

The new TEC curriculum provides MD-PhD students the opportunity to complete a 16-week clinical block prior to entry into the PhD portion of their training. This experience allows the student to develop a better understanding of the clinical relevance of their basic or applied science work during the PhD portion of their training, making them more familiar with the clinical resources available to them for their PhD work. Completion of a clerkship prior to starting PhD training also increases the student's flexibility when scheduling their final two years of clinical work. 

Clinical Case Conferences

This case conference series is organized by MD-PhD students who are in their third and fourth year of medical school. The conferences are held monthly at lunch during the academic calendar and are styled after Morning Report. After each case presentation, the third and fourth year students moderate a discussion of the clinical and ethical issues relevant to the case. One or more of the Medicine or Pediatrics Chief Residents as well as the Director of the MD-PhD Program are present to facilitate both the clinical and ethical aspects of the discussion. These sessions are well attended by MD-PhD students spanning all years of the program. The goal of the Clinical Case Conference series is to illustrate how both research and clinical ethics influence clinical decision-making.

 

For more information about our curriculum, program requirements, and supplemental learning opportunities, check out the following: