Bridging the Gap

The UNC MD-PhD program recognizes the importance of tying together the MD and the PhD portions of our students' training. To that end, 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:

The majority of our MD-PhD students conduct their research in a basic science laboratory. To 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 (a) the science underlying their proposed work, (b) the relevant clinical disease(s) or syndrome(s), and (c) the future research that must be completed before their work will have an impact on the care of patients or prevention of disease.  We anticipate that this requirement will ensure that the route to clinical relevance will always be at the forefront.

Longitudinal Clinical Clerkship:

In this course, each student will work with their thesis advisor and the Director of the MD/PhD Program in order to designate a faculty mentor who will match the student's PhD dissertation thesis research topic with the mentor's clinical area of interest. For each 40 half-day sessions that a student completes under the direction of his/her faculty mentor, the student will receive credit for 6 weeks of a traditional clinical clerkship or fourth-year elective.

The objectives of this course are three-fold: (1) To integrate medical and graduate school training throughout the course of the combined degree program; (2) To enable the MD/PhD students to develop and maintain their clinical skills throughout their time in graduate school; (3) To prepare for grant-writing and grants-management, for as physician-scientists, they will be expected to establish and maintain funded research programs.

Third Year Clinical Clerkship prior to entry into PhD:

MD/PhD students have the option to complete a single clinical clerkship prior to entry into the PhD portion of their training. This experience allows the student to better understand 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 beginning PhD training also increases the student's flexibility of scheduling their final 2 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-time 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 ethical issues relevant to the case. One or more of the Medicine and/or Pediatrics Chief Residents and the Director of the MD-PhD Program are both 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 is to illustrate how both research and clinical ethics influence clinical decision-making.