Physician Scientist Training Programs
Physician scientist training programs aim to prepare physicians‐in‐training for a career of leading medical discovery, and application of new knowledge to improve human health. These programs aim to educate a physician‐in‐training to become bilingual in medicine and scientific research.
At the University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine, there are three main programs in this area:
- MD/PhD Program: a combined program where students earn both MD and PhD degrees
- Comprehensive Research Experiences for Medical Student Programs (CREMS): non-degree research opportunities for current MD students
- Clinical Investigator Program (CIP): diploma program for postgraduate medical students to engage in research training at the level of a MSc, PhD degree or postdoctoral fellowship
Integrated Physician Scientist Training Pathway
The Faculty of Medicine is creating a competency-based, flexible, and customizable Integrated Physician Scientist Training Pathway (IPSTP), building on the strengths of our existing physician scientist training programs.
The pathway provides opportunities for medical students to pursue research at various points in their clinical training. Recognizing that students have diverse research needs, the IPSTP aims to provide flexible ‘on ramps’ to research education along the continuum of the MD and Post MD Programs.
Recent IPSTP innovations that have been implemented include:
Dual Status in the MD Program and School of Graduate Studies
To accommodate trainees in the MD/PhD Program who wish to take graduate courses, medical students now have dual status within the MD Program and the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) beginning from the start of their combined program. Simultaneous Entry allows for an introductory period of graduate studies and research experience before a trainee begins full-time PhD studies, enhances integration of clinical medicine and research, and potentially shortens the length of the MD/PhD Program.
Enriched Case Based Learning (CBL)
CBL forms an integral component of the newly introduced Foundations Curriculum in the MD Program. Enriched CBL modules were first successfully introduced in the Preclerkship phase in 2015-2016. The enriched curriculum has been further expanded during the 2016-2017 academic year. A total of 30 first-year students, comprising MD/PhD students as well as self-declared research interested students elected to participate in specially designated tutorials that are organized at each of the four medical academies. By providing students with enriched content focusing on the broader medical and health research contexts for a subset of the clinical cases, these enriched CBL sessions help first-year students think like physician scientists. Meeting with physician scientists who co-tutor these sessions exposes students to invaluable role-modelling, as well as supports students’ interests in pursuing careers wherein research comprises a significant aspect of their future professional goals.
Enriched Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LInC)
The Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LInC) now features an enriched curriculum for MD/PhD students and other MD students interested in health research. LInC promises customization of the clerkship experience, including several special sessions included in the programming of ELInC School. Students are exposed to physician scientist mentors through special small group discussions, and have the opportunity to customize their clinical interactions in specific areas of interest. An additional enrichment tool is the inclusion of academic and career coaching for MD/PhD students enrolled in ELInC, which consists of regularly scheduled “check-in” meetings with the Associate Dean, Physician Scientist Training, as well as a Student and Faculty 1:1 Checklist used during meetings with faculty preceptors to address professional development plans.
MD/PhD Summer Comprehensive Research Experience for Medical Students (CREMS) Program
Entering into its second year, the MD/PhD Summer CREMS Program provides a tailored, 6-week research experience that is initiated by the MD/PhD student with a supervisor of their choice. This new program is funded by a generous endowment from Miss Jessie Calder. A total of 7 first- and second-year students have participated thus far.
Several exciting IPSTP initiatives are in development:
Bridging between MD and Post MD Training
Competency-based, research-integrative pathways for trainees in their transition to residency are being developed in close association with several clinical departments. In addition, Physician Scientist Connects (PS CoNex) has been conceived as a unifying hub for physician scientist education, mentorship, and career development. A survey is currently being developed to better understand the needs of the local physician scientist community and the various themes and events that can be incorporated into programming for PS CoNex.
Graduate Diploma for Health Research
Part of the IPSTP strategy is to provide alternative onramps for research interested students that would lead to greater proclivity for research during studies in the MD Program as well as in the Post-MD Program. Capitalizing on the success of the Comprehensive Research Experience for Medical Students (CREMS) Scholar Program, a proposal has been developed and is currently under review to launch a graduate diploma in health research to cater to MD students interested in more extensive research training over a 20-month period. As a new graduate-level diploma program of the School of Graduate Studies, successful trainees will earn this credential during their undergraduate medical studies, providing them with invaluable research training and greater insight into future career options as physician scientists.
For information about our most recent activities, please download our 2015-16 Annual Report, or visit our on-line report:
For more information, contact:
Dr. Robert Chen
Acting Associate Dean, Physician Scientist Training in the Faculty of Medicine
Program Manager, Physician Scientist Training Programs