medical scientist training program

Expectations and Monitoring of MD-PhD Students

The MD-PhD program is fundamentally an integrated training program, featuring an integrated curriculum and overarching mentoring and monitoring from matriculation to graduation.  At different times, students are typically more focused toward the MD or the PhD, but throughout the program, they are considered MD-PhD students.

MD-PhD students must adhere to three sets of policies, standards and requirements throughout the duration of the program:  those of the MD-PhD program, the MD program and the relevant PhD program.  (Note that these policies, in turn, refer to additional policies, such as those of the University and the AAMC).  A student’s performance and conduct in each degree program is considered relevant to the other degree program, and will be monitored by the MD-PhD program, the MD program and the PhD program. 

At any one time, primary oversight of academic performance and conduct rests with the MD-PhD program and the primary degree program at that time.  For a student following the typical curriculum pattern, this means that:

  • primary oversight during years 1 & 2 comes from the MD-PhD program and the MD program; the PhD program has secondary oversight responsibility at this time
  • primary oversight from the beginning of year 3 until the completion of the PhD requirements comes from the MD-PhD program and the PhD program; the MD program has secondary oversight responsibility at this time
  • primary oversight for the final MD phase of the program returns to the MD-PhD and MD programs; the PhD program has no oversight responsibility after the PhD has been conferred.
  • If concerns arise about a student’s academic performance or conduct at any time during the program, those with primary oversight responsibility at that time (the MD-PhD program and the primary degree program) will manage the process of reviewing and addressing the concerns, in keeping with their standard practices and policies.  In addition, the program with secondary responsibility will be kept informed, and, if appropriate, may provide input.  In addition, the secondary program may take its own action.  As just one example, a student who is placed on any type of probationary status in one degree program, including “academic notification” for the MD, may also be placed on a similar probationary status in the other degree program.

If a student withdraws or is dismissed from one degree program, all academic and conduct information, along with any additional information concerning the circumstances of the withdraw or dismissal, will be conveyed to the other degree program.  Each degree program reserves the right to take action based upon a student’s progress in the other program.  For instance, if a student following the typical curriculum has significant academic difficulty during years 1 or 2 of the MD program and/or withdraws for any reason or is dismissed, the PhD program may take any one of a number of options.  These include, but are not limited to: 1) dismissing the student, 2) requiring the student to reapply for admission/funding as a PhD-single degree student, 3) allowing the student to proceed as a PhD-single degree student without a reapplication process.  As another example, if a dissertation student violates the code of academic integrity during the PhD years and is dismissed, the MD program may also dismiss the student.  (Please note that these are only examples to help illustrate the policy, and are in no way limiting). 

Similarly, if a student requests a leave of absence at any time during the program, those with primary oversight will review the request and make a decision about whether to grant the leave and according to what terms.  The secondary program will be informed and may provide input.  In addition, the secondary program may take its own action. 

If a student withdraws or is dismissed from the MD or PhD, he/she automatically ceases to be an MD-PhD student and loses MD-PhD funding.  If the student is permitted to continue as an MD or PhD student, he/she will be responsible for meeting the academic, professional and financial requirements of that single degree program going forward.  Students should seek individual advising with the relevant program leaders and administrators to ensure that they are fully aware of all aspects of these requirements and to develop an academic and financial plan for the remainder of the degree program.

Links for some of the additional relevant policies most frequently referred to can be found at:

Medical Student Portal (see “Policies”)

http://www.med.upenn.edu/student/

Biomedical Graduate Studies

http://www.med.upenn.edu/bgs/current_students_policies.shtml

The Pennbook:  Resources, Policies and Procedures

http://www.vpul.upenn.edu/osl/pennbook.html