MD/Master of Science in Medical Ethics (MSME)
The MD/Master of Science in Medical Ethics (MD/MSME) program is designed to provide rigorous methodological and conceptual training in bioethics for medical students who aim to become academic bioethicists. Although there are many bioethics-related masters-level graduate programs in the United States, none of these programs is designed to train the physician-scientist or other scholars aspiring to bioethics faculty positions in academic medical centers and universities. There is a desperate need for a pipeline of outstanding junior faculty in the field of medical ethics. The Penn MSME is the only Masters program specifically designed for this purpose.
These guidelines offer prospective and current Perelman medical students specific information regarding components of the MD/MSME dual degree program. When students are accepted into the Master of Science in Medical Ethics program, they must take responsibility for following all regulations and policies of the Medical School and of the MSME Program.
The first step of the process is to gather information regarding the MD/MSME dual degree. Interested students have several resources:
- MSME Program — the Master of Science in Medical Ethics program website provides detailed information on the program and application process.
- AJ Roholt — candidates are encouraged to contact AJ, MSME Coordinator, to discuss the Master of Science in Medical Ethics program.
- Amy Nothelfer — students are encouraged to contact Amy, Associate Director of Combined Degree Office, to discuss their interest in a Master's program.
- Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM) Financial Aid Office — As soon as a medical student is considering the pursuit of an integrated dual degree program, financial aid counseling and planning is strongly advised.
Additional Bioethics resources on Penn's campus:
- Dept of Medical Ethics and Health Policy seminar series and events
Perelman medical students are eligible to take up to 3 elective courses in the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy before formally applying. Many students will take a bioethics course in their first year to test the waters, so to speak. Taking an elective course is an excellent way to learn about the course load, time commitment, and to help determine if the MSME is right for you. Please refer to the PSOM Additional Course Policy for information on tuition implications. Also, please note that all BIOE courses must be taken for a grade, not pass/fail.
Note: any course taken before applying to the MSME program will count towards the MSME upon acceptance.
Once a student is accepted into the MD/MSME program, the student will meet with the Director of Education, Dr. Autumn Fiester, to develop a curriculum plan. Each student in the Master of Science in Medical Ethics program will be assigned a faculty adviser, who will guide student course selection and research. Additional student supervision will be given by members of the Department faculty, as well as other faculty at Penn working in various areas of bioethics.
After a curriculum plan is developed, the student must meet with Helene Weinberg in the Registrar’s Office of the Medical School to discuss the plan and seek approval from the Medical School.
Students are strongly encouraged to meet with a staff member in the PSOM Financial Aid Office to discuss financial issues.
Curriculum & Program Structure
Perelman medical students who are matriculated in the MD/MSME program will be required to complete 14 course units for the MSME degree (2 of which may be transferred from the Medical School curriculum, upon approval). However, the timing of these course units may vary based on the student’s curriculum plan.
The following course units are required for the MSME degree :
- BIOE 601: Introduction to Clinical Bioethics
- BIOE 602: Conceptual Foundations in Bioethics
- BIOE 565: Rationing or 580: Research Ethics or 603: Clinical Ethics
- BIOE 605: Mentored Research I
- BIOE 606: Mentored Research II
- Methods I: Data Collection Methods [HPR 603, or the equivalent]
- Methods II: Data Analysis [HPR 607, or the equivalent]
- Methods III: Introduction to Statistics [HPR 604, MTR 600, EPID 526, or the equivalent]
- Methods IV: Applied Regression Analysis [HPR 608, or the equivalent]
- 5 Electives (2 of which may be MD curriculum transfer credits)
Required Course Units: 14
Perelman medical students who are matriculated in the MD/MSME program will have the option to earn transfer credit for two courses in the MD curriculum, ‘Doctoring’ and ‘Bioethics and Professionalism,’ contingent on the completion of supplemental work.
- To receive one MSME credit for 'Doctoring,' the following two courses must be completed: ‘Doctoring I’ and ‘Doctoring II,’ along with one supplemental 5-10 page research paper under the supervision of an approved faculty member. Please contact Dr. Lance Wahlert for more information.
- To receive one MSME credit for ‘Bioethics and Professionalism’ (FRO 601), the student must write a 5-10 page research paper under the supervision of an approved faculty member and must also participate as a discussion leader (i.e. TA) in this course. Please contact Dr. Lance Wahlert for more information.
Please note that if a student has not made arrangements prior to the course for this work to be counted as transfer credit, he/she cannot apply to use this credit toward the MSME degree.
Every bioethics course in the Master program is held in the late afternoon, from 4:30-6:30, once a week for 12-14 weeks. Coordinating the Master course offerings with the demands of the MD curriculum will require careful attention to the guidelines described below. With careful planning, it is possible to complete both the MD and the Masters in five years. To complete both degrees in five years, it will be necessary for the student to implement a schedule which takes into account the maximum number of courses which may be taken in a given semester.
MD/MSME Degree Completion Time: 5 Years (with careful planning)
Students must be proactive about researching any possible changes from the original schedule approved by the Medical School and the Master of Science in Medical Ethics program. Some seemingly simple changes in course selection and timing may have the unintended consequence of adding additional semesters and increasing tuition. Be sure to consult with the Medical School and the Master program directors before making adjustments to your schedule.
MD/MSME Sample Study Plans:
The following are possible scheduling scenarios that an MD/MSME student might follow. They are based on the assumption that students will complete the requirements for two transfer credits.
Sample 1: Begin MD/MSME Fall of First Year
|Year||Fall||Spring||Summer||Tuition and Billing||Maximum Direct Loan Eligibility (2019-20)|
|1||1 MSME cu
|1 MSME cu
|MD Tuition Fall & Spring (and MSME tuition for courses)||$42,722|
|2||1 MSME cu
|MD curriculum||MD curriculum||MD Tuition Fall & Spring (and MSME tuition for course)||$47,167|
|3||MD curriculum||Boards 1
|MD curriculum||MD Tuition Fall & Spring||$47,167|
|4||3 MSME cus||3 MSME cus||MSME Tuition Fall & Spring||$20,500|
3 MSME cus
|MSME Tuition Fall; MD Tuition Spring||Fall $10,250;
Sample 2: Begin MD/MSME Fall of Third Year
|Year||Fall||Spring||Summer||Tuition and Billing||Maximum Direct loan Eligibility (2019-20)|
|1||MD curriculum||MD curriculum||MD Tuition Fall & Spring||$42,722|
|2||MD curriculum||MD curriculum||MD curriculum||MD Tuition Fall & Spring||$47,167|
|3||MD curriculum||Boards 1
|MD curriculum||MD Tuition Fall & Spring||$47,167|
|4||4 MSME cus||3 MSME cus||MSME Tuition Fall & Spring||$20,500|
3 MSME cus
2 MSME cus
|MSME Tuition Fall; MD Tuition Spring||Fall $10,250;
Medical School Planning:
There are several things to keep in mind when making your Medical School plans:
- The MSME degree counts as your Scholarly Pursuit requirement.
- MD/MSME students need to complete 2 weeks of Frontiers and 1 week of Bioethics.
The PSOM tuition policy for the MD/MSME program seeks to minimize the additional financial burden for students enrolling in the program. The Medical School will cover the cost of 3 MSME required course units (in a fall or spring semester) as long as the student has not taken any other university registered credits. Students who also take advantage of the 2 units of transfer credit from the Medical School curriculum will therefore only need to pay for 9 of the 14 course units required for the degree.
Perelman medical students will be charged additional tuition for:
9 MSME graduate school course units
IF 2 credits have been earned via ‘Doctoring’ and ’Bioethics and Professionalism,’
IF the PSOM is paying for 3 course units (which would happen as long as the student has not taken any other university registered credits).
Tuition: $5965/course. This includes a general University fee and the technical fee. (2019-2020)
As soon as a Perelman medical student is considering the pursuit of an integrated dual degree program, financial aid counseling and planning is strongly advised. Students should contact Michael Sabara, Director of Financial Services. He is available to help explain program costs, the financial aid process, funding options and how to apply for financial aid. Here are some things to consider:
- When paying medical school tuition and registered as a medical student, an individual can retain his/her MD Scholarship (for tuition/living expenses) and has a Direct loan eligibility of $40,500. When a student is registered as a full time MSME student, he/she is not eligible for MD Scholarship (for tuition/living expenses) and has a Direct loan eligibility of $20,500. In accordance with federal regulations, all sources of aid (loan, scholarships, fellowships,) cannot exceed the student budget.
- Direct loans have aggregate limits, which are cumulative and include any undergraduate, graduate, and medical school loans borrowed in the Direct loan program. For any semester when a student is a full-time MSME student (versus full-time MD student), the MSME program aggregate limit is $138,500 versus the MD aggregate limit ($224,000).
- Students who require funds in excess of their Direct loan may apply for a Direct PLUS loan. Details on this loan and instructions for applying can be found at the PSOM Financial Aid Office.
Part-time Student Status Implications:
If a student is considering a Master's curriculum plan that would include one or more part-time Masters semesters, we urge students to consider the following:
- Is registered for 2 cus or 2.5 cus in a Masters primary semester.
- Is eligible for student loans and loan deferment.
- Part-time students’ health insurance (PSIP) coverage is not mandated by the University. Students are strongly encouraged to continue health insurance of some kind and are eligible to opt-in to the PSIP plan.
- To opt-in to PSIP: Online application during open enrollment periods. See https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/shs/psipinsurance.php#Single%20Student%20Rate for open enrollment schedule.
- A student who is full-time in the fall is considered subject to the insurance coverage requirement. This means that they must be enrolled in PSIP or waive out, and that enrollment or waiver is good for 12 months. If this student becomes part-time in the spring term, the PSIP enrollment or the waiver will not be terminated.
- A student who is part-time in the fall, and becomes full-time in the spring term will at that point become subject to the insurance requirement for the spring term and must then waive out or be enrolled for that term.
- The clinical fee, which provides access to Student Health Services (SHS), is mandatory when on PSIP. A Primary Care Physician (PCP) designation needs to be considered for students who are not opting into SHS and who used SHS before for this purpose. If a part-time student is not enrolled in PSIP, they can opt-in to the clinical fee to have access to SHS. Students can stop by SHS for the application or call the insurance office at 215-746-3535 to request it.
- Is not eligible for Penn gym membership, but the student pays less in fees, which hopefully offsets this expense.
Admission to the MD/Master of Science in Medical Ethics program is competitive, and the strongest applicants will have outstanding academic records, interest in the humanities in medicine/bioethics, and a demonstrated passion for the subject matter.
There are two steps to applying:
- Apply to the Master of Science in Medical Ethics Program
MSME information and the application can be obtained at the MSME Program. Students are encouraged to contact AJ Roholt, MSME Coordinator, for more information. Please note: the MSME program has waived the application fee for Perelman medical students.
- Submit Master's Program Registration Form to the Combined Degree Office
In addition to submitting an MSME application, Perelman medical students must also submit a Master's Program Registration Form to Amy Nothelfer, Associate Director of the Combined Degree and Physician Scholar Programs Office (6th Floor JMEC). The MSME program will not consider any medical student's application unless it has certified that the student has submitted the form to the Combined Degree Office.
Application Deadline: Rolling basis
The Master of Science in Medical Ethics program considers applications on a rolling basis.
For more information regarding the MD/MSME program, contact:
Autumn Fiester, PhD
Perelman School of Medicine:
Amy Nothelfer, MSW, LSW
Please note that policies concerning admissions, curriculum, funding and financial aid are subject to change. Additionally, though variations in the curriculum may be possible, any changes will need prior approval and may have financial implications. This website is meant to provide preliminary general overview information only. Students interested in or enrolled in the program should seek personal advising from relevant faculty and staff.