An important part of evaluating the success of any MD/PhD program is finding out what happens to its graduates and answering the key question: how many of them are in careers that match their goal of becoming a physician-scientist? As of May 2023, there are 710 alumni of Penn’s MSTP. We check in with them nearly every year and every 5 years we do an extensive analysis. Our most recent full review was in the fall of 2021. Some of the data from that study are included below.
Short term outcomes: residency and postdoc choices
Nearly all (>90%) Penn MSTP alumni choose to do additional clinical training, usually because they enjoy taking care of people and plan a career in which they will work as a physician-scientist. Many of them will eventually find a place in a clinical department that expects them to be able to contribute to patient care and teaching. Some skip residency training and go straight to a postdoc or faculty position. Some choose careers in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry where, depending on their role, clinical training beyond medical school may not be necessary. From a program perspective, we think that any of these choices can be great. We work with students from the moment they enter the MSTP, so that when the time comes for them to make a choice, they will be able to choose the path that is best for them and will allow them to become successful physician-scientists.
The pie chart below summarizes the residency field choices made by 142 Penn MSTP alumni who are still completing residencies and fellowships. Approximately two-thirds have chosen fields such as internal medicine, pathology, pediatrics or neurology. Others have entered a wide range of clinical fields, with nearly every branch of clinical medicine represented on the list.
For our most recent residency placements (clinical field and institution), visit the Residency Match Lists page. For a comparison with data from the 2018 AAMC National MD/PhD program outcomes report, visit: New AAMC Study Examines Career Trends Among MD-PhD Program Graduates (April 25, 2018). For an analysis of the impact of clinical field choice on physician-scientist careers see reference (1).
Long term outcomes: where do they work?
There is starting to be a lot of publicly available information on what happens to MD/PhD program alumni after they complete postgraduate training. The goal of our MD/PhD program is for graduates to have long and productive careers as investigators as well as physicians. The figure below shows the current workplace for 246 Penn MSTP alumni who graduated from 2003 to 2018 and have finished postgraduate training. Approximately 83% are in career paths consistent with the goals of our program, which usually means working full time in either academia, a research institute, the NIH, the biotech and pharmaceutical industries or in federal government branches such as the CDC and the FDA.
How good are these outcomes? The short answer is “rather good”. I think we can all be pleased and proud. For a comparison with data from the 2018 AAMC National MD/PhD program outcomes report, visit New AAMC Study Examines Career Trends Among MD-PhD Program Graduates (April 25, 2018), which links to the AAMC National MD/PhD Program Outcomes Study co-authored Skip Brass, Myles Akabas (director of the AECOM MSTP) and Irena Tartakovsky (AAMC) https://store.aamc.org/national-md-phd-program-outcomes-study.html (2, 3).
Check out the Alumni Profiles of some of our most notable alumni.
- Brass LF, and Akabas MH. The national MD-PhD program outcomes study: Relationships between medical specialty, training duration, research effort, and career paths. JCI Insight. 2019;4(19).
- Brass LF, Akabas MH, Burnley LD, Engman DM, Wiley CA, and Andersen OS. Are MD-PhD programs meeting their goals? An analysis of career choices made by graduates of 24 MD-PhD programs. Acad Med. 2010;85(4):692-701.
- Akabas MH, Tartakovsky I, and Brass LF. The national MD-PhD program outcomes study. American Association of Medical Colleges Reports. 2018.