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Curriculum: Overview

The general format for the curriculum for MD/PhD students is fairly standard: two years of medical school, 3-4 years for completion of the PhD degree, followed by the last two years of medical school.

MD/PhD Program Structure

We offer a curriculum which integrates clinical training with research through the following MD/PhD specific courses:

  • Lab Rotations: All in-coming students will participate in a laboratory rotation the summer prior to matriculation in Medical School.
  • Grant Writing: In the first PhD year, MD/PhD students take a Grant Writing course designed for their needs.
  • Integrated MD/PhD Weekly Seminar (Ground Rounds): All MD/PhD students are enrolled in the course "MD/PhD Grand Rounds." This course meets weekly on Thursday evenings and variable credit is assigned depending on the stage in the program. This longitudinal course includes clincal mentorship, student presentations of case-studies by the New England Journal of Medicine, presentations and discussions with alumni and other attendees as well as a "family meal" before each seminar.  

Years 1 and 2

Incoming MD/PhD students rotate through a laboratory of their choice the summer prior to matriculation in Medical School to familiarize themselves with the research climate at SUNY Upstate.

Following this first laboratory rotation, students matriculate with the entering medical school class and take the first two years of the medical school curriculum.

MD/PhD students are required to do a second laboratory rotation the summer between their first and second years to help them select mentors with whom they will conduct research for the PhD portion of the program. Students select mentors and research projects by the end of their second year so they can begin their lab work after sitting for Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensure Exam. A third laboratory rotation is possible after the second year of medical school.


During the PhD portion of the program (typically four years), students:

  • Design a doctoral-level research project
  • Pass a qualifying exam demonstrating they have the scholarly and intellectual capabilities signified by the awarding of a PhD degree
  • Are required to submit a grant application (ideally an NIH Ruth Kirschtein F30 or F31 Award)
  • Participate in a Grand Rounds Course to maintain clinical skills
  • Complete a research project
  • Prepare, present and defend a dissertation

In order to reduce the amount of time MD/PhD students spend in the PhD phase of the program, SUNY Upstate's requirement that doctoral candidates successfully complete 30 hours of didactic course work in the College of Graduate Studies is satisfied largely by courses taken during the first and second years of medical school.


In the final phase of the program, students complete their last two years of medical school. This includes slightly more than one academic year of required clerkships and 24 weeks of elective credit. MD/PhD students have some flexibility as regards the start of their MSIII year. Students may elect to receive up to 12 elective credits in the College of Medicine for the time spent completing their dissertation research.