Curriculum & Timeline

The MSTP training program at the University of Minnesota involves the following phases.

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pre-clinical training and research

Students begin the program by completing one laboratory rotation with a MSTP faculty preceptor prior to the start of the first year of medical school. During this time, students also attend the MSTP Monday Research Meeting, the MSTP Annual Retreat, and other social activities that welcome new students to the MSTP, the University of Minnesota and to the Twin Cities.

Beginning in 2023, a new systems-based MD curriculum will launch. The Foundations phase (1.5 years) will move through nine organ systems of the human body and explore the foundational basic and clinical science that prepares students for cinical training. The Foundations phase will also include a component called Minnesota Health Pathways. These pathways will give students five options for in-depth exploration of health disparities in regional and/or underserved populations. The Minnesota Health Pathways will allow students to individualize their experience while still achieving a set of shared learning goals.

Learn more about the new Foundations phase curriculum, including the Minnesota Health Pathways:

Students complete 1-2 additional laboratory rotations during the break between Year 1 and year 2 of Medical School. There is flexibility in the rotation length to accommodate the specific needs and interests of individual students.

The second year of Medical School begins in late August and concludes in mid-December. Following completion of the Foundations phase at the beginning of winter break of Year 2, dedicated time will be provided to prepare for and take the USMLE Step 1 exam. Formal support to prepare for USMLE Step 1 will also be offered through the Foundations phase.

All MSTP students are assigned to a physician scientist faculty advisor who is part of the MSTP leadership team. This advisor assists MSTP students in all aspects of training while in medical school. Throughout the Foundations phase, MSTP students attend the weekly MSTP Monday Research Meeting that focuses on te development of research, academic and professional skills important for success as a physician scientist.

By the end of the Foundations phase, students prepare a MSTP Student Research Commitment Statement that outlines the student's choice of a PhD thesis advisor and graduate program. Following completion of USMLE Step 1, students have the option to complete 1-2 clinical clerkship before moving into dedicated research time in their PhD lab. This months-long experience provides an opportunity for students to focus on starting their thesis research and F-award application. Regular "PhD Prep" meetings during this time will focus on key skills development, such as experimental design and grant writing, in order to provide a smooth and efficient transition to the PhD graduate phase.

Graduate training

The MSTP PhD graduate phase can be completed in 12 different partner graduate programs. Students enter the graduate phase in the fall with the other MSTP and PhD students entering the program that year. During the first year of the graduate phase, MSTP students complete graduate coursework and continue to solidify their thesis research project. In general, graduate coursework is completed within the first 1-1.5 years of the graduate phase. Medical School coursework can be utilized to fulfill some graduate course requirements. Preliminary examinations, both oral and written, are typically completed no later than the end of the second year of the graduate phase. Opportunities to obtain formal teaching experience are also available in each program.

MSTP students are strongly encouraged to seek independent funding by submitting a NIH F-award fellowship application (or other comparable external fellowship) no later than the middle of the second year of the graduate phase. A number of graduate-level courses in grant writing and presentation skills are available, and the MSTP provides additional resources and support to facilitate the successful submission of fellowship applications.

The University of Minnesota also has a large number of NIH training grants that support MSTP students conducting research in specific areas of biomedical science. MSTP students also can apply for local graduate fellowships, such as the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship.

Beginning in the second year of the graduate phase, MSTP students participate in the MSTP Clinical Continuity and Mentoring Program, which is a series of three year-long clinical continuity experiences that earn MD elective credit. Students select an MSTP clinical mentor and meet with the mentor one-on-one for an average of one day per month. These meetings involve clinically-focused activities that are developed by the student and mentor and help the student maintain and develop clinical skills, integrate the student into the academic culture of the mentor's clinical community, allow the student to observe the mentor in leadership activities, and provide an opportunity to learn time management skills critical to success as a physician scientist.

As part of the Clinical Continuity and Mentoring Program, MSTP students attend MSTP Grand Rounds, a case-based small group style discussion of a clinical problem and relevant state-of-the-art science given by a fellow MSTP student who is in the second year of the graduate phase. During the clinical continuity experience in the third year of the graduate phase, students develop a 1 page concept proposal in the form of an NIH Specific Aims page outlining a set of experiments to address a disease-based hypothesis.

The final Clinical Continuity experience prior to the student's return to medical school emphasizes hands-on clinical activities that develop and refine the student's patient evaluation and management skills.

At the end of the graduate phase or during the third year of MD training, MSTP students give a Clinical Audience Research Seminar, which is a formal research presentation to a clinical audience. This presentation is scheduled in one of the existing research conferences held regularly by each Clinical Science Department in the Medical School. This presentation introduces the student to a specific clinical community and provides an additional opportunity to establish mentoring and networking relationships.

The total time for completion of the graduate phase is 3-4 years.

Clinical Training

MSTP students return to Medical School after successful completion of the PhD and complete required and elective clerkships. Students complete a total of 56 weeks of required clerkships and a minimum of 20 weeks of electives. Clinical clerkships take place at a variety of affiliated partner hospitals and clinics in Minneapolis/St. Paul, including the University of Minnesota Medical Center, University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Hennepin County Medical Center, and Regions Hospital. These clinical sites provide a rich diversity of clinical training environments. Opportunities are also available for MSTP students to conduct additional research during the last two years of Medical School. A total of 6 or 12 weeks of electives may be “research for credit”, and additional time for research may be created when the student’s clerkship schedule is developed prior to returning to Medical School. Students are actively mentored during the residency application and interview process in order to maximize placement in desired residency, fellowship and postdoctoral programs. The total time for completion of both the MD and PhD is approximately 8 years.

Find more curriculum resources

Updated links pending

  • Curriculum, Years 1 and 2
  • Curriculum, Years 3 and 4
  • Sample schedule