AUSTIN, Texas—A new degree program combining medical and molecular studies will be introduced in fall 2005 by The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (UTMB).
The M.D./Ph.D. program, announced Monday, Dec. 6, will focus on graduating high-level physician-scientists rigorously trained to push the boundaries of medical science and to advance human health. Graduates will receive a medical degree from UTMB and a doctor’s degree in cell and molecular biology from The University of Texas at Austin.
“This program will expand a rich array of research and career opportunities for faculty and students at both UTMB and UT Austin,” said Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson, provost of The University of Texas at Austin. “Initiating this new M.D./Ph.D. program marks a red-letter day for both institutions.”
“We know that some of the most exciting advances in medical science emerge where disciplines meet,” said Dr. Stan Lemon, director of UTMB’s Institute for Human Infections and Immunity, who is leading the medical curriculum for the new degree program. “These students will have the advantage of working closely with graduate and medical students, as well as researchers and physicians. We believe this exposure will enable them to integrate the rigor of research with a physician’s sensitivity to human health.”
More than $1.5 million is being set aside to start and support the degree offering.
Students accepted into the program will spend their first two years in medical school at UTMB, where they will study primarily pre-clinical basic sciences. They will spend the subsequent three to four years focusing on Ph.D. course and research work at The University of Texas at Austin, followed by 18 months of clinical rotations.
The program will be administered by a joint faculty committee appointed from both institutions, and will complement the M.D. /Ph.D. dual degree program in biomedical engineering at the two schools.
Graduates of the M.D./Ph.D. program are expected to become medical researchers who are uniquely prepared to study issues of human health.
“A medical researcher might be interested in how RNA folds but a physician-scientist would likely be interested in how misfolding causes a particular disease,” Lemon said. “Whether these individuals are working in basic or applied science, the focus would be on improving human health.”
The federal government is trying to foster an increase in the number of physician-scientists by supporting M.D./Ph.D. students through its Medical Scientist Training Program under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health.
“In this era of molecular medicine, it’s clear that the nation needs more such researchers,” said Ekland-Olson. “This new program combines the medical strength of UTMB and the research strength of UT Austin in a way that will be attractive to students throughout the country.”
The program will be highly competitive and selective. It is expected to create opportunities for additional funding to both schools through support from the National Institutes of Health.
More information about the program, including information on how to apply, is available from Professor Karen S. Browning of The University of Texas at Austin or Professor Randy Goldblum at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.