Medical Scientist Training Program: Developing the Next Generation of Physician-Scientists

August 1, 2023 by

BIMS White Coat Ceremony 2023

BIMS students at the White Coat Ceremony in 2023.

The Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at the University of Virginia School of Medicine was established in the 1970s. The goal is to train individuals who will be both outstanding biomedical scientists and data-driven physicians, pioneering major advances in medical practice through research.

In keeping with the broader career training vision of the NIH for trainees, our long-term goals for our graduates include training not only future academic researchers, educators, and administrators but also leaders in other non-traditional careers in the private and public sector that advance our understanding of human disease, help develop more effective medical therapies, or affect policy in these areas. The impressive successes and wide-ranging professional avenues that our alumni have pursued is testimony to the positive outcomes of this philosophy.

Supported by an NIH T32 training grant, MSTP students complete the first 18 months of the pre-clinical medical school curriculum and initial graduate coursework as well as conducting three laboratory rotations during the summers. From these rotations, they identify the mentor with whom they will pursue their PhD studies. After completing Step 1 of the USMLE following winter break in their second year, they transition into their lab and declare the PhD degree-granting program from which they will earn their PhD. They complete graduate coursework requirements and conduct original research leading towards a successful dissertation defense, after which they return to medical school as a newly minted PhD. After completing their clerkship and post-clerkship years, they earn their MD degree. The program typically takes 7-9 years to complete.

Currently, the School of Medicine’s MSTP has 55 talented and diverse students enrolled. In addition to recognizing their many accomplishments, including 17 scientific publications and 21 conference presentations in the first half of 2023 alone, we’d like to highlight a few students who were recently honored for their achievements.

Oom Pattarabanjird, PhD, fourth-year medical student

Oom presented her PhD research and received an award for the top poster at the Atherosclerosis Gordon Research Conference held in Barcelona, Spain this past June, for her poster titled “Human Marginal Zone B cells Produce Atheroprotective IgM and Confer Protection from Vascular Disease.” Oom completed her PhD under the mentorship of Coleen McNamara, MD.

Blair Towers, fourth-year PhD candidate

Blair received three travel awards in 2023, including an American College of Neuropsychopharmacology Travel Award to attend their 2023 annual conference in Tampa this December.  Blair was selected as one of the recipients out of over 300 applicants. She will receive full funding for travel, registration, stay, and meals from the ACNP and is invited to submit a poster for review.  Blair is conducting her PhD research under the mentorship of Wendy Lynch, PhD.

Ryan Mulligan, fourth-year PhD candidate

Ryan received an NIH F30 Fellowship this past spring studying lysosomal membrane permeabilization (LMP) in the nervous system. Ryan is conducting his PhD research under the mentorship of Bettina Winckler, PhD.

Sarah Wang, fifth-year PhD candidate

Sarah received one of the two yearly $2000 travel awards from the UVA Cell Biology Program. She will use the award to attend a course at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory “Biology of Cancer: Microenvironment & Metastasis,” where she will also present an abstract of her research. Sarah is conducting her PhD research under the mentorship of Andrew Dudley, PhD.

Avery Sukienik, first-year PhD candidate

Avery received a Kalman/AFAR (American Federation for Aging Research) Scholarship of $5000 for Research in the Biology of Aging. Avery is conducting his PhD research under the mentorship of Eyleen O’Rourke, PhD.

Learn more about the MSTP here.

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