3-Year PhD-To-MD Program


We seek to recruit exceptional PhD scientists in the biological sciences for a 3-year curriculum in the Vagelos College of Physicians & Surgeons leading to the MD degree, in preparation for a career in biomedical investigation.


Success in basic science often follows the cliché that one learns more and more about less and less. Thus PhD training is notable for its narrow focus. However, for committed scientists who want to make an impact on humanity, a medical education is an ideal companion to one in basic science as it combines breadth and depth like no individual discipline in biology. Humans remain the best-studied organisms we have, the ultimate “model organism,” with phenotypes exquisitely characterized by millennia of study through the unique interaction of two classes of sentient beings, physicians and patients. Moreover, learning to recognize and treat disease teaches that most cardinal attribute of a successful scientist: the capacity to ask important questions. Standard MD-PhD programs (MST programs) share this aspiration to nurture biomedical investigators but less than 50% of MST graduates remain in research with a much smaller percentage contributing as serious investigators. We are looking for candidates who were drawn initially to science, have a potential for research already tested and proven by stellar performance in a PhD program, and are excited by their discoveries in basic research, but who now feel compelled to use their science most directly for the betterment of mankind.

Candidate Qualifications

In addition to existing prerequisites and qualifications for admission to the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (See Application Requirements), applicants should have

  • A PhD in one of the biological or related sciences from an accredited US or Canadian school
  • An intention to pursue biomedical research as a physician scientist
  • A record supporting exceptional scientific promise
  • US citizenship or permanent resident status

The 3-year program principally aims to train future physician scientists planning careers in cognitive medical specialties such as internal medicine, pediatrics, neurology, psychiatry and pathology.  

Curriculum and Timeline

The usual 4-year curriculum of the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (See Academics) is modified to the following 3-year curriculum for the PhD-to-MD Program:          

  • Preclinical courses: 18 Months
  • Major clinical year (MCY): 12 Months
  • Subinternship and electives: 6 Months

See Detailed Graphic

The scholarly project requirement is waived. Students will apply for residency in the middle of the MCY. Of note, the medical training for the PhD-to-MD Program is identical to the medical training for our standard MD/PhD (MST) program.  


Standard tuition for each of the 3 years. Comprehensive information on financial aid opportunities is available (see Tuition and Expenses).

Application Process, Selection Criteria, Interview Day

Applicants will be evaluated by the same criteria applied to all candidates for admission, and will be reviewed and selected by the existing Admissions Committee. An additional committee representing the PhD-to-MD program will evaluate, interview and recommend candidates to the Admissions Committee. This supplemental committee will focus on the scientific achievement, research promise and commitment of the applicant to a career as a physician-scientist. Applicants to the PhD-to-MD degree program invited to interview will be asked to submit their curriculum vitae and a one-page research proposal.  


Please see the 3-year FAQs, or contact the admissions office at psadmissions@columbia.edu.