The MSTP curriculum at UAB is a truly integrated educational program. It is composed of three phases: the preclinical phase (2 years), the research phase (usually 3.5 to 4.5 years), and the clinical phase (14-18 months). The most distinctive feature of the UAB MSTP curriculum is that students in the first year take the medical school basic science courses while participating in a translational biomedical research forum.
Under the new integrated medical school curriculum, first year MSTP students take the Patient, Doctor and Society course in late summer of their entering year. Throughout the Fall semester, our students attending advance courses in biochemistry, genetics, cellular biology, and a variety of other disciplines taught by research faculty, while at the same time participating in our translational biomedical research forum (GBS 793). This innovative course is adapted from Currier, Schneider, and Heubi, “Taking journal clubs off autopilot: a case study of teaching literature evaluation skills to preclinical MD/PhD students” and serves to enhance the students' knowledge set while also exposing them to possible researcher mentors or collaborators. Subsequently, in the late Fall MSTP students take Fundamentals II in the medical school curriculum. Fundamentals II covers general topics related to pathology, pharmacology and medical microbiology/immunology. Starting in the spring semester of their first year, MSTP students take organ-based modules as part of the medical school curriculum.
The second year of the MSTP curriculum is essentially the same as the second year of medical school. The medical school courses during second year consist of a series of organ-based modules. Grading in the UASOM is on a Pass/Fail system. MSTP students also take additional theme specific courses in GBS that relate to specific areas of research in which they have an interest.
Three rotations in different research labs are scheduled, primarily for the purpose of selecting the student’s thesis mentor for their PhD dissertation work. The first required rotation is a full-time rotation beginning in June prior to the entry into the first year medical school curriculum. After a 3-week break for UASOM orientation and the Patient, Doctor, and Society course, this rotation can be continued on a part-time basis during the early fall of the first year (during the timeframe of the Fundamentals I module) and consists of bench laboratory work or a similar experience in epidemiology, computer science, etc. The second two rotations are for 8-10 weeks of full time effort during the next two summers.
In early August of the third year in the program, students select a research mentor, join a PhD department or GBS theme, and complete the requirements for the Ph.D. degree in that theme/department. Generally, they are required to take a course in research ethics, a course in biostatistics, and a handful of advanced topic courses over their tenure in the lab.
There are several additional enrichment opportunities within the MSTP, including a monthly seminar course focused on translational research, an annual summer research retreat, and a transition experience for students to brush up on clinical skills prior to completing the dissertation. Students are also required to complete the "Survival Skills for Physician Scientists" course in the summer between the MS1 and MS2 years. This course covers grant preparation and review, developing scientific presentations, career development, and time and data management.
Entry into the clinical phase of the program occurs after completion of the PhD and must begin at the beginning of a clinical "block". The clinical phase of the program includes most of the clerkships normally taken by third-year medical students and an abbreviated set of "fourth year" electives, for a total of 14 months of required classes. Additional time is allowed for several extra electives, travel for residency interviews and time for study and preparation for the part 2 of the National Boards (USMLE). The UAB MSTP covers three semesters of tuition for clinical clerkships.