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Pre-clinical: Year 1

Under the integrated medical school curriculum, entering MSTP students take MSTP 793 (Translational Research Forum), MSTP 794 (Translational Reserarch Seminar), and MSTP 798 (Non-dissertation research) during their pre-clinical summer. Throughout the Fall semester, our students attend advance fundamental courses in biochemistry, genetics, cellular biology, and a variety of other disciplines taught by Heersink SOM faculty, while at the same time continuing to attend the translational research seminar course (MSTP 794). Starting in the spring semester of their first year, MSTP students transition to organ-based modules as part of the medical school curriculum.

  • Pre-Summer

    1st Laboratory Research Rotation: 6-week summer rotation beginning in June/July of Year 1, with optional part-time extension into fall. Courses include MSTP 793, MSTP 794, and MSTP 798.

  • Fall


    • Patient Doctor & Society (2 weeks)
    • Learning Communities 1 (Longitudinal)
    • Introduction to Clinical Medicine 1 (Longitudinal)
    • Fundamentals Block 1 (3 weeks)
    • Fundamentals Block 2 (4 weeks)
    • Fundamentals Block 3 (3 weeks)
    • Fundamentals Block 4 (4 weeks)
    • Fundamentals Block 5 (3 weeks)
  • Spring


    • Cardiovascular (5 weeks)
    • Pulmonary (5 weeks)
    • Gastrointestinal (6 weeks)
    • Renal (5 weeks)


Pre-clinical: Year 2

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 School of Medicine is on a Pass/Fail system. MSTP students also take additional theme specific courses in GBS or Program-based courses that relate to specific areas of research in which they have an interest. Students finish up YR2 by taking and passing part 1 of the National Boards (USMLE) as well as a four-week family medicine elective.

  • Summer

    2nd Laboratory Research Rotation: 10-week full-time summer rotation between Year 1 and Year 2

    Special Topics Course (STP2043): Survival Skills for Physician Scientists

  • Fall


    • Learning Communities 2 (Longitudinal)
    • Intro to Clinical Medicine 2 (Longitudinal)
    • Neurosciences (10 weeks)
    • Musculoskeletal/Skin (6 weeks)
    • Endocrine (3 weeks)
  • Spring


    • Reproductive Health (4 weeks)
    • Hematology (4 weeks)
    • Evidence‐Based Medicine (1 week)
    • Dedicated study time for Step 1 (7 weeks)
    • Family Medicine Elective (4 weeks)

    Biomedical Sciences

    • GBS Theme Modules or Program-Based Courses
    • MSTP 794 (Translational Research Seminar)


Research: 3.5-4.5 years

In early August of the third year in the program, students select a research mentor, join a PhD program or GBS theme, and complete the requirements for the PhD 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.


Completition of PhD degree

Upon successful completion of the qualifying exams, a student is eligible for admission to candidacy for the PhD degree. The typical time to degree is approximately 5 years (range 4-6 years), during which GBS students spend the majority of time in laboratory research. They also attend one or more national scientific meetings annually and publish an average of 2 or more first-author and co-authored publications in the peer-reviewed press.

  • Thesis Committee

    The requirements for the PhD degree are established by each of the Graduate Departments/Themes and are the same for all PhD students, with two exceptions for MSTP graduate students: 1) each student’s MSTP Advisor serves as a full member of the Dissertation Committee; 2) each student must have a dissertation committee meeting at least once every 6 months, beginning from the date that the student enters a laboratory and starts full-time dissertation research in the research phase of the program. 

    With your mentor, invite at least four faculty to serve on your committee. All committee members must have Graduate Faculty status and GBS Faculty Affiliation to serve on graduate students' dissertation committees.

    If some Graduate Programs/Themes require specific milestones, such as completion of a preliminary examination, admission to candidacy, or a formal written proposal for their project prior to a meeting of the Dissertation Committee, then an MSTP-specific meeting of the same group of faculty must be held to maintain the schedule of a meeting every 6 months.  Note that the Theme Director must be notified of your intent to have a qualify exam and defense. The Theme Director must be included on all correspondences between you and your committee concerning the scheduling of said meetings. 

  • Qualifying Exam

    All MSTP students are required to pass a QE prior to being admitted to candidacy. Before scheduling the QE, you must have at least one committee meeting to get approval of the planned topic of your thesis research. Theme and Program-based requirements may vary. Please check with your Theme or Program Manager for specifics.

    The QE has both a written and oral component. Students will present a written research proposal and orally defend it. Students are responsible for checking with Program or Theme director(s) regarding additional specific requirements, including the attendance of directors or individuals who are not the student's committee members. 

    The aims of the qualifying exam proposal do not constitute a binding contract for the successful completion of the dissertation project.


Clinical: 14-18 months

The clinical phase of the program includes most of the clerkships normally taken by third-year medical students, two acting internships (4 weeks each), and one additional four-week elective that are normally part of the fourth year.  MSTPs are not required to take the MSIII three-week selective or scholar's week. The clinical phase comprises 14 months of required classes. An extra 2-3 months of electives are allowed to facilitate appropriate scheduling. Additional time is allowed off for residency interviews and time for study and preparation for the part 2 of the National Boards (USMLE). All MSTP students are assigned to the Birmingham campus for their clinical training. However, elective rotations at other institutions (potential sites for residency and fellowship training) are available. The MSTP covers tuition for up to three semesters of clinical training.

  • Medical School Year 3: Clerkships


    • Learning Communities 3 (Longitudinal)
    • Medicine clerkship (8 weeks)
    • Surgery clerkship (8 weeks*)
    • OB/GYN clerkship (8 weeks*)
    • Pediatrics clerkship (8 weeks)
    • Neurology clerkship (4 weeks)
    • Psychiatry clerkship (4 weeks)
  • Medical School 4th Year: Electives


    • Learning Communities 4 (Longitudinal)
    • Medicine Acting Internship (4 weeks)
    • Acting Internship of your choice (4 weeks)
    • Preparation for Residency (2 weeks)
    • Electives (4 weeks)