Completion of PhD & Transition to Clinics

In order to register for rotations in the MS-III curriculum, MSTP students must notify both the MSTP office and the Associate Dean for Students at least 3 months prior to defending the dissertation and complete both the MSTP “Transition to Clinical Phase” form and the Medical Student Services "Return from Leave of Absence" form. The following documents the process for completing your PhD and transitioning back to clinics.


1) Meeting with MSTP Assistant Director and Program Manager (5 months prior to your defense)

Schedule a meeting with the MSTP Assistant Director and MSTP Program Manager to discuss your tentative return to clinics time/preferences and schedule. After meeting with the MSTP Assistant Director, you will need to initiate your return to medical school paperwork and (if applicable) set a clinic schedule for the term through the SOM Heersink Scheduling System.

2) Application for Degree (Doctoral)

The application for degree must be received in the Graduate School Records Office by the deadline date listed on their website A $50 fee will be charged to the student’s account, which needs to be paid by the student.  The student should check their account for that fee to verify the student’s application has been received and processed. If graduation is postponed, a new application for degree must be completed for the appropriate semester and a reorder fee of $25 will be charged to the student’s account.

  • Students must be registered for MSTP 799 (~3 semester hours) in the semester they plan to graduate
  • Approval forms cannot be completed until a typed Application for Degree for the appropriate semester has been submitted to the Graduate School (see Forms)

3) Request Thesis or Dissertation Approval Forms

No later than 2 weeks before thesis or dissertation defense, student must submit Request Thesis and Dissertation Approval forms. This is when the dissertation defense date, time, location is set; the MSTP office, graduate school, department/theme must be made aware of this date. This step cannot be completed until the Graduate School has received student’s application for degree for the semester in which they plan to graduate.

  • The committee members on approval forms must exactly match those on student’s official records. If any member of the committee has changed, that change must be submitted on an official Change of Graduate Study Committee Form (available on this web site) before approval forms are requested.

4) Dissertation Formatting, Submission, & Binding

When preparing your thesis or dissertation, avoid costly and time-consuming revisions, and expedite your graduation by:

  • Following the instructions in the Thesis/Dissertation Manual found on the graduate school website ( AND a standard style manual acceptable to your field of research
  • Adhering to the deadlines set by the Graduate School concerning the submission of all required forms. Student’s graduation date is set by the date we receive the final ACCEPTABLE copy, not by the date of student’s defense.
  • See “Completing a Graduate Degree” and “Deadline Dates” on the Graduate School website

The MSTP has implemented a policy to simplify the binding of your dissertation.  Submit the Graduate School approved PDF version of your dissertation to the MSTP for binding purposes, and the MSTP will have the required copies bound for the student and sent to the student’s mentors.

Timing the PhD

Students should give careful consideration to the timing of completing the PhD and how this will affect the schedule for residency applications and beginning a residency. The MSTP has select blocks that students can return to clinics to ensure an optimal 18-month clinical schedule.  Students who finish their PhD and begin clinical rotations in June/July (MS-III block 6a/6b) will need to plan for an appropriate post-doctoral fellowship or other experiences to be performed after completion of the program and prior to the beginning of a residency.  Students may investigate residency programs that accept candidates at times other than July 1st, obtain a post-doctoral fellowship, or engage in other activities after completion of the program. 

It is strongly advised that students discuss their options with the MSTP Assistant Director and make plans for such activities well in advance of completing the requirements for graduation.  Currently, the MSTP does not allow returning to clinics in Blocks other than Ia/b or IVa/b, as other return times require the MSTP to pay double tuition for both the UAB Heersink SOM and the UAB Graduate School.  The only exception to this rule is if the MSTP student has an individual fellowship that covers tuition for the entire time they are in clinical clerkships.

Transition to Clinics Course

As part of the UAB Heersink SOM curriculum, there is now a formal 1-week course to prepare students for their transition to the clinics.  This course is taken by all second year medical students prior to beginning their third year clerkships.  All MSTP students returning to clinics during the 12-month period after this course is offered are required to take this course prior to their return.  This session is required by the Medical School and attendance 2 years in a row is acceptable, whereas entering the clerkships without previously attending this session is not acceptable.  Students interested in a refresher series of exercises in anticipation of returning to the clinical phase of the program can arrange an individualized program with clinical mentors.