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 Drs. Geisler and Kezar (2-3 months prior to your defense)

Schedule a meeting with Dr. Geisler ( to discuss your tentative return to clinics time/preferences and schedule. After meeting with Dr. Geisler, schedule a meeting with Dr. Kezar (Denise Coston; to initiate your return to medical school paperwork and (if applicable) set a clinic schedule for the term.

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

MSBMS Degree Alternative
If an MSTP student does not meet the requirements to be awarded a PhD degree, then a in Basic Medical Science (MSBMS) degree may be awarded if the student has successfully completed all of the course work requirements of their program (first year coursework and required advanced coursework) and the qualifying examination administered by their program.  The MSBMS is only awarded under unusual circumstances and only to students who have completed the requirements indicated.  Some programs may elect to mandate additional requirements such as preparing and successfully defending a Master’s thesis and/or having published a first author paper in a peer reviewed journal.  The recommendation to award the MSBMS degree must come from the student’s MSTP Advisor, the thesis committee, and the Director of the student’s graduate program and MSTP.


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 on July 1st.  Finishing the PhD in December offers an optimal schedule for completion of the requirements for graduation in May of the subsequent year to be in synchrony with other medical graduates.  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 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 UASOM 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 UASOM curriculum, there is now a formal 1-week course to prepare students for their transition to the clinics.  This course, held in late April, is taken by all second year medical students prior to beginning their third year clerkships.  If a MSTP student opts to do their Family Medicine clerkship immediately after their MS-II year (and before starting their PhD thesis work), they are required to take this course along with the other MS-II students.  In addition, 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.