Pre-Clinical Courses &

Research Rotations (MS1-MS2)

Medical School Grading System

Grade Determination: The final course grade for a student is determined by the Course Director. A number of methods of evaluation may be used to make this assessment, including but not limited to, written examinations, oral examinations, direct observation of students, written reports, oral presentations, and evaluations of professional conduct. Students should see the course syllabus for detailed information about grading for an individual course.

Pre-clinical Grading: In some pre-clinical courses, grading consists of scores on two components, the Knowledge component (typically assessed through examinations and quizzes) and the Small Group component (typically assessed on skill-based activities, participation, professionalism, small group work, laboratory experiences, and projects).  In pre-clinical courses where grading consists of a Knowledge component and a Small Group component, students must pass both components in order to receive a passing grade for the course. A student who fails the Knowledge component (raw score below 70) will receive a grade of F for the course; a student who fails the Small Group Component will receive a grade of F for the course.

In pre-clinical courses without separate Knowledge and Small Group components, students must pass the course according to the grading system employed in the course (see course syllabus for details).

Beginning with the Class of 2019, students with a weighted raw score average of 92 or higher on all pre-clinical coursework are awarded Pre-clinical Honors.  This Honors designation is based upon cumulative student performance in those pre-clinical courses (modules and Introduction to Clinical Medicine) that report a raw score.  Courses in the pre-clinical curriculum which do not report a raw score (Patient, Doctor, and Society; Fundamentals; and Evidence-Based Medicine) are excluded from this calculation.

Students in the MSTP will be assigned to the medical school class with which they entered for the first 2 years.  After completing the research and dissertation portion, and upon return to the clinical phase of the program, MSTP students will be assigned to the current third year medical school class for purposes of comparative calculations (eligibility for AOA, honors, awards, etc.).

All students must take USMLE Step 1 before beginning their first clerkship, or before beginning a leave of absence for Ph.D. training for MSTP students.  MSTP students are required to take USMLE Step 1 prior to the start of Block 6b.  If an MSTP student does not meet this deadline, then they must go on a Leave of Absence (without stipend). These alternatives must be approved by the MSTP Director and the Heersink SOM Associate Dean for Students. 


Pre-Clinical Courses 

MS-1 Medical Courses: During the summer before the first year of the Medical curriculum, MSTP students are enrolled in MSTP 793, MSTP 794, and MSTP 798. All other courses and requirements of the first 2 years of the medical curriculum are unchanged and are required for MSTP students. All MS-I students are required to take the Special Topics Course (ST2043) – Survival Skills for Physician Scientists during the summer between the MS1 and MS2 years.

Starting their MS1 year, MSTP students will be issued an iPad Mini (4th Generation, Wi-Fi only, with 32GB memory, and 2 years of AppleCare+), and a Bluetooth Keyboard/Case. The iPad Mini will be used to deliver educational content through apps and links to web-based resources, be used in the classroom for interactive learning, and provide a secure computing environment for HIPAA compliant electronic communications and accessing electronic medical records. 

The iPad Mini will be managed by UAB Health System’s mobile device management system which allows UAB to maintain data security, even if the iPad is lost, damaged beyond use, or stolen. Enrollment in the mobile device management system will be automatic during the initial guided setup of the iPad Mini. 


MS-2 Medical Courses: During the MS2 year, MSTP students will also enroll in either GBS-Theme modular graduate courses or Program-Specific courses during the spring for which credit will be given on their UAB Graduate School transcripts. 

MSTP students must register and complete USMLE STEP I of the NBME exam by the end of May after completion of their MS2 class work. All MSTP MS2 students must complete the 4-week Family Medicine Elective (30-210 Senior Preceptorship) prior to starting their third research rotation. Students must complete USMLE Step 1 prior to starting their Family Medicine Elective.

If USMLE Step 1 is to be delayed past the set deadline, then approval to waive the Family Medicine Elective must be sought. Approval must be given my the MSTP Director and then conveyed to the Heersink SOM Coures Scheduler. Students will not be able to take SOM-based courses starting July 1st of the academic year. 


MSTP Research Rotations 

Research Rotations: In selecting faculty mentors for research rotations, the student must expend considerable effort, because no further rotations are usually allowed.  Students select from MSTP Faculty for a rotation, and must register for each rotation with the MSTP prior to the start of the rotation.  Rotation forms must be completed and turned into the MSTP by the indicated deadlines. It is a requirement that students meet with at least 3 faculty members to discuss potential rotation projects prior to making a commitment to a laboratory for their rotation.

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 entry of the first year medical school curriculum.  After a break for UAB Heersink SOM orientation and the Patient, Doctor, and Society course, it is an option to continue this rotation on a part-time basis during the early fall of the first year (during the timeframe of the Fundamentals) and consists of bench laboratory work or a similar experience in epidemiology or public health.  The second two rotations are for 8-10 weeks of full time effort during the next two summers. Students who have completed their MS2 year must complete 8 weeks of full time effort in the laboratory after the end of second year Medical School classes and before Labor Day.

After 3 rotations, students must formally select a research mentor to remain in the program.  Students must select a Thesis Mentor and laboratory for their dissertation research by the start of the fall term of their GS1 year.  Ideally, students are expected to complete three rotations, each with a different MSTP Faculty.  Students may not do 2 rotations with the same MSTP Faculty member. However, students may request permission from theMSTP  Director to opt out of the third rotation if circumstances warrant this option.

Selection of a Research Mentor: Upon the selection of a Thesis Mentor, a meeting will be conducted with the MSTP Director, MSTP Program Manger, Thesis Mentor and MSTP student to discuss expectations of the research pathway and the alignment with MSTP policies and procedures associatd with the PhD-phase of the program. Follow up MSTP Thesis Selection form and Mentor-Mentee Agreement form will be distributed for signatures.  

Issues with Finding a Research Mentor: If students have an interest in working with a faculty member who is not currently an approved MSTP faculty member, they should notify the Program Manager and/or one of the MSTP Directors, who can initiate the necessary procedures to evaluate and approve the individual as MSTP Faculty.  If at any time a student is having difficulty in identifying appropriate MSTP Faculty to serve as rotation advisors, they should immediately contact their MSTP Advisor or one of the MSTP Directors for advice. This approach allow the student to obtain additional advice in order to make an informed decision regarding their third and final rotation.

If a suitable Thesis Mentor has not been identified after 3 rotations, a fourth rotation may be allowed after submitting a written request and a discussion with the Program Director.  If a student joins a lab and subsequently comes to irreconcilable differences with their Thesis Mentor a change of labs can be arranged.

Requests received after the deadline for the selection of the thesis laboratory or with no evidence of appropriate diligence on the student's part to complete the requirement on time are not in keeping with the high expectations for professionalism of the program.  

All MSTP students who have either finished their second or third rotations must participate in Medical Student Research Day (MSRD) held each fall.  Participation in MSRD is optional for students in the MS1 year, GS years, and MS3-MS4 years. However, MS1 students wishing to be considered to attend the national MD-PhD Student Conference in Keystone, CO, the summer following their first year are required to participate.