Frequently Asked Questions

I would like to complete medical school in four years. I just completed two years full-time basic research in diabetes and now I want to focus on the practical side of medicine to prepare for my future career. How can doing an SC be useful to me?

All students have to complete a Scholarly Concentration. We believe it is useful in several ways, for example, as a process it will keep alive the excitement of the independent search for knowledge that all students enter medical school with.  As a source of knowledge it can broaden or focus your goals.

The best use of a Scholarly Concentration could be to extend your knowledge of diabetes in a new direction (community outreach, clinical research) or add a completely new perspective to your education (ethics, technology innovation).

Medical school is a formative time that should open up new avenues that become integral to your future career.

I have very broad interests right now and am concerned that this early in my education, the Scholarly Concentration I choose will not correspond to my residency choice. Is this going to be a problem?

No. You are not "locking in" a career path by your selection of a specific foundation or foundation/application.

The idea behind the SCs is to give students a chance to add a dimension to their education (whether this is deepening a prior interest or adding a new one). This does not mean that the experience has to correlate directly with the field you match in. It does mean that the Concentration you choose will most likely influence and enrich the way you practice (or research) medicine in any field.

Students who know early what field they want to match in do sometimes select a foundation or foundation/application combination in a different area. Some students aiming to matching in a surgical field, for example, might want to balance this with a knowledge of methodology of community health and public service (many surgeons include outreach to underserved populations). Or a student matching in internal medicine with a strong basic science research background in genetic susceptibility to disease, may want to do a foundation in Biomedical Ethics and Medical Humanities.

As a first-year student I would like to enter the Community Health Scholarly Concentration and complete medical school in four years. What if - in my clinical years - I become interested in dermatology? Considering how competitive this match is, will I have a chance?

Even before the Scholarly Concentrations existed, students often didn't know what they wanted to do until their final clinical year in medical school. Despite this, we have always matched well, in part because a commitment to scholarly endeavors in general may be more important to residency programs than the specific field of the endeavor. However, because there is the belief that research in an area can provide a leg up in obtaining a competitive residency, some students who decide on a specialty late in medical school alter their schedules to include a focused period of research. A late decision in this case will likely require an increased time commitment beyond four years of medical school. Students with otherwise outstanding accomplishments can still match well in the absence of field-specific research. Students are encouraged to talk with program directors and advisors to get some help in making decisions on how to proceed.

I have already started doing research with a plastic surgery faculty member using an animal model and am now getting ready to select a Scholarly Concentration. I have found that this faculty member's work does not fit well in the current programs. What should I do?

It is unusual that a research enterprise does not fit within one of our defined SCs. Usually, the research involves at least one, if not more, of the methods-oriented areas of scholarship in the SCs. Talk to Dr. Baker and/or the SC Directors to see where your work might fit best. If, after these discussions, you find the field is not represented in the current programs, you could consider setting up an independent SC with help from your research mentor and other resources (faculty, Advising Deans, or any one of us involved in medical education) to pull together the necessary committee and courses.

I am very interested in aspects of two separate foundation areas and would like to combine them. Is this possible?

Yes. There are two ways to approach this:

1. If one Scholarly Concentration area is a more dominant interest, declare that area, and take additional elective courses in the other area without committing to the formal program.


2. Speak with both SC Directors for their approval to combine (6 units of core course work in each area + a project that combines both foundations). Then declare into a "split SC."

There are some courses in my preferred foundation (or application) area that I haven't been able to take because of conflicts with my required core courses. I really want to stay on the four-year plan unless I find an otherwise compelling reason to take a fifth year. Is there a way?

Probably. All Concentrations do have a course plan for students; however, if you pick your foundation (or application) area later than average, there may be some scheduling conflicts. Scholarly Concentration Directors are willing to consider alternate plans that students present to meet their requirements. 

But what can I do?

You can investigate possible alternative courses, including such things as directed readings, and present a plan to the Scholarly Concentration Director, who will work with you to make it feasible to complete your course of study. Get the support of your advisor for the plan. Speak with all of the resources available (faculty, the advising deans, or any one of us involved in medical education).

In creating my quarterly plan for my Scholarly Concentration, how do I fit in the research part? Can I spread it out over more than a year?

Yes. We recognize that completing a substantive piece of scholarship does not always fit neatly into a standard-sized time period. Some substantive work can be accomplished in shorter, intensive blocks and others in longer blocks. Some students may elect to apply for individual quarters of Medical Scholars funding at different times in their tenure at Stanford. Others may seek a four-quarter MedScholars and spread it out over a longer period of time (e.g., eight quarters of 50%, or other combinations). It should be split according to research effort per quarter. If and how you split the research will be determined by the nature of your research and how you are able to integrate it with the required core curriculum.

Regardless of time commitment, the scheduled plan should allow for the student's immersion in the interdisciplinary nature of the area of focus enough to appreciate the significance and methodology of the area to converse, collaborate, and investigate with new knowledge and expertise in the field.

What is the deadline for declaring an SC?

Students are strongly encouraged to declare by the beginning of spring quarter of their first year (SC Declarations open on April 1st), and absolutely no later than September 1st of their second year.

What is the process to declare a Concentration?


  1. Select one of the existing foundations, or a foundation/application combination.
  2. Define a general course and research plan over a four- or five-year period (don't begin a project that you hope will fulfill your SC project without gaining your SC Director's approval FIRST).
  3. Complete the SC Online Declaration, attaching your plans.
  4. Meet with your SC area Director or Directors to discuss your plan.
  5. Submit the online form.

Am I required to do one quarter of full-time research (typically through the Medical Scholars Endowment)?

You are not required to do a quarter of full-time research or to apply for funding from the MedScholars program. Students ARE, however, required to do some type of scholarship as required by their SC. Many students opt to do at least one quarter of funded research - and apply for the MedScholars grant - because they are excited about a research idea and because it is an integral part of the "Stanford experience." A quarter of full-time research also provides a protected opportunity in which to do the scholarship required to complete the SC.

What are my SC research requirements?

The details of the requirement are defined by each Scholarly Concentration Director. Typically, however, students do one to four quarters of full-time research. Often this is funded through the Medical Scholars Endowment. DO NOT begin a project that you hope will fulfill your SC project without gaining your SC Director's approval FIRST!

Are my chances of entering a particular SC lost if my research proposal is not approved?

No. Seeking advice from the Scholarly Concentration Director and addressing the concerns of the research review committee with your faculty advisor could result in a stronger, successful application. Decisions about MedScholars funding do not affect your SC declaration.

My research proposal was awarded funding by the Molecular Basis of Medicine Concentration. Does this mean I am accepted into the MBM Scholarly Concentration?

No. Declaring a Scholarly Concentration is a separate process and requires input from and discussion with the MBM Scholarly Concentration Director about your overall academic plans.


Example Projects