$2.5 million award to support physician-scientist training

A grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund will support a new scientific scholarship program for medical students at Stanford.

PJ Utz

Stanford has been selected as one of five universities to receive a Physician Scientist Institutional Award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. The grant, announced today, provides the School of Medicine with $2.5 million over five years to support novel programs that enhance career development for medical students who wish to strengthen their research skills.

Physician-scientists are essential bridges between clinics and labs, and are defined as physicians who spend a majority of their time conducting research. Most physician-scientists hold both an MD and PhD. The grant is designed to encourage research among the group of nearly 20,000 MD-only physicians who graduate annually from medical schools in the United States.

Medical students at Stanford are required to complete a scholarly concentration to graduate, and many want to pursue longer-term research projects by spending an extra year on campus.

With funding from the award, Stanford will take this five-year curriculum a step further, allowing students to add a sixth year of full-time research as a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Scholar, said PJ Utz, MD, professor of medicine and associate dean of medical student research, who is also one of the three principal investigators for the grant.

The grant, together with financial commitments from the school’s Medical Scholars Program and the Dean’s Office, will help fund students’ research in years 2 and 3, and will fully fund research and clinical clerkships during the last three years of training. As many as five students per year will be recruited, with a goal of matching the students to research-intensive residencies at top-tier programs. Utz said an effort is underway to develop an associated master’s degree in the biosciences at Stanford for MD students.

“In addition to our outstanding, almost 50-year-old MD-PhD program, our new Burroughs Wellcome Fund Scholars Program will generate MD-only physician-scientists who are curious, outstanding researchers and caring clinicians,” Utz said. “They will take questions from their patients back to their research groups to figure out solutions to unsolved problems.”

Utz said he is stepping down as director of Stanford’s MD-PhD program to direct the new Burroughs Wellcome Fund Scholars Program. His fellow principal investigators for the grant are Nobel laureates Paul Berg, PhD, professor emeritus of biochemistry, and Brian Kobilka, MD, professor of molecular and cellular physiology.

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