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Director's Message and Program Overview


Dr Catarina Kiefe, MD, PhD 


Dr Jonthan Kay, MD



Associate Director

Welcome to the UMass Chan MD-PhD Program. We would like to introduce you briefly to our program, but first, let us say a few words about ourselves. 

Dr. Kiefe, the Director, is (as you are becoming) an MD (internist) and PhD (mathematician). She had the privilege to found our UMass Chan Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences in 2009 and to have led it for 10 years, until she stepped aside in 2019 to become its Chief Scientific Officer.  She very much enjoys being a professor and not a department chair, because it gives her the freedom to devote all her professional time to the two things that she loves most in academic medicine: nurturing the next generation of scientists and physicians and generating new knowledge.  She continues to be PI on several NIH grants: three institutional training grants and another R01. Over her career, she has had the privilege to found and develop several scientific centers funded by NIH and other agencies and, most importantly, she has served as primary mentor to over 100 young professionals, ranging from undergraduates through junior faculty and including medical and MD-PhD students.  She has also served on and chaired many national scientific committees and am Editor-in-Chief (together with Jeroan Allison) of one of the leading journals in her field.

Dr. Kay, the Associate Director, is an MD with training both in basic science and clinical research who actively practices rheumatology in addition to his academic roles as a professor of medicine at UMass Chan with a joint appointment in the Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences. Following postdoctoral laboratory training in immunology, he has spent the past three decades conducting clinical research studying the epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, and treatment of a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. He is committed to the training of medical and graduate students, residents, and fellows and has mentored many trainees over the course of his career.

The MD-PhD program at UMass Chan Medical School and the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences was established in 1988. It is one of about 46 programs in the US that are funded in part by a Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) grant from the NIH. Our MD-PhD program spans the entire spectrum of health-related research, from the laboratory sciences through clinical research and the population health sciences, which provides it with a unique character. Currently, 76 MD/PhD students are enrolled.

The UMass Chan Medical School is the only public medical school in Massachusetts. It is constantly expanding, with new buildings under construction, an ever-increasing research portfolio, and the addition of new clinical training sites.  The curriculum of both the medical and the graduate schools is constantly being evaluated, examined, and improved to accommodate the rapidly changing healthcare delivery and research environments. Ours is one of the few medical schools in the US that is recognized for excellence both in research and in the training of primary care physicians. Its current strategic plan places a major emphasis on health equity, both in terms of research and service to the surrounding community.  

Our faculty include national and international thought leaders whose expertise ranges from molecular research to the population health sciences and who lead multi-center grants and NIH-funded centers. We count a Nobel laureate (Craig Mello, discoverer of RNA interference) and multiple Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and National Academy of Science (formerly Institute of Medicine) members among our faculty. Most importantly, the collegial and collaborative spirit of our faculty promotes synergy and fosters transdisciplinary research.

Our MD-PhD student body and faculty form a vibrant, future-oriented community that values both scientific innovation and excellence and social responsibility. Through the Medical Student Council (MSC), student leaders play an active role in helping to innovate educational and community service aspects of the program. If you have recently been admitted into our program, it is because you convinced us that you are likely to succeed by combining excellence in discovery with a deep desire to improve the world around you as a physician.

Throughout the entire duration of the MD-PhD program, our students engage in both clinical and research activities.  During the first two years, students are exposed to the entire spectrum of research in addition to the regular medical school curriculum. While working on their PhD dissertation, students maintain their clinical skills through ongoing clinical activities. Each individual student belongs to one of several structured learning communities, in which they are advised over the course of their studies at UMass Chan by both a learning community mentor and a physician scientist mentor. Throughout their graduate school training, students work with both a thesis advisor and a Thesis Research Advisory Committee (TRAC) that guide their progress. 

Worcester is a multicultural city with a diverse range of recreational, social, and cultural activities. It's highly affordable housing together with a very high quality of public schools in its suburbs, make it both family-friendly and supportive of a diversity of lifestyles. There is a big-city variety of restaurants and many high-quality entertainment venues

More details about our programs and resources can be found on this website. Please explore it. We are so pleased that you are joining us! 


Catarina & Jon     

Catarina Kiefe, MD, PhD    Jonathan Kay, MD
Inaugural Melvin S. and Sandra L. Cutler Chair in Biomedical Research   Timothy S. and Elaine L. Peterson Chair in Rheumatology
Chief Scientific Officer   Professor of Medicine and Population and Quantitative Health Sciences
Professor of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences; and Medicine    
Founding Chair Emerita, Department of Population and Quantitative Health Sciences