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Director's Message and Program Overview

Welcome to the University of Massachusetts Medical School MSTP website. This is an incredibly exciting time to become a physician scientist! We can now routinely query the human genome and engineer experimental model systems to discover molecular causes and mechanisms of human disease. Also, continuous and remote monitoring of physiological parameters is transforming our understanding of human biology and physiopathology in truly unexpected and exciting ways. Access to social media platforms is enabling understanding of human populations, health trends, and disparities in ways that allow new interventions to improve the health of our communities. 

Within this exciting scientific ecosystem, physician scientists can leverage their curiosity, drive, endurance, and humanism to bring new knowledge, new understanding, and new possibilities to the lives of their patients and their communities. The UMMS MD/PhD program provides an intensely collaborative research and training infrastructure ideal for physician scientists to develop and thrive. 

The UMMS MD/PhD Program has a remarkable record of success since its establishment in 1988 as a program in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences to its current distinguished status as an NIH funded Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP). We are among the few MD/PhD Programs in the nation to offer training in areas spanning from basic biomedical to clinical and population health research. Our research facilities and institutional environment at UMMS are ideal for the outstanding training of our current 75 MD/PhD students. Within outstanding physical facilities, including the 278,000 square-foot Ambulatory Care Center, home to Centers of Excellence in Diabetes, Cardiovascular Medicine, Orthopedics and Cancer; and the 500,000 square foot Albert Sherman Center, which houses state of the art laboratories and facilities for medical education, our students work under the guidance of faculty who are highly committed to physician-scientist training. These individuals are world-class leaders in areas extending from basic molecular and cellular research to clinical and population health sciences. Notable examples are Nobel Laureate Craig Mello, discoverer of RNA interference; Victor Ambros, discoverer of micro-RNAs and recipient of a Lasker Award and Breakthrough Prize; HHMI Investigators Job Dekker, Philip Zamore, Cole Haynes, Roger Davis, and Michael Green; and National Academies members Craig Mello, Victor Ambros, Michael Green, Roger Davis, Raul Padron, and Robert H. Brown. Many of our faculty are leaders of multi PI and multi-center grants, attesting to the strong collaborative nature of research at UMMS, and its national impact.  

Our students are engaged in both clinical and research training throughout the duration of our program, enabling them to develop a physician-scientist identity from the beginning of their training. For example, during the first two years, students are exposed to cellular/molecular mechanistic research, vertebrate and invertebrate model systems and human subject and population-based research in addition to the regular curriculum of the School of Medicine. Also, during the time of Thesis  Research, students maintain their clinical skills and medical research interests through clinical activities and mentorship. Each individual student enjoys a multi-tiered mentoring structure, through learning communities overseen by House Mentors, including a practicing Physician Scientist Mentor embedded within their learning community. Students are advised by a Thesis Advisor as well as by a Thesis Research Advisory Committee (TRAC) which ascertains that the goals and achievements of the student and the expectations of the mentor are aligned with the guidelines of the MD/PhD program. This multilayered mentorship structure allows our students to successfully navigate our intense integrated curriculum. 

Worcester is an amazing city to live in. It is centrally located in Massachusetts, and is thereby known as the "Heart of the Commonwealth.” Worcester offers the best of both large and small cities with its affordable housing, quality public schools, access to diverse cultures, sports, restaurants, and entertainment. Amazing facts about Worcester, especially for aspiring scientists, include being the site where  Loring Coes  invented the first monkey wrench in 1841. Robert H. Goddard, who launched the world's first liquid-fueled rocket on March 16, 1926, was born, raised, educated, and performed his pioneering work in Worcester. Enovid, the first FDA approved birth-control pill, was developed by Massachusetts scientists at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology, leading to the 1972  Supreme Court decision (in Baird v. Eisenstadt) to legalize birth control for all citizens of this country, irrespective of marital status. Talk about changing the world! 

I hope this has given you a useful first glance of our goals and environment, and I encourage you to further explore our UMASS Medical School website where you will find more details of our programs and additional resources. I also hope to meet you in person as you explore your exciting options to become a future physician scientist! 

All the best,