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Committees & Program Structure

The organization of the MD/PhD program serves the needs of our trainees as well as integrates the larger role that the MD/PhD Student Council plays in the program.  Drs. O’Banion, Steiner, Alysha Taggart, and Carley MacKenzie work with three different committees to assure the smooth operation of the program.  These include an Internal Advisory Committee that provides program oversight, an Admissions Committee that assists in the important job of student selection, and the MD/PhD Student Council, which provides a critical venue for student input and a mechanism for implementation of student-centered activities.  Membership for each of these committees is provided in the following tables, accompanied by information about meeting schedules and specific roles.

MD/PhD Program Internal Advisory Committee

Name Academic Position and Title
Laura Calvi, MD Professor of Medicine, Neurosurgery, and Pharmacology & Physiology
Diane Dalecki, PhD Chair and Professor, Biomedical Engineering, and Electrical & Computer Engineering;
Director, Rochester Center for Biomedical Ultrasound
Stephen Dewhurst, PhD Chair & Dean’s Professorship, Microbiology & Immunology; Vice Dean for Research, SMD;
Associate Vice President for Health Sciences Research, URMC
David Linehan, MD Chair and Professor, Surgery and Cancer Center, Oncology
  • Provides oversight of program, program committees and program directors
  • Meets as needed

MD/PhD Program Admissions Committee

Name Academic Position and Title
Karl Foley MSTP Student Representative, G4, NSC
Catherine Pizzarello MSTP Student Representative, G3, IMV
W. Richard Burack, MD, PhD Professor, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine;
Director, Hematopathology Unit
Paul Dunman, PhD Associate Professor, Microbiology & Immunology
Michelle Dziejman, PhD Associate Professor, Microbiology & Immunology
Stephen Hammes, MD, PhD Professor, Medicine, Pharmacology & Physiology;
Chief, Endocrinology & Metabolism Divisio
Denise Hocking, PhD Professor, Pharmacology and Physiology, and Biomedical Engineering
Krystel Huxlin, PhD Professor, Ophthalmology, Neuroscience, Brain & Cognitive Science,
and the Center for Visual Science (CVS)
Gail V. W. Johnson, PhD Professor, Anesthesiology, Pharmacology & Physiology, and the
Center for Neural Development & Disease (CNDD)
Richard T. Libby, PhD Professor, Ophthalmology
Senior Associate Dean, Graduate Education & Postdoctoral Affairs
David Mathews, MD, PhD Professor Biochemistry & Biophysics, Biostatistics and Structural Biology;
Director, Biophysics Graduate Program;
Associate Director, Center for RNA Biology
Margot Mayer-Proschel, PhD Professor, Biomedical Genetics and Neuroscience
Craig Morrell, DVM, PhD Associate Professor,Medicine; Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute (CVRI)
Flavia Nobay, MD Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine;
Associate Dean for Medical School Admissions (ex officio)
M. Kerry O'Banion, MD, PhD (Chair) Professor and Vice Chair, Neuroscience;
Director, Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)
Michael O'Reilly, PhD Professor, Pediatrics and Environmental Medicine
Douglas Portman, PhD Associate Professor, Biomedical Genetics, Biology, and Neuroscience
Laurie Steiner, MD Associate Professor, Pediatrics, Neonatology
Associate Director, Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)
Edwin van Wijngaarden, PhD Professor and Associate Chair, Public Health Sciences;
Professor of Dentistry, Environmental Medicine Pediatrics
and the Center for Community Health and Prevention


  • All interviewed students meet with at least one committee member
  • Committee meets four times during recruiting season to evaluate and rank interviewed applicants
  • Dr. O’Banion works with the Medical School Admissions Committee, which provides a separate evaluation for MD/PhD applicants
  • Student representatives provide evaluations of each applicant based on the student interviewer notes

MD/PhD Program Student Council


Council Member


Hannah Bell
Schedules and runs meetings
Follows up with other Council members
John Bennett and Alan Finkelstein
Arranges chalk talk and seminar schedules
Arranges Fall and other retreats (e.g. Upstate New York student retreat)

Karl Foley and Catherine Pizzarello
To be appointed by Co-Chairs
To be appointed by Co-Chairs
To be appointed by Co-Chairs

Representatives to Admissions Committee
Applicant Dinner Coordinator
Hosting Coordinator
Greeting Coordinator
Brendan Whitelaw
Organizes and coordinates annual Medical Scientist Research Symposium (MSRS). Requests nominations for keynote speakers from MSTP student body. Invites speakers two years in advance.
Hayley Chang (1st year)
Gavin Piester (2nd year)
Scott Friedland (3rd/4th year)

Adam Geber and Mike Sportiello
Medical School Curriculum Committee


Honor Board
Alison Livada
Organize social events (e.g. graduate picnic, dinners, etc.)
Public Relations Chair
Zachary Christensen
Maintains and distributes minutes from Student Council meetings, maintains program social media pages & assists in Newsletter preparation
Outreach Chair Bryan Redmond

Works closely with the Program Director to promote awareness among undergraduate and high school students about biomedical/ translational sciences and opportunities afforded by MD/PhD training.

APSA Institutional Representative
Aditi Misra
Represents the MSTP at annual, regional and national conferences of the American Physician Scientist Association
Wellness and Resilience Committee Colleen Schneider Represents the MSTP student body by attending meetings and reporting back with any relevant updates. Responsible for gathering/maintaining relevant data on those in program to ensure overall student wellbeing.
  • Student Council meets once a month during academic year
  • Disseminates information to all MD/PhD students
  • Provides an important forum for discussion of student concerns and representation on other committees


MD/PhD Student Council Guidelines: 2019-2020

1. Overview

The MD/PhD Student Council represents the voice of MSTP students and acts as a liaison between the MST Program and its students. In addition, the Student Council provides support for social and scholastic activities while fostering a community among students. To these effects, the Council is composed of several officers, and the MD/PhD student body as a whole. Regular meetings, events, and the annual retreat provide opportunities for the Council to help make this program meaningful and enjoyable for all involved.

2. Events

2.1 Council Meetings

In order to keep the MD/PhD student body informed of Council activities and to elicit feedback for the Council or the program, regular Student Council meetings are held. These meetings are organized and run by the Council President and are open to all members of the program. A major goal of these meetings is to bring forth and discuss issues that are important to the students. These discussions serve to guide the president in properly representing student concerns at MSTP Executive Committee meetings. Minutes are recorded and distributed to the student body following the meeting by the Council public relations chair.

If more sensitive issues require discussion, the president may call special officer or MD/PhD Executive Council meetings, as appropriate. These include issues relating to the MST Program, the Council, or recommendations to the MD/PhD Executive Committee not endorsed by the entire student body. The minutes of these meetings may be distributed at the discretion of the officers present.

2.2 Seminars and Lectures

As part of the scholastic enrichment of the students in the program, and to further encourage student interaction, the Council sponsors various seminars and lectures throughout the year. These seminars and lectures will include speakers from the University, invited guest lecturers, or speakers from within the program.

As per the MD/PhD Executive Committee, all students in the program will be required to attend 2 out of the 3 seminars scheduled each semester. If one of the seminars includes a speaker from outside the University, attendance at this seminar will be required of all students.

2.3 Social Events

In keeping with the theme of bringing together students from throughout the program, the Council regularly sponsors social events. These events, including such activities as wine tours, berry picking, bowling, movie nights, special holiday gatherings & graduation parties, are organized and supported by Council funding. The Social Chair is charged with planning and organizing such events.

2.4 Applicant Events

There are several events associated with the applicants. These involve the dinners during each interview session, applicant greeting as appropriate, and the revisit weekend for accepted students. All of these events fall under the auspices of the Admissions Committee, which is headed by the Admissions Chair; individual members are assigned specific tasks to plan.

The Admissions Chair is charged with organizing the social events during the MSTP revisit weekend. These events, typically held on the second evening of the revisit, are an opportunity for current and accepted students to interact in a more informal environment and become acquainted.

2.5 Annual Retreat

Once a year, the MST Program holds a retreat to bring together current students and faculty while welcoming new MD/PhD students. A keynote speaker is invited to speak about his/her research and clinician-scientist career. The retreat also includes research presentations and discussion of Council issues. Council elections are held at the retreat. The planning of the retreat is tasked to the Events Chair, with the help of the program administration. **Attendance is mandatory for this event and students must receive permission from the MSTP Director if they have a valid reason to miss the retreat

3. Council Officers

Council officers are chosen each year at the retreat, and will guide the direction of the Council throughout the year. The officer positions are divided into the Executive Board positions, the admissions committee positions, and the other positions. Procedures for choosing the officers are outlined below (see Section 5).

3.1 Student Council Executive Board

  • 3.1.1 President

The main duty of the president is to coordinate the activities of the Student Council with the MD/PhD program, including the MSTP Executive Committee. In addition to serving on the Executive Committee, the president is in charge of calling, planning, and running the monthly Student Council meetings. He/she will coordinate with the MD/PhD office on budget expenditures and will oversee the other duties to ensure responsibilities are fulfilled. The president will work with the other chairs to plan events, such as speakers, social events, and applicant events. He/she will also act as an advocate for any MD/PhD student issues or complaints to the MST Program regarding any aspects of medical or graduate education.

The term of the president is two years, with the first year being served as president, and the second as outgoing president in an advisory capacity to the incoming president. An individual shall be limited to serving only one term. Additionally, the outgoing president will also serve in an advising capacity and sit on the Executive Committee during the second year as outgoing president. These rules serve to maintain continuity in the Student Council and provide guidance for the incoming president.

  • 3.1.2 Public Relations Chair

The Public Relations (PR) Chair provides communication to the MD/PhD student body, regularly updating them on events and activities. He/she records minutes at Council meetings and promptly relays them to the student body after each meeting. He/she keeps up to date on social media accounts. The Public Relations Chair will assist the program administrator in writing the MSTP newsletter as requested. The PR Chair serves as the URSMD MSTP Institutional Representative (IR) to the American Physician Scientist Association (APSA).

The term of the PR Chair is one year. There are no term limits.

  • 3.1.3 Events Chair

The events chair is charged with planning and organizing scholastic events for the MD/PhD students. These events typically include faculty member seminars, as well as the yearly retreat. If his/her term falls in a year in which the Upstate NY MD/PhD conference is held at UR, he/she will also be in charge of planning this event. The scheduling of these events, securing faculty presenters, advertising, planning location & food (if necessary), and ensuring a smooth execution all fall under the auspices of the events chair. If desired, the chair can form and work with an events committee for these activities.

The term of the Events Chair is one year. There are no term limits.

  • 3.1.4 Admissions Chairs

The Admissions Chairs are the MD/PhD student representatives to the MD/PhD Admissions Committee. The Admissions Committee meets after interviews begin to determine which students will be offered a position in the following year's MD/PhD class. The Admissions Chairs will perform student interviews, and act as the Student Council representative on the committee. Additionally, the Admissions Chairs appoint a Student Council admissions committee (described below) and work with the program administrators in organizing revisit weekend.

Two Admissions Chairs hold the position each year: one who was elected the previous year and one the current year. The Admissions Chair term is two years. There are no term limits.

  • 3.1.5 Social Chair

The Social Chair is in charge of planning and organizing social events for the MD/PhD students. The scheduling, planning, securing of funding, and execution of these events all fall under the auspices of the social chair. If desired the chair can form and work with a social committee for these activities.

The Social Chair term is one year. There are no term limits.

3.2 Student Admissions Committee

The Admissions Committee is chaired by the Admissions Chairs, but generally functions as a separate entity. It includes the following positions:

  • 3.2.1 Applicant Dinner Coordinator

The Dinner Coordinator is charged with planning and organizing the applicant dinners. This includes signing up MSTP students to attend, sending out schedules and reminder emails, scouting and reserving the restaurant, and securing payment if necessary. Typically 9 - 10 dinners are held per year on the first night of each interviewing session.

  • 3.2.2 Hosting Coordinator(s)

The Hosting Coordinator(s) are tasked with organizing the hosting for applicants who request a student host. This involves signing up MSTP students before interview season starts and being listed as the student host contact for applicants. When an applicant contacts the coordinator, they will find an appropriate student host for this applicant.

  • 3.2.3 Greeting Coordinators

On the morning of the first day of each interview session, the Greeting Coordinators are responsible for ensuring that current MD/PhD students are available in the admissions lobby to talk with MD/PhD interviewees. The coordinators provide an opportunity to provide a good first impression and "sell" Rochester to the applicants.

3.3 Other Positions

These positions do not fall under the direction of any committee or chair, but are still vital representatives of the Council.

  • 3.3.1 Curriculum Committee Representatives

The MD/PhD program sends three representatives to the School of Medicine Curriculum Committee meetings: one from the first year medical school class, one from the second year medical school class, and one representing the third and fourth year medical school classes. Two new representatives will be selected each year: one from the first year medical school class for a 2-year term on the M1-M2 committee, and one from either the graduate training phase or the upper medical school classes for a 1-year term on the M3-M4 committee.

These individuals are charged with representing the interests of the MD/PhD students at bi-monthly committee meetings with students from the medical school classes and faculty. Students filling these positions will attend and report on any relevant issues to the MD/PhD students.

  • 3.3.2 Honor Board Representative

The Honor Board Representative attends Honor Board Meetings and provides the MSTP student voice at these meetings.

The Honor Board Representative and an alternate are elected from the student body in graduate training. These individuals serve for the duration of their graduate school training. The alternate replaces the representative when the representative is unable to perform his/her duties due to personal, professional, and/or time conflicts. When the representative re-enters medical school training, the alternate will take his/her place and a new alternate will be elected. In a case in which both the representative and alternate will re-enter medical school, both positions will be elected. In cases in which the alternate re-enters medical school before the representative, a new alternate will be elected.

  • 3.3.3 MSRS Chairperson

The MSRS Chairperson organizes and coordinates the annual Medical Scientist Research Symposium (MSRS). This position can be held by one elected chairperson or two co-chairs. The MSRS Chairperson requests nominations for keynote speaker from the MSTP student body, invites speakers two years in advance, and is responsible for appointment and management of the MSRS Committee, which assists with planning and implementation. 

  • 3.3.4 APSA Institutional Representative

This individual represents the MSTP at annual regional and national conferences of the American Physician Scientists Association and reports back to the MSTP Student Council with feedback and relevant information. He/she also facilitates collaboration between APSA regional, national, and local chapters, and schedules University-wide events for current APSA members, medical school students and fellows, as well as others interested in APSA and physician-scientist Training.

  • 3.3.5 Outreach Chair

The Outreach Chair will serve as MSTP Institutional Representative, to aid in providing information to prospective students both within and outside the University of Rochester. If the position is held during a year in which the MSTP hosts an Outreach Conference for prospective student, the Chair will plan this event in collaboration with the department Administrator and sub-committee. This position will attend local and national-level recruitment events in an effort to promote and recruit the program goals of increased diversity.