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Year One (Medical School)

MD/PhD students at the University of Rochester have the option of starting a laboratory rotation in the summer preceding the beginning of medical school.  Students taking this option will receive a stipend during the summer.  It is critical that such students identify themselves soon after acceptance in order to make the necessary arrangements.  Dr. O’Banion will work closely with such students to select a rotation mentor.  Lab rotation evaluation forms must be submitted by the student and faculty mentor upon completion of the rotation. 

A day-long retreat is scheduled for all MD/PhD students and a subset of faculty involved in the program at an off campus site early in the academic year, typically the Friday prior to the day medical school starts. 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.  Planned by the MD/PhD Student Council, this event welcomes new students to the program and consists of a balance of research presentations (students and an invited scientist) and social activities. The event provides an opportunity to discuss programmatic issues that affect all students. Student Council elections are also held. Previous venues have been at a Finger Lakes winery, an Inn in Letchworth State Park, and the Rochester Yacht Club on Lake Ontario.  The food and company are always outstanding.

MD/PhD students participate in the full Phase 1 medical school Double Helix Curriculum - Translations and Transitions, including all lectures, laboratories, Problem-Based-Learnig sessions, ICM (Introduction to Clinical Medicine), Foundations of Biopsychosocial Practice (FBP), Meliora in Medicine, and the Primary Care Clerkship (PCC).  For some classes (e.g. Molecules to Cells), MD/PhD students share the same PBL group with the expectation they will delve more deeply into basic science issues together. 

All MD/PhD students participate in an additional class, Scientific Reasoning in Medicine (SRM), which meets for 6-8 sessions each semester.  SRM is a credit-bearing course, with 1 credit each year that counts toward clinical elective time. Based on student feedback, the format for these sessions consists of a faculty presentation at noon on Friday followed by a student-run journal club the following Monday at noon.  Faculty presenters are chosen from all disciplines within the medical center and are asked to present on research issues with clear clinical relevance.  The journal club provides a forum for critical evaluation of primary scientific literature related to the research topic. Laurie Steiner, MD, directs and organizes this course, and attends most sessions. SRM is also required of students in the second year of the program. Thus students are introduced to the science of nearly 30 faculty in their first two years. If there are particular faculty presenters students are interested in having participate, please let the program Administrative Assistant, Carley MacKenzie know.

Other opportunities for learning about faculty research interests include regular departmental seminars, MD/PhD organized seminars, specifically the MSTP Dinner Seminar Series comprising of three sessions each semester, of which attendance at two seminars per semester is required (see under “MD/PhD Program Events”). Interactions with faculty who teach in the medical curriculum, and student-initiated meetings with graduate program advisors and individual faculty further foster exposure to different research interests.  These last mechanisms are particularly important for determining summer rotation options and ultimately, graduate department affiliation and thesis advisor.  Dr. O’Banion also meets on an individual basis with trainees to gauge the progress of these important decisions as well as provide additional opportunities for advice about research options.

Although students may take on additional class-work during the first two years in medical school, this option is unlikely given the number of hours devoted to the Double Helix Curriculum - Transitions and Translations.  Students interested in additional class work generally take courses as “non-credit” and should speak to Dr. O’Banion and Dr. Kaufman to initiate the process.

During the summer following the first year of Medical School, MD/PhD students typically engage in a laboratory rotation of 8 to 10 weeks duration.  Laboratory rotations provide outstanding opportunities for learning new systems and techniques, familiarizing oneself with specific laboratory and departmental environments, and establishing ties with potential thesis research mentors.  Students are encouraged to participate in two or three rotations prior to settling into a thesis laboratory, and most do so. However, the MD/PhD program has no set requirement for number of laboratory rotations and students with very clear ideas about research direction may engage in fewer rotation experiences.1  It is important to note that some graduate programs do not have a formal rotation mechanism; for example, those programs grouped under “Health and Population Sciences” (Epidemiology, Health Services Research, and Biostatistics & Computational Biology) offer other summer experiences. Students and rotation mentors should complete Lab Evaluation forms found on the Graduate Education website and linked here. These forms must be filled out by both student and mentor for any lab rotations completed. Individual graduate departments may have other requirements upon matriculation into their program.

Rotation choices are to be discussed with and approved by Dr. O’Banion prior to initiation.  


1This should be cleared with specific graduate departments, since some may require a minimum number of rotations (see detailed graduate curricula in the Appendix).

NOTE:  Community Service during all years of medical school is optional.  However, students wishing to qualify for the Distinction in Community Health Award at commencement must have participated in a minimum number of hours of community service in each of the 4 years. 

See link to SMD Handbook for details on the requirements:

Procedure for Arranging Independent Clinical Experiences

All clinical experiences that are not part of the normal MD/PhD Curriculum must be approved by a special process, as outlined below, to ensure liability coverage for the student. This process must be completed before starting any such experience, including arrangements made for clinical exposure in the summers after first and second year medical school and experiences outside of the longitudinal clinical experience in graduate school. The policy is in place for all medical student contemplating such activities (normally summer activities for non-MD/PhD students).

Medical Student Liability Coverage for (Summer) Activities

University of Rochester medical students (with an eligible student status) can be given consideration for Medical Student Liability Coverage for Summer Activities. Described below is the approval process for all students engaging in non-credit bearing electives during the summer.

1. Students will be required to complete a special elective form for any summer clinical experience. This elective form must include a description of the activity.

2. Once the special elective form is completed, students will be required to have approval from a UR faculty member (in an appropriate clinical department) AND their Advisory Dean AND a representative from the Registrar's Office prior to the start of the elective. (NO RETROACTIVE approval will be accepted).

3. Students must have an evaluation form completed by the on-site mentor. This evaluation form will become part of the student's academic record. The special elective experience will be reflected on the student's transcript as a non-credit bearing elective.

4. For students who will be engaging in a community service activity as part of the longitudinal track of the Community Health Improvement Course*, the faculty course director will need to sign off on the special elective form (prior to initiation of the work) in addition to the Advisory Dean and Registrar sign offs.

*The Community Health Improvement Course (taken in Year 4 of medical school) is NOT required