Harvard Medical School Coursework

FAQs

The following answers students’ frequently asked questions. Due to the large volume of inquiries received each year, the MD-PhD Program office does not advise individual prospective applicants. We recommend that you also consult with your local premedical advisor(s). The following answers students’ frequently asked questions.

It is our program's policy not to hold individual meetings with applicants outside our normal review process until after the decisions are made. Prospective students seeking additional information are advised to not contact program faculty directly.  Please instead contact the MD-PhD Program office at mdphd@hms.harvard.edu. It is during the revisit periods later in the spring that we meet with students who may join HMS or HST as prospective MD-PhD students.

For additional information on MD-PhD Dual Degree Training, please see the website: https://www.aamc.org/students/research/mdphd/

Application

How many students apply to the MD-PhD Program each year?
The MD-PhD Program receives over 600 applications per year. Selection for interviews is based on a careful review of the application and supporting documents. A strong research and excellent academic background are essential. Most applicants selected for interviews will have high MCAT scores as well. Letters of recommendation are also very important. Applicants invited for interviews will have their interviews coordinated by the admissions officers to be held on one of four interview dates. Interviews are held November through January. We do not have a rolling admissions process. Some applicants may be invited for medical school interviews but not invited for MD-PhD Program interviews.

Social Science Applicants

Some social science applications differ from the standard process in that a simultaneous application to GSAS is needed.  Economics, Health Policy, History of Science, Population Health Sciences and Religion do not need this additional application.  Please contact Amy Cohen at amy@hms.harvard.edu with questions. 

NIH Global Partnership Program applicants

The MD-PhD Program does accept NIH GPP students in our program; however, these applications do not go through the MD-PhD Program admissions process.  Therefore, applicants should not check MD-PhD in their AMCAS applications.  After acceptance into HMS, the NIH GPP Program Officer will contact our MSTP director for approval into our program.  Funding will be managed through us and the student will be part of our community in every way.  However, funding provided by NIH will not be supplemented.  Students work with the HMS Financial Aid Office for additional support. Please note that GPP applicants should apply to HMS in the year prior to when they plan to matriculate and PhDs should be completed before matriculation to medical school.   For more information, please contact Amy Cohen at amy@hms.harvard.edu.

Requirements

Is the MCAT required?
Yes, the MCAT is required for admission. There are no exceptions.

Is the GRE required?
While the MD-PhD Program does not require the GRE, most graduate programs will require this.  We encourage our students to take the GRE to have the score on record when they need it.

Do all requirements need to be completed prior to application?
All of our requirements must be completed prior to matriculation. However, most successful applicants have completed most of the requirements prior to application.

Does the MD-PhD Program interview non-science majors?
Although we have interviewed some non-science majors, it is true that they are generally not as competitive. We are looking for students with an advanced background in both science coursework and lab experience who are highly committed to a career in science.

Does Harvard Medical School evaluate international transcripts?
Harvard Medical School does not evaluate coursework, but does consider the evaluation of a credit evaluation company.  AMCAS may have guidelines on the best way to have the courses evaluated.  International applicants are evaluated on the same terms as US citizens. 

How many letters of recommendation are required?
A composite letter of evaluation from your pre-medical advisory committee is preferred; indicate on the application the name of the institution sending the committee letter. If your institution does not have such a committee, please submit a minimum of three letters of evaluation from teachers who know you well, at least one from a science teacher and one from a teacher in a non-science dept. In either case, additional letters of evaluation from faculty members and others familiar with your career are strongly encouraged, up to a maximum of six letters. If you have been involved in research, a letter of evaluation from the supervisor of each research laboratory experience (including the current one) must be submitted.

If a student who has worked with five principal investigators on various research projects, would he/she be required to get letters of recommendation from all five of these principal investigators? The MD/PhD applicant would wind up getting more letters than the maximum allowed number of six letters. In a case such as this, which would be more important-- getting letters of recommendation from all five research supervisors or submitting no more than six letters?
It would be fine to have more than 6 letters in the package. We would encourage letters from all if possible, but at a minimum the two most recent and additional letter(s) from supervisors who know the student well.

Your application will not be considered complete until all listed letters of evaluation have been received. Your letters need to reach AMCAS by October 16, 2017.

Where should the MD-PhD Program letters of recommendation be sent?
All letters of recommendation are to be sent to the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS). Please do not send recommendation letters to the MD-PhD Program.

Does Harvard grant access to secondary application forms for applicants that have submitted their complete AMCAS application without the MCAT scores or must one wait until receipt of MCAT scores to be given access to the secondary application?
We only send the secondary applications out to verified applicants.

International Applicants

Can an international citizen apply to the MD-PhD Program and receive funding? 
Foreign citizens (those who are not US citizens or permanent residents) with competitive applications are welcome to apply. Although international students are not eligible to receive funding provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) grant, an exceptional foreign student could be offered admission to the program with funding from other sources.   This funding opportunity is usually limited to one international student per year.  HMS requires applicants to have at least one year of university level course work from a US or Canadian university. If you have a foreign school undergraduate degree already, then you would have to complete 1 academic year (2 semesters) in the United States or Canada prior to matriculating at Harvard Medical School.  Foreign students who do not have a BA/BS from an institution in the US or Canada are not likely to be accepted for admission.  Please contact HMS Admissions with questions regarding international eligibility: http://hms.harvard.edu/departments/admissions/contact-admissions.

Interviews

How many applicants are granted interviews each year?
Approximately 65-75 applicants are invited for interviews. Admission to the MD-PhD Program is highly competitive. On average, we admit about 12-14 students per year who are offered full funding by the National Institutes of Health, Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) Grant. Graduates of this program complete their programs in an average of 8 years and most continue their postgraduate training in top hospitals in the country.

Does Harvard provide reimbursement for travel and lodging when coming to Boston for your interviews?
We do not provide reimbursement for travel. Should you need accommodations, student hosts are available. If offered a position in the program, we will reimburse you for travel and expenses for the revisit held in April 11-14, 2018.

Decisions

Does the HMS, MD-PhD Program have a rolling admissions process?
No, it does not have a rolling admissions process.

If an applicant is not accepted to the MD-PhD Program, will s/he still be considered for the MD program?
If an applicant is not accepted for the MD-PhD Program, s/he may still be considered for HMS. However, one cannot be accepted to the MD-PhD Program without being accepted to HMS in either the Pathways or Health Sciences and Technology (HST) curriculum track.

Does HMS offer a MD-PhD in medical informatics?
Students in the MD-PhD Program are free to pursue the PhD study in a variety of fields within the basic, applied, engineering and social sciences. Currently, we have a few students who are doing graduate work in the area of bioinformatics and integrative genomics.  For anyone interested in this area, we suggest direct contact with the graduate programs at either Harvard or MIT.

Is it possible to receive funding for PhD programs other than those listed above?
It's not impossible, but traditionally most students pursue one of the above programs.

When do students formally apply to the PhD program?
Most students formally apply to a PhD program during the middle of the second academic year at HMS. Social Science graduate programs require admission concurrently with HMS admissions. Deadlines vary among programs. This involves completion of a different application than the one to the MD-PhD Program.

Alternatives

If I am not awarded Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) grant funding, can I still pursue an MD-PhD?
One can pursue MD and PhD degrees at HMS without funding. The program invites medical school students who have a serious commitment to join a PhD program as an affiliate student. A student affiliate may join the MD-PhD Program at any time. Student affiliates are invited to participate in all program events. This affiliation does not obligate or provide a commitment to funding. A separate process, second cycle, is for formal applications for funding Harvard Medical School MD-PhD students who are initially unfunded are eligible to apply for "second cycle" funding that, together with funding from the graduate school, covers the cost of all but the first two years of the MD-PhD Program. Please visit ecommons for the on-line MD-PhD Program application for affiliate students.

Does the MD-PhD Program accept transfer applicants?
The program does not consider applications for transfer.

Updated: July 19, 2017

Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST)

The Harvard-MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology (HST) is a unique collaboration that brings together Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Harvard-affiliated teaching hospitals, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and local research centers to integrate science, medicine, and engineering to solve problems in human health. The HST mission is to educate outstanding minds and cultivate leaders who will explore fundamental principles underlying disease and develop preventative, diagnostic, and therapeutic innovations. This academic mission cannot be accomplished by either Harvard or MIT acting alone, but rather requires substantive contributions from both.

HST students learn to carry their engineering and scientific expertise from the laboratory bench to the patient's bedside and to bring clinical insights from the bedside to the bench. The hallmarks of HST's academic programs are: 

  • Academic excellence in traditional disciplines and interdisciplinary fields
  • Strong scientific, technical, and quantitative orientation
  • Structured, multidisciplinary educational experiences in clinical settings to produce graduates fluent in the language and culture of medicine
  • Interdisciplinary research opportunities that transcend institutional boundaries, encouraging students to work in laboratories and engage mentors at Harvard, MIT, and affiliated hospitals

Program of Study

In HST prior to their core clinical year, students engage in two preclinical years of coursework. Rigorous and quantitative, this approach incorporates fundamental features of molecular biology, biotechnology, engineering, and physical sciences into the teaching of human biology. The curriculum, research, and clinical experiences prepare students to excel as superbly trained, clinically and socially responsible physician-scientists. The program provides students with richly diversified educational and clinical opportunities specific to their interests, talents, and aspirations, preparing them for Steps 1 and 2 of the national boards. The relatively small class size facilitates productive interaction between students and faculty.

The courses in human pathophysiology, specially developed for this curriculum, represent the joint efforts of life scientists, physicians, physical scientists, and engineers selected from the faculties of both Harvard and MIT. Courses are presented at both universities and are organized in semester format to provide maximum scheduling flexibility and to interface easily with the academic schedules at MIT and Harvard University. The semester format enables MD students to take other classes throughout both universities and also permits HST PhD students to take some of the MD classes. This joining of MD and PhD students in the preclinical curriculum is another differentiating feature of the HST curriculum that enriches the MD student experience.

Principal Clinical Experience (PCE)

The PCE is a 12-month integrated program of study, and provides a clinical base for exposure to the broad disciplines of medicine and experiences essential to credentialing as a licensed physician. The PCE occurs primarily at a single hospital site and is comprised of clerkship rotations lasting 4-12 weeks and supplemented by a longitudinal multidisciplinary curriculum that incorporates primary care experiences, mentoring, multi-disciplinary clinical science case conferences, and developing physician sessions.

Anchoring Clinical Experience (ACE)

ACE is a two-month clerkship designed to ground the clinical skills learned in Introduction to Clinical Medicine (ICM) for HST students doing a research project between their second and third years of medical school. Held at Mount Auburn Hospital, an academic community teaching hospital, the clerkship will be divided into one month of outpatient/ambulatory medicine split between a primary care site as well as subspecialty clinics, and one month of inpatient medicine on the hospital wards. In addition to attending the daily hospital based teaching conferences for Mount Auburn internal medicine residents, students will have a case-based didactic curriculum that will focus on core topics in internal medicine. Finally, students will be expected to complete a case presentation with a focus on applying primary basic science and clinical trials literature into a discussion of clinical reasoning and decision-making.

HST MD Research and Thesis Requirement

HST MD students are required to become actively involved in independent research under the direction of a faculty member. Such research may be conducted longitudinally throughout a student’s medical studies, if carefully planned. Students are also encouraged to slow the rate of progress through the formal curriculum and take an extra year in order to devote more time to research. As a requirement for graduation, every HST student must present evidence of original, scholarly and creative work in the form of a thesis based on laboratory research or clinical investigation. The thesis topic is to be chosen with the advice of a member of the Faculty, who agrees to act as the thesis supervisor.

Matthew Frosch: Helping students who are scientifically and experimentally minded


More Program Details:

HST Requirements - HST, PCE, Advanced Experiences, and Examination requirements
Honors in a Special Field
Clinical Elective Exchange Programs
Student Funding - Funding for Fifth Year, Clinical Elective/Travel Abroad, Community Service, Fellowships

Please note that the curriculum is undergoing continuous review and improvement and is subject to change at any time.

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