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Physician Scientist

Pursue a career that blends research and discovery with clinical practice. With your M.D. and Ph.D., you will have a unique set of experiences and training that will prepare you to be a leader in medicine as a physician scientist.

Be a Leader in Medical Research

Physician scientists play a unique role in contemporary medical research, combining research with clinical practice. The physician scientist program (M.D./Ph.D.) offered by the USD Sanford School of Medicine integrates achievement of both the M.D. degree and the Ph.D. degree. You'll start by focusing on the M.D. program, taking pre-clinical coursework of the medical training program and identifying an area of research. In the next three years you'll complete the Ph.D. component before then finishing the M.D. program.

Research is a defining element of your program. USD is home to state-of-the-art facilities and internationally-recognized research mentors, giving you the resources and connections you need to thrive. You perform important research in a research area of interest such as biochemistry, molecular biology, cellular biology, anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, microbiology, immunology or neuroscience. Through this hands-on, robust program, you will set yourself up for a successful career as a physician scientist.

Degrees & Offerings

Physician Scientist (M.D./Ph.D.)

  Vermillion Main Campus

The most significant discoveries in medicine result from basic sciences professors and clinical medical doctors collaborating. Through the combined M.D./Ph.D. program, you'll experience both disciplines and gain a unique blend of skills as you become a leader in medical research and clinical practice.

Program Details




Medical School Admissions

Admissions Requirements

To pursue an M.D./Ph.D. degree at the USD Sanford School of Medicine, you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. You also must be a South Dakota resident or non-resident with strong ties to the state.

Known for Excellence

With qualities like small class sizes, specialized programs and incredible student opportunities, USD is not your typical university. What makes us unique is what makes your education exceptional.

Program Curriculum

Students pursuing both an M.D. and Ph.D. as part of the physician scientist program follow an alternating schedule. The first three semesters you'll focus on the M.D. program. In the next three years you'll complete the Ph.D. component. Then, you'll spend your final two and a half years completing the M.D. program. View our Three Pillar Education details for more information about what your program will look like.

The first three semesters are devoted to the pre-clinical course work of the medical training program.

By the end of the first year, you will become acquainted with the research opportunities at Sanford School of Medicine and will select an area of dissertation research.

At the end of Pillar 1, you will prepare for and pass Step 1 of the USMLE.

This three-year block is devoted to course work and research appropriate to your area of specialization.

Coursework within this block will vary considerably and will be customized for your interests and needs.

You will receive instruction in the responsible conduct of research. This course provides students with practical instruction regarding the rules, regulations and professional best practices that are the foundation of biomedical research.

You will complete all research and prepare and defend the written dissertation document during this period of study.

Pillar 2 involves rotating clinical training in the M.D. program focusing on core sciences. 

Pillar 3 consists of three semesters of a combination of clinical clerkship courses and clinical electives.

Departments & Facilities

Explore the departments, facilities and centers that contribute to your education in basic biomedical sciences.
Students Inside the Parry Center.

Parry Center

The Parry Center for Clinical Skills & Simulation is a state-of-the-art learning environment that allows collaboration among students and safely simulates real-patient experiences.

Faculty & Staff

Get to know the faculty and staff in the Sanford School of Medicine. 

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Tim Ridgway

Vice President of Health Affairs and Dean of the Sanford School of Medicine
Bio Image for Faculty Member Mark Beard

Mark Beard

Dean, Medical Student Educatio
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Nedd Brown

Dean, GME
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Jennifer Hsu

Asst Dean, Medical Student Ed
Bio Image for Faculty Member Jason Kemnitz

Jason Kemnitz

AssocDean, AcaDev & FacAff
Bio Image for Faculty Member Denyelle Kenyon

Denyelle Kenyon

Associate Dean, SSOM Div & Inc
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Pasquale Manzerra PhD

Asst Dean, Med Student Affairs
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William Mayhan

Dean, Basic Biomedical Science
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Suzanne Reuter

Asst Dean, Med Student Affairs
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Jacob Weasel

Asst Dean, SSOM Diversity & In
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Hands-on Learning. Cutting-edge Research.

As a community of researchers and scientists, we know that hands-on experience in research facilities is crucial for your career preparation. The Sanford School of Medicine is home to several state-of-the-art facilities that allow you to gain valuable research experience and find answers to your questions. You'll work with internationally recognized mentors and can perform research in areas such as biochemistry, molecular biology, cellular biology, anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, microbiology, immunology and neuroscience.

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