Male in White Lab Coat and Goggles Inside a Research Lab.

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. In the next three to four years 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 collaboration between basic scientists and clinical medical doctors. 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.

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. Over the next three to four 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 curriculum for details on 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.

Passing Step 1 of the USMLE at the end of Pillar 1 is required for officially entering “The PhD Years."

This three or four-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.
Lee Baugh smiling in front of a monitor showing brain research.

Center for Brain and Behavior Research

The Center for Brain and Behavior Research (CBBRe) promotes outstanding training of research students and fellows, feeding the pipeline of creative independent scientists in the fields of neuroscience and behavioral science.

Three medicine students looking at a tablet working in the Human Anatomy laboratory.

Human Anatomy Lab

The University of South Dakota’s human anatomy lab offers a cadaver-based experience to undergraduate, graduate, medical and health sciences students. Our lab enables future health care professionals to assist their patients through the mastery of human anatomy.

Faculty & Staff

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

Bio Image for Faculty Member Xuejun Wang

Xuejun Wang

Director of MD, PhD Program


Cardiovascular and Physiology
Bio Image for Faculty Member Lori Hansen

Lori Hansen

Interim Senior Academic Dean
Bio Image for Faculty Member William Mayhan

William Mayhan

Dean-Basic Biomedical Science


Bio Image for Faculty Member Wendy Pederson

Wendy Pederson

Graduate & Educ Manager
Male Researcher in White Lab Coat and Goggles Adding Powder to Beaker.

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.

View List of Researchers

Take the Next Step