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Students pursuing both an M.D. and Ph.D. as part of the physician scientist program follow an alternating schedule. The first 3 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.

Pillar 1

  • 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.

The Ph.D. Years

  • 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.

Pillars 2 and 3

  • 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.


You can select a research project in any of the research areas offered by our medical school. Working with internationally recognized research mentors, students can perform important research in:

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular biology
  • Cellular biology
  • Anatomy
  • Pharmacology
  • Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Neuroscience


Complete descriptions of science courses are available in USD's Graduate School catalog.