The Baylor College of Medicine Medical Research Pathway was initiated in 2000 by Dr. Brendan Lee, the current director of the program. The Medical Research Pathway is a five-year program encompassing four years of the traditional M.D. training and one year of intensive research training. The goal of the program is to train M.D. graduates in hypotheses driven basic, translational, and clinical research. An underlying premise is that this training will make a better physician whether in primary care or in academic research.
The program occurs in three phases. The first phase entails a Medical Research Pathway workshop composed of a series of talks by members of the Medical Research Pathway Faculty Operating Committee (FOC). The aims of the talks are to introduce the FOC members' research and to introduce the research ongoing in the FOC member's department. All students can enroll in this workshop by filling out a Medical Research Pathway entry questionnaire. All Medical Research Pathway workshop talks are evaluated by the student with a Speaker evaluation form. The Medical Research Pathway workshop occurs during the first year of traditional M.D. training.
In the second year of M.D. training, the second phase of the Medical Research Pathway program or the match occurs. Based on their experiences in the workshop and their personal interests, Medical Research Pathway students fill out a pre-match questionnaire. Based on this questionnaire and a series of meetings with the Medical Research Pathway director on topics such as "choosing a research mentor" and "preparing a research fellowship", the students are matched preliminarily to a specific department(s). Based on this preliminary match, the student then follows up with a match meeting with the department FOC member. The student arranges for additional interviews with two to three other faculty who are potential mentors.
Based on these interactions, the director and Medical Research Pathway candidate arrives at a final mentor Match in follow-up meetings. The mentor and Medical Research Pathway student then prepare to submit applications for funding to different agencies. This includes programs such as the NIDDK, Medical Research Pathway, HHMI Medical Fellowship, or other source. At the end of the second M.D. year, funding decisions are made and the match is finalized.
The third phase of the program is the research year and traditionally occurs in between the traditional second and third year of medical school training though it can also occur between the third and fourth years. The year begins with participation in the Fundamentals in Clinical Investigation Course that is part of the Clinical Scientist Training Program (CSTP). The Medical Research Pathway student is expected to become a full member of the mentor's research laboratory.
The research year is designed to be a laboratory based research year, though clinical research is encouraged by directed clinical experiences. Purely clinical research experiences have been approved but depend on a structured existing research training program. During this year, the Medical Research Pathway student can audit graduate courses relevant to their research (usually not more than one course per block. These courses are chosen by the student with input from the mentor. For example, a favorite course is "Molecular Methods" which provides a theoretical and practical basis of molecular biology tools. The Medical Research Pathway student meets with the director on a semi-annual basis to evaluate progress. Student performance evaluations are requested from the mentor every three months. Finally, a requirement of the program is to participate in the James K. Alexander Research Symposium for medical students. At the end of the research year, the student completes an exit questionnaire and their residency match is tracked in their final year of medical training.
Students in the research year or prior to the research year can elect to perform a second year of research as a continuation of the Medical Research Pathway, or apply to join either the M.D./M.S. program or the MSTP (M.D./Ph.D.) program. In the M.D./M.S. pathway, students apply formally to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and are appointed in specific accredited programs. They fulfill the course, qualifier examination, and thesis requirements of that program for graduation with a M.S. degree. The M.D./M.S. pathway was established in 2008.
Students do not have to participate in all phases of the Medical Research Pathway to benefit and participation is elective though all students must be in good academic standing to start the research year (phase 3). Students must have a research stipend ($21,000/year + health insurance if needed) in place either from the mentor or external funding source (e.g., HHMI) prior to starting the research year. Students may not take medical school curriculum courses during the research year. Twelve months of research are required to fulfill the requirements of the Medical Research Pathway. The student who fulfills all requirements of will graduate with Medical Research Pathway acknowledgement upon graduation.
Timeline for Participation
- First year October – Informational meeting on Medical Research Pathway and enrollment in the Medical Research Pathway workshop by completion of enrollment questionnaire
- First year October-June – Medical Research Pathway Workshop – weekly meeting by FOC members on their research and research within their departments
- First year May – Pre-match meetings with director to choose mentor and prepare HHMI and other applications
- Second year January – Submit HHMI Medical Fellows application
- Second year April-June – Final match with mentors based on availability of funding
- Twelve months of hypotheses driven prospective research in laboratory-based program with start points either in July or January. Fundamentals in Clinical Investigations Course in July. Completion of exit questionnaire on completion of research year.
- Completion of 12 months and research and return to medical school curriculum or perform second year of Medical Research Pathway research or enter M.D./M.S. pathway or M.D./Ph.D. pathway
- Complete Residency Match Questionnaire