Dual Degree Programs
The PhD portion of this degree can be completed in just about any field, ranging from Humanities to Biochemistry to Medical Physics depending on the school. The programme usually requires 7-8 years in total, although some students take 6 years, while others may take 10 or more . Some Canadian programmes like the University of British Columbia expect students to complete both degrees in 7 years.
Students typically complete the first 1 and a half or 2 years of the medical programme (the years that are spent mostly in the classroom), complete their PhD, then return to complete the last two years of medical school (the clinical years).
In Canada, the sources of funding for MD/PhD programmes vary from school to school, but most students receive a stipend throughout the PhD portion of their degree and potentially during some of their years in the MD portion of their programme. Sources of funding include provincial organizations such as the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR), private institutions such as the National Cancer Institute of Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Lung Association, university graduate fellowships and funding from the student’s supervisor. Some universities like the University of Alberta will also add additional funding for those students who were not able to secure a certain amount of funding per year (for the University of Alberta, up to a maximum of $24,000).
Some very competitive awards such as the Canadian Institute of Health Research Scholarship may offer sufficient funding to cover tuition and provide an additional stipend for almost the full duration of the MD/ PhD.
There are usually three ways that applicants can enter MD/PhD programmes. Students can apply to the programmes before entering the MD programme, which usually involves applying to both the graduate school and the medical school simultaneously. Students can also enter the MD programme and then apply to the MD/PhD programme once they have started medical school. This can be done as late as the middle of their second year of medical school, or even later sometimes depending on the school. The third possibility is for applicants who are currently in a master’s or PhD programme, who can gain admission to the medical school and have the research work they are currently doing counted toward the Ph.D component of their MD/PhD. See the schools’ websites for specific application procedures.
MD/PhD programmes are generally more competitive both for the grades required and the potential that applicants need to show for a research based career. Most schools have a panel mostly made up of researchers that interviews applicants along with the normal medical school interviews.