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About Matthew Dankner

Matthew Dankner is a fifth-year MD-PhD student at McGill University. He is a Montreal native who graduated from McGill University with an honours bachelor of science in Anatomy & Cell Biology before joining the MD-PhD program. For his PhD studies, Matthew is involved in basic, translational, and clinical research in the area of metastatic brain tumors.


If you’re reading this book, you’ve probably at least entertained the possibility of enrolling in a combined MD-PhD program. Before you apply to one of these programs, there are a number of important questions you must ask yourself. Make sure to answer honestly. MD-PhD training can be the start of a wonderful and rewarding career trajectory, but it is a long and rigorous program. You must be truly committed to gain acceptance to such a program, to thrive there once admitted, and to continue thriving later in your career. This chapter will serve as a decision guide for potential applicants, helping them understand what an MD-PhD entails and whether it is right for them.

What is an MD-PhD Program?

MD-PhD programs are intensive programs that simultaneously train students to become proficient in medicine and research. These programs exist as a part of the effort to develop the next generation of physician-scientists.


  • Physician-scientists are medical doctors who spend a significant proportion of their time doing research.

  • MD-PhD programs are specifically designed for students who want to have careers that combine medicine with research.

  • MD-PhD programs integrate medical school with a research-based PhD. Other pathways exist to becoming an MD-PhD physician-scientist, including doing a PhD before medical school or as a part of postgraduate residency or fellowship training.

  • MD-PhD program graduates are uniquely positioned to impact biomedical research.

  • Given the long duration of training, potential applicants to MD-PhD programs must seriously consider whether this is the right career path for them.

What is a Physician-Scientist?

Physician-scientists are invaluable for the medical community, as they act as a bridge between the worlds of clinical medicine and research. They are defined as medical doctors who spend a significant proportion of their time doing research, while still caring for patients or performing clinical duties. This allows them to identify and understand the pressing clinical needs that require thorough investigation through research. For most physician-scientists, at least half of their time is spent conducting research. Substantial medical improvements are made thanks to physician-scientists, even though they make up a small minority of all medical doctors and an even smaller percentage of scientists.

What Different Paths Exist for MD-PhD Programs?

Multiple structures for MD-PhD programs exist in North America. However, they uniformly integrate medical and PhD studies, with students following an unconventional path in both medical and graduate school. ...

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