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Physician Scientist Training Pathway (PSTP)


The purpose of the University of Iowa Department of Emergency Medicine (EM) Physician Scientist Training Pathway (PSTP) is to integrate postgraduate clinical and research training in order to develop physician-scientists who will be future leaders in academic emergency medicine. The PSTP is a pathway within the Emergency Medicine Residency Program and combines graduate medical education with the rich collaborative research community at University of Iowa. You will complete a 3-year residency with ample time for research electives, before transitioning to a 1-2 year fellowship period with 75% protected research time. During this fellowship, you will work in our Level 1 Emergency Department for 1 clinical shift per week as a staff physician. In total, this training will be a maximum of 5 years, with an end goal of becoming an independently-funded physician scientist by year 4 or 5. 

Why Iowa PSTP?

Are you a medical student who loves Emergency Medicine but also is passionate about research? Our PSTP pathway may be the perfect fit for you. Here at the University of Iowa, we have a long and strong history of supporting physician-scientists in all levels of training. UI Hospitals & Clinics boasts a robust Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) in addition to eight other specialty PSTPs, of which EM joined the ranks in 2019. Here, you do not have to choose between being a great physician or a great scientist--you can have both, fully supported by a department filled with colleagues who are dedicated to improving the practice of EM.

There is ample opportunity for collaboration within and outside of our department, and lab space is present on hospital grounds in addition to the nearby campus.  Our Core Facilities, including Flow Cytometry, Genomics, and more, are a short (indoor!) walk away. There is established support on an institutional and departmental level for biomedical, basic science, clinical injury prevention, medical education, and health systems research. We offer 4 full elective blocks for you to find your research passion, establish a project, and create a mentor-mentee relationship. 

In addition, our department boasts full-time EM-specific research staff as well as 24/7 enrollment staff to recruit patients into clinical trials. Our faculty and residents understand the value of research to EM as a specialty, as evidenced by a high volume of peer-reviewed publications and on-going grant-funded activities.

Further, UI Hospitals & Clinics offers one of the very few PSTP opportunities available in EM. This program will be a stepping stone for future leaders of academic EM who will exemplify clinical and research excellence.

What's the Difference Between PSTP and a Research Fellowship?

PSTP is the natural next step for many MD or DO/PhDs who already have substantial research experience and seek to continue research during residency and beyond. The goal for these residents is typically to become an independently-funded researcher who practices at a academic medical institution. While we do not require a PhD to apply (see requirements below), it is expected that any PSTP applicant will already have a similar body of work to a PhD or MS. In contrast, a research fellowship may be the perfect choice for resident who wants to initiate new research experience by obtaining a MS or MPH in order to establish themselves as leader in academic EM. We offer both! 


PSTP Residents

Karen Cyndari, MD, PhD - PGY3
Mentor: Christine A Peterson, DVM, PhD (Epidemiology and Infectious Disease)
Project: Immune Mechanisms of Antibiotic-Refractory Lyme Arthritis
Description: Lyme disease is a growing problem annually not only in the Eastern US, but also in the Great Lakes Midwest region, such as Eastern Iowa. If Lyme Disease is diagnosed early, treatment is almost always successful with a simple outpatient course of antibiotics, but untreated individuals may develop systemic illness, such as Lyme Arthritis. Lyme Arthritis requires 4 or more weeks of antibiotics, and even after clearance of the B. burgdorfei, some patients continue to experience chronic symptoms of joint pain, requiring DMARDs, synovectomy, or total joint replacements. Using this Lyme endemic location, Dr. Cyndari will evaluate the underlying mechanisms responsible for the development of long-term symptoms despite full antibiotic cure, in the hopes to identifying antibiotic-refractory disease earlier for better treatment.
Bio: Dr. Cyndari received her MS in Natural Sciences specializing in Immunology from Roswell Park Cancer Institute (Buffalo, NY) in 2011. She received her MD/PhD from SUNY Upstate Medical University (Syracuse, NY) in 2019. Her research speciality is osteoimmunology. 
Contact: karen-cyndari@uiowa.edu

Melvin Donaldson, MD, PhD - PGY2


Nicholas Mohr, MD, MS
Emergency Medicine PSTP Co-Director

Michael Takacs, MD, MS
Emergency Medicine PSTP Co-Director
Emergency Medicine Residency Program Director

Department Funding/Areas of Research

Get information regarding on-going research within the EM department.

PSTP participants may also seek mentorship from outside the department in basic science, translational science, clinical science, or health services research. We have a robust, collaborative relationship with our graduate campus, which physically adjoins our hospital grounds.

Please reach out to us if you're interested in our EM PSTP pathway, and we can help connect you with possible mentors.

Schedule at a Glance


  • Select a research project mentor
  • Focus primarily on clinical duties
  • Complete Step 3


  • 2 research elective months
  • Draft specific aims
  • Present research proposal (15-20 minute presentation)
  • Submit two-page formal, written, proposal


  • 2 research elective months
  • Collect preliminary data, refine specific aims
  • Present preliminary data to department and/or national or regional conference
  • Residency graduation

PGY-4 - Start of the Associate Scholar Program (1-2 years)

  • Continue data collection, refine specific aims
  • Present research at national conference
  • Eight person-months allotted for additional research time (75% protected)
  • Work in ED as staff physician 1 shift per week
  • Write and submit Career Development Award

PGY5 (optional) and beyond

  • Resubmit grant if necessary
  • Eight person-months annually allotted for additional research time
  • All PSTP residents will be offered post-residency training or research opportunities through Associate Scholar Program, regardless of grant status
  • If resident desires fellowship clinical training, research will be integrated into any EM-sponsored programs. Additional opportunities may be offered in other specialties but is not guaranteed.

Program Resources

EM PSTP residents will have access to the following resources and/or benefits:

  • Four months of dedicated research time during PGY1-PGY3 years
  • A PSTP mentor whose experience aligns with research interests 
  • Monthly PSTP enrichment activities with PSTP residents from all participating departments throughout the university
  • Annual academic allowance of $4,000 in addition to travel funds provided to EM residents. This may be used for academic expenses such as books, professional memberships, research supplies, or travel.
  • Guaranteed acceptance to the Department of Emergency Medicine Associate Scholar Program or clinical fellowship in the department of EM upon successful graduation
  • Guaranteed time to present research and participate in PSTP activities

Requirements to apply

Applicants must satisfy one of the following criteria:

  • Upcoming graduation from an MSTP or MSTP-equivalent program
  • PhD-level degree
  • At least one year of dedicated research experience
  • Equivalent experience consistent with the standards of the UI PSTP pathway

To apply

What to Expect for an Interview

Applicants will attend the categorical EM interview, and additionally interview with PSTP faculty. They will give a brief presentation on prior research experience or a current research project. 

For questions or further inquiries, please contact: nicholas-mohr@uiowa.edu