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MSTP Detailed Curriculum

Pre-Year 1 Research Rotation

MSTP Research Rotation (1 of 2 required 8-week rotations)  MSTP trainees identify Pre-Year 1 rotation mentors in three ways:

  1. they meet faculty members during their interview
  2. they meet additional faculty members during Revisit Weekend
  3. they discuss their research interests with the Directors who provide advice about research opportunities.

Wednesday Noon Summer Seminar Series with the Pre-M1 researchers & SUMR students

Annual MSTP Retreat - Present your summer rotation findings during the retreat

Year 1:  Fall

First Year Medicial Curriculum

Medical Gross Anatomy is a full semester course that includes complete dissection of the human body and provides students with the language needed to communicate accurately and specifically in a clinical setting.

Clinical and Professional Skills (CAPS) provides students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for professional development and clinical excellence, including the sense of inquiry and lifelong habits of skill acquisition, self-assessment and reflective practice. An integrated approach is used, with repeated opportunities for observation, feedback, self-directed learning and reflection.

Foundations of Cellular Life is an 8-week course that covers topics in genetics, embryology, molecular biology, biochemistry, cell biology and histology.

Mechanisms of Health and Disease (MOHD) is comprised of rotating modules that cover six themes.  Three themes are introduced in MOHD 1 (Year 1, fall semester) and revisited in increased depth in MOHD 3 (Year 2, spring semester). These include oxygenation, metabolism, and genetics/development.

Medicine and Society (MAS) consists of integrated courses in which students learn about social determinants of health, disease prevention, health promotion services, public health, epidemiology, health services organizations and delivery, and community dimensions of medical practice.

MSTP Conversations in Research

Complete initial Individual Development Plan

MSTP Mondays

Year 1: Spring

First Year Medicial Curriculum

Clinical and Professional Skills (CAPS):  provides students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for professional development and clinical excellence, including the sense of inquiry and lifelong habits of skill acquisition, self-assessment and reflective practice. An integrated  approach is used, with repeated opportunities for observation, feedback, self-directed learning and reflection.

Medicine and Society (MAS) consists of integrated courses in which students learn about social determinants of health, disease prevention, health promotion services, public health, epidemiology, health services organizations and delivery, and community dimensions of medical practice.

Mechanisms of Health & Disease II (MOHD II):  The three themes that are introduced in MOHD II and are revisited in increased depth in MOHD 4. These include immunology and inflammation, locomotion and integument, and neuropsychiatry.

Mechanisms of Health & Disease III - (MOHD III):  Abnormal development & disease of mechanisms introduced in MOHD I

MSTP Creative Communications Workshop

MSTP Mondays

Year 1:  Summer

MSTP Research Rotation (2 of 2 required 8-week rotations)

Prior to finalization of the summer rotation, trainees are encouraged to identify three to five potential mentors and set up one-on-one meetings regarding possible projects.

If the potential mentor is a prior research rotation mentor, trainees can transition into their lab that summer after taking Step 1.

For some students, an additional research rotation may be needed to identify a potential mentor.

Analyzing & Presenting Medical Research [MSTP:8513]

Annual MSTP Retreat - Present your findings during the retreat.

Year 2:  Fall

Second Year Medical Curriculum

Mechanisms of Health & Disease III - (MOHD III):  In depth review of MOHD II material:  immunology and inflammation, locomotion and integument, and neuropsychiatry.

Mechanisms of Health & Disease IV - (MOHD IV):  In depth review of MOHD III material:  include oxygenation, metabolism, and genetics/development.

The MOHD Keystone course (Year 2, fall semester) synthesizes all six themes from the perspective of diagnostic and management decisions that are important in clinical problem solving.

MSTP Conversations in Research

Review & Revise Individual Development Plan

MSTP Mondays

Year 2: Spring

Meet with the Directors, to review research experiences and discuss potential graduate mentor(s) and graduate programs.  Make a decision and get paperwork done.

8 week study block for USMLE Step 1

12 weeks Core Clinical Clerkships

Choosing Internal Medicine/Pediatrics clerkship block qualifies trainees for volunteer positions at the Mobile Clinic, the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic, and the Iowa City Free Mental Health Clinic during their graduate years.

These elective opportunities help students maintain their clinical skills and provide a much-needed service to the Iowa City community; although not a required component of the Program, this community partnership is popular with our students.

MSTP Mondays when not on clerkships

Year 2:  Summer (Graduate Phase)

Transition Advising - Clinical Curriculum to Graduate Phase

Most MSTP students enter the graduate phase of training during the Summer of Year 2. 

The MSTP leadership emphasizes advising during the transition to the graduate phase of training. We believe the mentee-mentor match is critical to both the short-term and long-term success of  our trainees. Our approach is to encourage students to identify their PhD mentor first (seeking the best mentor for them), prior to choosing a graduate program. Decisions regarding thesis mentors are usually made early in the spring semester of Year 2.

Annual MSTP Retreat

Year 3:  Fall (Graduate Phase)

Attend orientation for the graduate program chosen.

In the fall of Year 3, MSTP students enter graduate programs as advanced trainees, taking graduate courses alongside second year graduate students.

From a total of 53 credit hours earned during the medical curriculum, MSTP students receive 30 hours of graduate credit for participation in Medical Gross Anatomy, Foundations in Cellular Life, MOHD1, MOHD2, MOHD3, MOHD4, and MOHD Keystone. These courses cover core topics in biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, neuroscience, immunology, pharmacology, and microbiology.

MSTP Mondays

Review & Revise Individual Development Plan with your Mentor

    Year 3:  Spring (Graduate Phase)

    Graduate Coursework, Research, Conferences & Journal Clubs

    MSTP Grant Writing

    MSTP Mondays

    Begin MSTP Clinical Connections

     

    Year 4:  Fall (Graduate Phase)

    Qualifying Exam / Comprehensive Exam

    • Most students complete their qualifying exam in the fall semester of their second year in the graduate phase.
    • Thereafter, the MSTP requires that trainees meet twice yearly with thesis committee meetings. The Directors hold the philosophy that frequent committee meetings provide important feedback to trainees that build skills and facilitate research progress.
    • Although the format of the qualifying exam is program dependent, most students complete an on-topic research proposal in the format of a 6-page NIH predoctoral fellowship, which often serves as the foundation for submission of an independent research proposal.
    • Additionally, these meetings reinforce principles of Responsible Conduct of Research and Rigor & Reproducibility in Research which are documented in the thesis report.
    • Thesis committee reports are submitted to the MSTP office and reviewed by the Directors.

    Graduate Research Training

    MSTP students can pursue PhD training in one of affiliated graduate programs within three U of Iowa Colleges. This broad selection of potential research programs allows individual students to choose the most appropriate thesis mentor and project for their own interests and skills. Approval for new program affiliation is required by MSTP leadership in consultation with the MSTP Executive Committee.  Many of our current MSTP faculty mentors have appointments in one or more graduate programs.

    Graduate training programs differ in curricula, requirements for teaching assistantships, qualifying examination structure, but all programs require successful completion of relevant coursework, a comprehensive/qualifying examination, satisfactory completion of an independent mentored research project, and a successful PhD dissertation defense.  Check the program requirements and program administrator information here: https://medicine.uiowa.edu/mstp/graduate-contacts.  Many trainees find it useful to speak with MSTP students currently in the program they are considering.

    Responsible Conduct of Research & Research Rigor & Reproducibility

    In addition, all graduate programs require training in the responsible conduct of research and rigor and reproducibility in research.

    Frequency of Thesis Committee Meetings

    To facilitate mentoring and scientific progress, the MSTP requires that trainees meet with their thesis committee by the end of their first year in the graduate phase, prior to completing their qualifying examination. The Directors strongly believe that an early thesis committee meeting has many benefits. We find that this benefits time to degree by helping students avoid a hiatus in progress that can occur during this critical time of transition in training. It also accelerates earnest pursuit of their dissertation research, allowing earlier completing of qualifying examinations and facilitating preparation of independent fellowship applications.

    Graduate Department Seminars, Journal Clubs, and Retreats

    • During the graduate phase, MSTP students regularly attend collegiate or departmental seminars and journal clubs in their research areas. Arrangements can be made for those students whose classes overlap with MSTP Mondays or annual events like I Heart Science.
    • To enhance opportunities for trainees to meet prominent biomedical scientists, the MSTP leadership negotiated that MSTP students sponsor the visit of one of the yearly collegiate Distinguished Biomedical Scholars Keynote Speakers.
    • The student-run MSTP Seminar Committee takes on the responsibility of inviting and organizing the schedule of the distinguished scientist. Additionally, the Seminar Committee works with departments and programs to provide opportunities for MSTP students to meet with physician-scientists who visit the U of Iowa. Such opportunities broaden student exposure to career options and provide connections for future residency and postdoctoral training.

    Requirements before Returning to Clinics

    • All students must satisfactorily complete their thesis defense
    • First-Author Publication Requirement

    Since 2014, all MSTP trainees are required to have at least one peer-reviewed first-author publication before entering into their final clinical phase of training. This requirement formalizes the expectation that all MSTP students have first-author publications from their dissertation research. This publication requirement increases the competitiveness of students in the residency application process.

    Transition Advising - Graduate Phase to Clinical Curriculum

    Most students re-enter the clinical curriculum between November to February, which provides flexibility in scheduling advanced clerkships*, elective rotations or sub-internships*, preparation for Step 2 examinations, and residency interviews.

    The transition from the graduate phase to the final clinical years can be challenging for MSTP students because they are often simultaneously working toward their thesis defense and revising manuscripts for publication while refreshing their clinical skills and making important career decisions such as choice of residency and fellowship. To help students successfully traverse this important transition, the MSTP has adopted an “early and often” advising strategy.

    Each year during the spring semester, all post-comp students in the graduate phase of training meet as a group with the MSTP Directors and the CCOM registrar to review the clinical clerkship requirements for MSTP students and discuss the transition from graduate to medical training.

    After this initial orientation, the Director meets individually with each trainee to assess progress towards completion of the dissertation, career plans, and residency choice, and provides advice concerning optimal scheduling of clerkships.

    The Director finds that most students are well prepared for this discussion because of their extensive exposure to clinical subspecialties in Clinical Connections and their volunteering in the community. Nevertheless, some returning students are still undecided about residency and career plans; the Director works closely with these students to schedule elective clerkships and one-on-one faculty mentoring experiences to facilitate timely decision making.

    Year 6-7 or 7-8:  The Final Clinical Years

    The MSTP’s emphasis on advising and transitions continues during the final clinical years.

    • To facilitate clerkship scheduling in the final clinical years of training, the CCOM gives MSTP students priority over non-MSTP students in selecting clerkships.
    • Before re-entering clerkships, students participate in an MSTP-specific Transitions to Clerkships workshop to refresh their training in the electronic medical record, advanced cardiac life support, and physical examination skills with standardized patients.
    • In addition, returning students attend a peer-mentoring session in which senior students provide a student perspective on practical skills for success in the clinics and on the wards. We find that after a brief period of “return to clinic anxiety,” MSTP students quickly adjust and greatly enjoy the final clinical training phase.

    Residency Application Strategies & Identifying Career Objectives

    After completing several core clerkships, each student meets again with the Director to review the student’s residency application plans. This discussion includes a review of post-graduate training options, such as specifically designated PSTP or "research residency" programs that allow students to combine their clinical and investigative interests. Students are strongly encouraged to apply to residencies and fellowships at top-tier programs. We advise our students to apply to programs outside the U of Iowa. We work with each student to identify the most appropriate opportunities for their career objectives.

    Advice is given on residency application strategies and preparation of a CV. As a part of the residency application packet, the Directors elicit comments from the students’ thesis mentors and prepare a portion of the Medical Student Performance Evaluation that highlights students’ discoveries and achievements during the research phase of training.

    Networking with Iowa MSTP Graduates at Prospective Institutions

    As additional contacts, students are given names of recent U of Iowa MSTP graduates who have chosen training in the same field. Students are encouraged to arrange additional meetings with a physician-scientist whose area of expertise matches the clinical specialty in which they will be seeking residency training.