Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Original article

Vol. 150 No. 1516 (2020)

Characteristics and opinions of MD-PhD students and graduates from different European countries: a study from the European MD-PhD Association

  • André dos Santos Rocha
  • Marc Scherlinger
  • Laura Ostermann
  • David Marc Anton Mehler
  • Aleksandra Nadiradze
  • Friederike Schulze
  • Laurence Feldmeyer
  • Myrthe de Koning
  • Vlad T. Berbecar
  • Ruben Buijs
  • Jan David Kijlstra
  • Ali Jawaid
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2020;150:w20205



MD-PhD programmes throughout the world provide a platform for medical trainees to commit to a physician-scientist career, qualifying with both a medical degree (MD or equivalent) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). However, there are limited studies assessing the characteristics of MD-PhD programmes in Europe and the outcomes of MD-PhD students and graduates.


This study aims at a first country-wise exploration of characteristics, opinions, and academic outcomes of MD-PhD students and graduates in Europe.


Two questionnaires were developed to assess the demographics, MD-PhD programme characteristics, opinions, future career paths and academic outcomes of European MD-PhD students and graduates. An online survey of 278 MD-PhD students and 121 MD-PhD graduates from nine and six European countries, respectively, was completed between April 2016 and December 2017. The country-wise categorical responses were then compared through chi-square analysis followed by multiple logistic regression.


Responses from 266 MD-PhD students and 117 MD-PhD graduates were considered valid. Significant country-wise differences (p <0.05) were observed for age group, resident status, clinical time allocation, duration of studies, sources of funding, publications, average impact factor of the journals in which the research was published, satisfaction with the duration of MD-PhD studies and future career choices of MD-PhD students. Responses related to self-perception about clinical and research competence and challenges faced during MD-PhD training did not show a significant country-wise difference.


The MD-PhD workforce in Europe is highly diverse in their demographics, programme characteristics and career paths but does not differ in opinions related to the challenges faced. The results of this study may be helpful for implementation and improvement of MD-PhD programmes.


  1. Harding CV, Akabas MH, Andersen OS. History and Outcomes of 50 Years of Physician-Scientist Training in Medical Scientist Training Programs. Acad Med. 2017;92(10):1390–8. doi:.
  2. Jain MK, Cheung VG, Utz PJ, Kobilka BK, Yamada T, Lefkowitz R. Saving the Endangered Physician-Scientist - A Plan for Accelerating Medical Breakthroughs. N Engl J Med. 2019;381(5):399–402. doi:.
  3. Milewicz DM, Lorenz RG, Dermody TS, Brass LF ; National Association of MD-PhD Programs Executive Committee. Rescuing the physician-scientist workforce: the time for action is now. J Clin Invest. 2015;125(10):3742–7. doi:.
  4. Association of American Medical Colleges. National MD-PhD Program Outcomes Study. Association of American Medical Colleges; 2018.
  5. Abelmann WH, Nave BD, Wilkerson L. Generation of physician-scientists manpower: a follow-up study of the first 294 graduates of the Harvard-MIT Program of Health Sciences and Technology. J Investig Med. 1997;45(5):272–5.
  6. Andriole DA, Jeffe DB. Predictors of full-time faculty appointment among MD-PhD program graduates: a national cohort study. Med Educ Online. 2016;21(1):30941. doi:.
  7. Andriole DA, Whelan AJ, Jeffe DB. Characteristics and career intentions of the emerging MD/PhD workforce. JAMA. 2008;300(10):1165–73. doi:.
  8. Brass LF, Akabas MH, Burnley LD, Engman DM, Wiley CA, Andersen OS. Are MD-PhD programs meeting their goals? An analysis of career choices made by graduates of 24 MD-PhD programs. Acad Med. 2010;85(4):692–701. doi:.
  9. Jeffe DB, Andriole DA. A national cohort study of MD-PhD graduates of medical schools with and without funding from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences’ Medical Scientist Training Program. Acad Med. 2011;86(8):953–61. doi:.
  10. Jeffe DB, Andriole DA, Wathington HD, Tai RH. Educational outcomes for students enrolled in MD-PhD programs at medical school matriculation, 1995-2000: a national cohort study. Acad Med. 2014;89(1):84–93. doi:.
  11. Jeffe DB, Andriole DA, Wathington HD, Tai RH. The emerging physician-scientist workforce: demographic, experiential, and attitudinal predictors of MD-PhD program enrollment. Acad Med. 2014;89(10):1398–407. doi:.
  12. Watt CD, Greeley SA, Shea JA, Ahn J. Educational views and attitudes, and career goals of MD-PhD students at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Acad Med. 2005;80(2):193–8. doi:.
  13. Holmes SM, Karlin J, Stonington SD, Gottheil DL. The first nationwide survey of MD-PhDs in the social sciences and humanities: training patterns and career choices. BMC Med Educ. 2017;17(1):60. doi:.
  14. Kwan JM, Daye D, Schmidt ML, Conlon CM, Kim H, Gaonkar B, et al. Exploring intentions of physician-scientist trainees: factors influencing MD and MD/PhD interest in research careers. BMC Med Educ. 2017;17(1):115. doi:.
  15. Muslin AJ, Kornfeld S, Polonsky KS. The physician scientist training program in internal medicine at Washington University School of Medicine. Acad Med. 2009;84(4):468–71. doi:.
  16. Ley TJ, Rosenberg LE. The physician-scientist career pipeline in 2005: build it, and they will come. JAMA. 2005;294(11):1343–51. doi:.
  17. Cox TM, Brimicombe J, Wood DF, Peters DK. The Cambridge Bachelor of Medicine (MB)/Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): graduate outcomes of the first MB/PhD programme in the UK. Clin Med (Lond). 2012;12(6):530–4. doi:.
  18. Kuehnle K, Winkler DT, Meier-Abt PJ. Swiss national MD-PhD-program: an outcome analysis. Swiss Med Wkly. 2009;139(37-38):540–6.
  19. Stewart GW. An MBPhD programme in the UK: the UCL experience. Clin Med (Lond). 2012;12(6):526–9. doi:.
  20. Scherlinger M, Bienvenu TCM, Piffoux M, Séguin P. [MD-PhD trainings in France: overview and future directions, from the French MD/PharmD-PhD students association «AMPS»]. Med Sci (Paris). 2018;34(5):464–72. doi:..
  21. European MD-PhD Association. [Internet] [cited 2018 August 2]. Available from:
  22. Corp IBM. Released 2017. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 25.0. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp.
  23. UKB Universitätsklinikum BONN / Medizinische Fakultät - Promotion PhD / MD/PhD. [Internet] [cited 2018 Jul 31]. Available from:
  24. MD/PhD programme | MD/PhD-traject | Junior Scientific Masterclass | Graduate School of Medical Sciences | The Faculty Graduate Schools | Programmes | Education | University of Groningen. [Internet] [cited 2018 Jul 30]. Available from:
  25. MD/PhD Scholarship 2018-2019 [Internet] [cited 2018 Jul 30]. Available from:
  26. UCL. Medicine MB PhD [Internet]. UCL Graduate degrees. 2018 [cited 2018 Jul 30]. Available from:
  27. Smith CL, Jarrett M, Bierer SB. Integrating clinical medicine into biomedical graduate education to promote translational research: strategies from two new PhD programs. Acad Med. 2013;88(1):137–43. doi:.
  28. Hooi SC, Koh DR, Chow VT. The NUS MBBS-PhD programme: nurturing clinician-scientists for tomorrow. Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2005;34(6):163C–5C.
  29. Duke-NUS Medical School. MD-PhD Programme. 2017. [Internet] [cited 2018 July 21]. Available from:
  30. Monash University. MBBS/MD-PhD Pathway. 2018 [Internet] [cited 2018 July 21]. Available from:
  31. Eley DS, Jensen C, Thomas R, Benham H. What will it take? Pathways, time and funding: Australian medical students’ perspective on clinician-scientist training. BMC Med Educ. 2017;17(1):242. doi:.

Most read articles by the same author(s)