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Original article

Vol. 154 No. 7 (2024)

The Swiss National MD-PhD Grants Programme: an analysis of the career trajectories of grant recipients between 1992 and 2021

Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2024;154:3615


AIM OF THE STUDY: The aim of this study is to provide an analysis of the career trajectory of the recipients of a Swiss National MD-PhD grant thirty years after the creation of the Swiss interuniversity MD-PhD programme.

METHODS: The study surveyed 277 recipients of a Swiss National MD-PhD grant using an online questionnaire in April 2022. There were twenty questions about participants’ demographics, the duration of their MD-PhD training, their career trajectory, current position, research and clinical activity, the impact of the support on the recipients’ careers, and their satisfaction with various aspects of the grant.

RESULTS: The study showed that 141 out of the 277 grant recipients contacted returned the survey (51% response rate). The gender distribution of the participants was 33% women, 63% men, 4% unknown, which is almost the same as that of all grantees (35% women, 65% men). One hundred and fourteen (81%) respondents had completed their MD-PhD thesis and were graduates, while 27 (19%) were still MD-PhD students. The mean duration of the MD-PhD training was 4.27 years, with a slight upward trend over time. A large proportion of graduates, 81%, remained scientifically active after the grant, most of them in academic settings. Of the grantees who had completed their MD-PhD at least eight years before the survey, 55% had a paid research position with 40% combining research and clinical roles, and 15% doing research only. Seventy-six per cent remained clinically active, 54% occupied leadership positions, and 25% were professors. Most grantees believed that the grant had had a positive impact on their career trajectory. The main challenges included a delay in clinical training, a limited number of clinical positions with dedicated research time after the MD-PhD period, and sub-optimal recognition by hospital hierarchies.

CONCLUSION: The data collected for this study confirm that the competitive Swiss National MD-PhD Grants Programme excels in supporting promising physician scientists who remain active in both research and clinical contexts in the long term. The individual grants are perceived as a distinction that acts as the basis for a successful career in academic medicine. Continued support and alternative funding sources, however, will be essential to ensure the programme’s sustainability.


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